Toyota's crossover is a one-size-fits-all solution

2016 Toyota RAV4

 

The people-mover market loves winners, and few have hit the jackpot as often as the Toyota RAV4. Almost since day one the RAV4 has stood alongside the Ford Escape and the Honda CR-V as part of the leading trio of compact SUVs here in Canada, due to its impeccable combination of usable interior space, class-leading reliability, and affordable pricing. Freshly redesigned, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 makes evolutionary, not revolutionary changes, in a bid to double-down on what has made it so popular with buyers.

 

For vast swathes of the Canadian car-buying public Toyota's crossover is a one-size-fits-all solution, but that doesn't mean the 2016 Toyota RAV4 is leaps and bounds ahead of its rivals in every single important area. There are SUVs that are quicker, offer a longer list of options and features, and in some cases sell for more competitive prices. Whether it moves the needle for your family will depend on how closely your daily driving needs match up with the Toyota RAV4's admittedly diverse array of talents.

 

Pros:

 

  • The RAV4 is huge inside. We're not exaggerating - with 2,080 litres of total cargo space available with the rear seats folded forward (almost double the amount you get with a full load of five passengers riding along), there are few compact SUVs that can challenge the Toyota when it comes to cargo capacity.
  • In addition to being big, the RAV4 is also quiet and comfortable at speed. It would be a stretch to call the crossover luxurious - even high-dollar trim levels are packed with plastic - but the simple presentation and an improved focus on delivering soft-touch surfaces are welcome.
  • Toyota has significantly upped the active safety ante with this latest version of the RAV4, making available forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system, and a top-down 'Bird's Eye View' camera system that is useful when manoeuvring the vehicle at low speeds.
  • All-wheel drive is optional with the gas-only model (176 horsepower from a 2.5-litre, carry-over four-cylinder engine) and standard with the hybrid (194 hp through the addition of a pair of electric motors). It's an on-demand system that offers a bit more rear-bias when you switch the Toyota into Sport mode.

 

Cons:

 

  • Where's the beef? In an era where rivals from Kia and Ford offer optional turbocharged engines hovering around the 240 hp mark, Toyota has elected to stick with its base four-cylinder across the board, with only the hybrid offering a bit more grunt over the entry-level model.
  • There's questionable real world efficiency benefit to buying the RAV4 Hybrid. Drop close to $10k on the battery-assisted model and you get near identical highway fuel efficiency ratings (7.6 L/100 km for the FWD gas-only SUV and the AWD Hybrid alike, with an extra half-litre of consumption for AWD gas-only models), and a little more than a litre improvement in combined driving. Even if you do a lot of city driving - the one area where the RAV4 Hybrid shines - it'll take many years to fill in that price gap with savings at the fuel pump.
  • For 2016 the Toyota RAV4 debuts an SE trim that's intended to get your blood boiling out on the road, but there's very little sport to go with the RAV4's utility - consider this an appearance package and little more, despite the revised suspension tuning and paddle shifters for the six-speed automatic gearbox. Acceleration and handling are mid-pack across the board for the SUV, in keeping with its reputation as a family-first hauler, so if you're seeking excitement you'll have to look elsewhere.

 

2016 Toyota RAV4 / RAV4 Hybrid

 

ENGINE

2.5-liter 4-cylinder / 2.5-liter four cylinder plus 2 electric motors

OUTPUT

176 hp / 172 lb-ft & 194 hp / 206 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

6-speed automatic / CVT

0-100 KMH

8.4 Seconds

TOP SPEED

N/A

FUEL ECONOMY

10.0 City / 7.6 Highway (FWD) 6.9 City / 7.6 Highway (Hybrid)

WEIGHT

1,555 kilograms (3,421 pounds)

421SEATING CAPACITY

5

CARGO VOLUME

2,080 litres

BASE PRICE

$27,265 / $36,740

AS-TESTED PRICE

$36,895

 

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