2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD Review

If it ain't broke, just give it more attitude


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Handles and steers better than before, rugged looks are more appealing, improved cabin ergonomics and infotainment, great safety features, will satisfy most buyers.
Negatives: Engine is noisy and needs more power, infotainment system is better but not great.
Bottom Line: The new RAV4 is far more likeable than the outgoing version, and it has more attitude and better interior appointments than before. The engine has more power but still gets loud when pushed. It was nondescript before, but the styling inside and out make it much more noticeable. We think it's a great choice for crossover shoppers but hope the hybrid will offer more power.
Toyota really didn't need to overhaul the RAV4 for sales. It pretty much pioneered the small crossover craze, and it was the best-selling non-truck, passenger vehicle in both 2017 and 2018. So the move to a far more rugged-looking vehicle for 2019 was an interesting move, perhaps jumping on the bandwagon of the truck craze and attempting to separate themselves from the conventional crossover look. Whatever the reasoning, the change is welcomed. We drove the top trim Limited version for a week to see if we could go from liking the old one to loving the new one. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

7

 

One great thing about the RAV4 is that it's easy to drive, despite the modicum of power that's under the hood. The last RAV4 was ho-hum in the driving department, but the new one improves things just enough to keep things interesting. We can't wait for the hybrid that will hopefully deliver more thrust.

Ride Quality: The ride is comfortable and compliant, even better than the last RAV4. It's a good daily driver and will keep most owners satisfied with good shock absorption.

Acceleration: Power is up to 203 from a rather paltry 176, and 0-60 comes in about 8 seconds. The old hybrid had 194 horses, so we hope to see a bump for that trim level, as well.

Braking: The brake pedal is firm and progressive, and stopping distances are good.

Steering: The steering feels sharper and more immediate than before, but there' still virtually no feedback through the steering column.

Handling: There's defintely less body roll and understeer than the old RAV4, and torque vectoring helps it in the curves. The RAV4 feels more planted, as a result.

Technology

6.5

 

We had hoped Toyota would make the Entune system visually more attractive and easier to use. It's somewhat improved, but it doesn't seem like a generational jump in terms of looks and operation. That being said, it works well and has really no major flaws. At least Apple CarPlay is now standard.

Infotainment System: The colors are muted like before, but menus look better. Overall, it's a pretty easy system to use, but the responsiveness could be better.

Controls: We don't like the tiny infotainment buttons that flank the screen. These should be larger and easier to reach. Steering wheel controls are now more intuitive and easier to use while driving. The large HVAC knobs are some of the best we've seen with textured rubber grips.

Styling

8.7

 

We really like the radical looks of the new RAV4 because it's such a huge departure from the old one, which wasn't bad but was a bit on the vanilla side. The only issue we have is the fact that the more rugged body betrays its somewhat suburban leanings.

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: We see a bit of Jeep Grand Cherokee here, but that's a good thing. The brushed metal like accent bar is a nice touch, too, along with twin round exhaust ports.

Profile: Though there are plent of creases and curves, we like the way it's put together. Even the slightly floating roof black accent looks good, and proportions are right, as well.

Cabin: Talk about an upgrade from the last RAV4's interior. Though it's still quite dark inside, the look is rugged, more cohesive, and less busy than the last one. We like the look of the seats, too, especially with the horizontal stitching in the seatback inserts.

Comfort

8.6

 

The previous RAV4 supplied occupants with a solid level of comfort, but the new one improves upon it with a bit more space for just about everyone.

Front Seats: The broad-shouldered leather seats in our tester were supportive and well-cushioned. Long drives should be no problem for adults of all sizes.

Rear Seats: There's over a half inch more legroom and headroom, giving even 6-footers space.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The RAV4 feels solid and well made, but you can definitely hear the four-cylinder mill when you push it hard. Otherwise, it's a quiet ride.

Visibility: Rear visibility is compromised by thick D-pillars, but the front and sides are open, and the seating position is very good.

Climate: The automatic climate control system is responsive provided plenty of heat quickly.

Safety

8.5

 

The last RAV4 got top scores for safety, but the new one misses due to stricter criteria, even though its crash test performance was better.

IIHS Rating: It now passes all the crash tests with flying colors, scoring "good" in all categories, whereas last year's passenger small front overlap was "poor". It misses a Top Safety Pick because of "marginal" headlights. It also has an extra set of LATCH attachments for the middle position, great for those with three little ones.

NHTSA Rating: Five stars from the federal government.

Standard Tech: Pre-Collision System w/ Pedestrian Detection, Full Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Depature Warning Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams, Road Sign Assist; Star Safety System, Blind Spot Monitor. That's a lot for your money and good reason to look at the RAV4 for families.

Optional Tech: Our Limited trim test vehicle came with a Bird's Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, a great add-on that adds to daily maneuvering safety.

Storage/Cargo

8.8

 

Though the cargo space numbers drop a little bit, it's a small sacrifice to pay for the improvements in the cabin for small item storage. The last RAV4 had weird spaces for gear stowage, so this is a welcomed improvement.

Storage Space: The center cubby is nicely sized, and the twin cupholders and armrest provide similarly good small item storage.

Cargo Room: Both the space behind row two and with row two folded flat drop by a couple of cubes, but there's still ample space for cargo with 37.5 and 69.8 cubic feet respectively. That's smaller than the Honda CR-V and bigger than the Mazda CX-5 and the Hyundai Tucson.

Fuel Economy

7.4

 

In order to maximize our driving fun, we pushed the little 4-cylinder mill pretty hard, resulting in okay fuel economy. Under more conservative driving habits, it would do better. The RAV4 is a little bit lighter compared to last year, but there's more power under the hood.

Observed: 20.0 mpg

Distance Driven: 188 miles

Audio

8.2

 

Our premium JBL system with 11 speakers sounded better than we expected. We're not sure what's different compared to the premium system in the last RAV4, but it sound fuller, clearer, and has better bass. For a mere $580, it's well worth it.



Final Thoughts

Though we weren't huge fans of the last RAV4, it was a very good crossover that had widespread appeal, as evidenced by its colossal sales figures. But it really wasn't much more than reliable, non-offensive transportation. The new one isn't very fast, but everyone will notice it more, and owners will enjoy the interior tremendously thanks to upgrades in style, materials, and tech. We hope the hybrid provides a bit more shove in the back in terms of power. Regardless, the RAV4 will sell in huge numbers again. It's remarkably good for a mainstream crossover. If you want to enjoy your drive more, get a Mazda CX-5. If you want more space, opt for the Honda CR-V.

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