Full-electric and hybrid powertrains continue to spread rapidly throughout the automotive industry, so it’s no surprise that hybrid-car specialist Toyota offers a RAV4 Hybrid and plug-in hybrid RAV4 called the Prime. The Japanese automaker has applied the lessons learned from its Prius hybrid to its entry in the far trendier compact-SUV class. Based on the regular nonhybrid RAV4 (reviewed separately), the RAV4 Hybrid and Prime offer similar practicality and features with much better fuel efficiency and, in the case of the Prime, respectable electric-only driving range. These electrified Toyotas aren’t alone in the segment—hybrid versions of the Honda CR-V, the Ford Escape, and the Mitsubishi Outlander are also available—but they are well-equipped to compete for your hard-earned dollar.
What’s New for 2021?
The standard RAV4 Hybrid receives a new mid-range XLE Premium trim for 2021, but the big news this year is the introduction of the plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime models. The RAV4 Prime is the most powerful RAV4 offered with a total of 302 horsepower between its gas engine and electric motors; it also offers a claimed 42 miles of electric-only driving per charge.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- LE Hybrid: $30,000 (est)
- XLE Hybrid: $31,000 (est)
- XLE Premium: $33,000 (est)
- XSE Hybrid: $35,000 (est)
- Limited Hybrid: $38,000 (est)
- Prime SE: $39,220
- Prime XSE: $42,545
If you can qualify for the $7500 electric-vehicle tax credit, the RAV4 Prime is a no-brainer, as the government’s financial incentive lowers its price substantially—and you get a RAV4 with more power and significant electric-only driving range. Of the two Prime models, the XSE is packed with more standard features, including 19-inch wheels, a sunroof, and an infotainment system with a larger 9.0-inch display. If you don’t qualify for the tax credit, we’d recommend the XLE Hybrid, which offers more standard equipment than the base LE without suffering much of an uptick in price. Buyers of the XLE will enjoy conveniences such as passive keyless entry, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, LED projector headlamps with automatic high-beams, heated exterior mirrors, blind-spot monitoring, and front fog lamps.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The RAV4 Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s assisted by two electric motors for a combined output of 219 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard—one of the electric motors powers the rear wheels and the second motor and the gasoline engine drive the fronts—as is a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Not only is the RAV4 Hybrid more efficient than the unelectrified model, it’s also quicker. It snapped off a 7.4-second 60-mph time in our hands while the gas-only model needed 8.0 seconds to perform the same task. Drivers will feel that pep, too, particularly around town, where the electric motor’s gratifyingly immediate power delivery gives it an extra shove when taking off from a stop. If you want even more performance, the Prime model is happy to oblige. In our testing, the RAV4 Prime skipped to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. Like the standard RAV4, the hybrid and Prime models’ handling is competent and its ride is comfortable, but don’t expect any cornering heroics here.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
The plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime stores its electrons in an 18.1-kWh battery pack, and the EPA rates its electric-only driving range at 42 miles. In our testing, we managed to drive for 32 miles on electricity alone, but that was on the highway; we would expect longer driving range in the city. A 3.3-kWh onboard charger is standard and a 6.6-kWh charger is optional on the Prime XSE; it decreases charging time to just 2.5 hours on a 240-volt outlet. If only a 120-volt outlet is available, expect charging times to be about 12 hours.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
When compared with a gas-powered all-wheel-drive RAV4, the hybrid model is far more efficient. The EPA estimates it’ll achieve 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined, beating the regular RAV4 by 14 mpg, 5 mpg, and 11 mpg, respectively. When we tested the RAV4 Hybrid on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy route, it delivered 37 mpg, 1 mpg less than its EPA rating. The Prime earns an EPA combined rating of 94 MPGe, and it delivered 73 MPGe during our highway fuel economy test.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The RAV4 Hybrid’s cabin is well built and nicely outfitted but prioritizes practicality over style. With a plethora of cubbies and bins to choose from, you’ll have ample space to stash small cargo, and all of the buttons and controls are easy to find and operate. Toyota throws in plenty of niceties at the base level, such as dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, and a height-adjustable false floor in the cargo area. Going up the trim-level ladder brings luxury features such as heated front and rear seats, ambient interior lighting, and upgraded faux-leather upholstery that Toyota calls SofTex. The RAV4 Hybrid offers identical cargo and passenger space as the regular RAV4, and in our testing, we managed to fit 10 carry-on suitcases behind the second row and 22 with the rear seat folded.
Infotainment and Connectivity
LE and XLE models come with a 7.0-inch infotainment display sprouting from its dashboard while XSE and Limited models provide an 8.0-inch screen. The larger display can be had on the XLE model as part of the Audio Plus package. RAV4 Prime models come with either an 8.0- or 9.0-inch display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot are all standard. Navigation and an 11-speaker JBL stereo system are available on the XSE and standard on the Limited. Otherwise, you’ll get a six-speaker system.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have given the RAV4 good marks for crashworthiness. The IIHS even named it a Top Safety Pick for 2020. Toyota has been an aggressive adopter of driver-assistance features and offers many of them standard across the RAV4 lineup. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
All RAV4s come with a comprehensive warranty that matches those provided by rivals Honda and Nissan, but electrified models come with a lengthy protection plan for their hybrid components. Far from the norm, Toyota’s complimentary scheduled maintenance policy stretches for two years or 25,000 miles.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Hybrid-component warranty covers eight years or 100,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for two years or 25,000 miles
More Features and Specs
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