|Positives: Good acceleration, super practical interior, ample space for five adults, rugged styling, great safety features.|
|Negatives: About average driving characteristics, numb steering, gloss black fender trim is odd.|
|Bottom Line: The RAV4 Hybrid is a car that will offend no one. It's competent in everyday driving, roomier than you'd expect, and it now has the right infotainment system.|
The RAV4 Hybrid won't blow anyone's socks off. It's meant to be comfortable, efficient transportation, but it is decently quick off the line and has some of the best comfy driving manners around.
Ride Quality: The RAV4 Hybrid is smooth and compliant over road surfaces and handles gaps well, even in sweeping turns.
Acceleration: 0-60 comes in 7.3 seconds, which isn't bad. It's too bad the CVT and the slow throttle response don't make it feel all that quick.
Braking: The regen brakes are acceptable, but there is a bit of mushiness in the pedal.
Steering: The steering feels disconnected and numb, so there's no feedback coming through. It turns in decently, and it's on center, at least.
Handling: There's some body roll and mild understeer, not much different from the rest of the RAV4 lineup.
What was the weakest link in the RAV4 has been remedied and nicely so. The new system is bigger, better looking, better positioned, and easier to use. Overall, it's the system Toyota should've put in when it revised the OS a few years back. The change is noticeable.
Infotainment System: The portrait-oriented screen is crisp, responsive, and it's positioned nicely atop the dash where it's easy to reach and view.
Controls: We like the fact that Toyota has retained the traditional PRNDL shift knob, and the climate control knobs are grippy and easy to operate while driving. They're some of the best in the business.
The RAV4 Hybrid thankfully doesn't look like a hybrid. The whole RAV4 lineup looks pretty much the same, but that's a good thing. We do like the rugged styling and the overall cohesiveness of the interior. It has held up well, but the edgy styling is no longer the trend.
Front: We certainly wouldn't call it a simple front end, but the RAV4 looks great from the front end with a nice downturned metal-look perforated grille, a faux skid plate, and some nice cutouts for the foglight housings.
Rear: The black bumper and valence help break up the visual height, and the complex taillights and wing-like chrome bar help dress up the back end.
Profile: Big fenders and blocky shapes give it a rugged look, but the fender trim is too shiny to be practical. The dark rocker panel makes the middle look too thick.
Cabin: The interior is clean and sporty. Contrast stitching, a clean dashboard, and the new tech round things out nicely.
The RAV4 will suit most medium-sized families well with its roominess and solid levels of seat comfort. The driving position and seating levels are excellent.
Front Seats: The seats are well-cushioned, decently bolstered, and wide enough for large folks.
Rear Seats: Rear legroom is 37.8 inches, which works well for six footers. It's down about three inches compared to the Honda CR-V Hybrid, but it's still quite roomy.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The RAV4 feels solid and well made, but you can definitely hear effort of the four-cylinder engine when its pressed, along with the hum of the electric motors. There's good management of wind and road noise, so it manages well as a road-tripper and highway commuter.
Visibility: Rear visibility is compromised by thick D-pillars, but otherwise views of the rear and sides are excellent, and the seating position is very good.
Climate: The automatic climate control system is responsive provided plenty of heat quickly.
The last RAV4 got top scores for safety, but the new one misses the very top award due to stricter criteria. It's still a remarkably safe automobile with a huge set of standard safety features.
IIHS Rating: The 2023 RAV4 was tested under more stringent criteria but it earned the Top Safety Pick, making it a very strong candidate for families.
NHTSA Rating: Five stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: Toyota Safety Sense 2.5: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Road Sign Assist; It also includes a Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
Optional Tech: Our tester came with Front & Rear Parking Assist w/ Automatic Braking as part of the $2,010 Technology Package.
The RAV4 is really easy to use on a day-to-day basis with practical storage options in both rows. It's not as useful as the Honda CR-V, but everything is easy to access.
Storage Space: The center cubby is nicely sized, and the twin cupholders and armrest provide similarly good small item storage.
Cargo Room: The RAV4 is plenty roomy in back with 37.6 cubic feet with the seats in place and 69.8 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. That's more than the Mazda CX-5 but a bit less than the new Honda CR-V Hybrid.
Efficiency is one of the hybrid's strong suits, and we nailed solid numbers on our test drive in combined conditions. While it's not as efficient as the PHEV RAV4 Prime, it is very efficient for a crossover and you don't have to plug it in.
Observed: 37.5 mpg
Distance Driven: 185 miles
Our premium JBL system with 11 speakers delivered excellent sound, but it'll cost you $1,040 as part of the premium audio package. We think it's worth the price of entry.