When we last reviewed the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid back in 2018, it was the only game in town if you wanted a compact crossover hybrid. In 2020 the car has a lot more competition, particularly in the form of the Honda CR-V, which is available for the first time in a hybrid model. Luckily for Toyota, the RAV4 saw a complete redesign in 2019, delivering more power, better fuel efficiency, a more attractive exterior, a higher-quality interior, and Apple CarPlay. 2020 brings the addition of Android Auto, which is enough to keep the RAV4 at the head of the pack, and earn our Editors’ Choice.
Pricing and Design
All 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrids come with a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine paired to an electric motor, with an additional motor powering the rear wheels’ loss of traction via a continuously variable automatic transmission. Total system output is 219 horsepower and EPA-estimated fuel economy is an excellent 39mpg combined. The lithium-ion hybrid battery is charged by the gas engine and through regenerative braking.
The base LE trim starts at $28,350 and the exterior comes equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, LED headlights and daytime running lights, LED taillights, power and folding outside mirrors, keyless entry, and intermittent windshield wipers. Standard interior feature include power windows and doors, automatic climate control, fabric-trimmed seats, a manual six-way adjustable driver seat and four-way front-passenger seat, 60/40-split folding rear seats with adjustable recline, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, and a rearview camera.
Standard tech consist of a 7-inch touch screen, a six-speaker audio system with AM/FM HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa compatibility, Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls and music streaming, voice recognition, a USB media port, and a one-year trial of Toyota Connected Services that includes telematics services, remote access, and 2GB of in-cabin Wi-Fi.
The Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver assists is standard on all RAV4 Hybrids and includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with lane-keeping assist, auto high beams, road sign detection, adaptive cruise control, and hill-start assist.
The XLE trim starts at $29,645 and adds chrome headlight bezels, LED accent lighting, fog lights, color-keyed and heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signal and blind spot indicators, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, automatic headlights, variable speed intermittent wipers, remote illuminated entry, push-button start, a sunroof, upgraded fabric upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat with lumbar support, and four additional USB charging ports, with two in the rear seats.
The XSE starts at $34,300 and adds 18-inch black-painted wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, two-tone exterior paint, an 8-inch touch screen, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a power liftgate, simulated-leather upholstery, upgraded interior trim, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dynamic guidelines for the rearview camera, and interior ambient lighting.
The flagship Limited trim we tested brings to price to $36,880 and adds 18-inch chrome wheels, parking sensors and automatic rear cross-traffic braking, puddle lights, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear passenger seats, deicing wipers, navigation, and two-position memory for the driver seat.
Our test vehicle came with the $1,620 Premium Audio option with an 11-speaker JBL system with a subwoofer, Dynamic Navigation with three years of free map updates, Dynamic POI Search, and Dynamic Voice Recognition. It also had the $375 Weather Package option with a heated, leather-trimmed steering wheel and automatic wipers with a deicer function, as well as the $640 Technology package that adds front and rear parking sensors, automatic rear cross-traffic braking, and wireless smartphone charging. Individual options include $296 for carpeted floor mats and cargo cover, $199 for door sill protectors, $69 for rear bumper appliques, and $65 for wheel locks. With a $1,120 delivery processing and handling fee, the final sticker came to $38,407.
With the 2019 model year redesign, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid easily became the best-looking vehicle in its class, and is much more stylish with the two-tone exterior and the black-painted wheels on the XSE trim compared with the staid Honda CR-V Hybrid.
Inside, the RAV4 Hybrid is comfortable and roomy, with smart touches such as knurled climate control knobs and a diamond pattern on the smartphone charging pad and other surfaces that make for a rugged look.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The 8-inch infotainment interface in the RAV4 Hybrid is identical to the one in the 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid we recently tested—and that we’ve seen in other Toyota vehicles for years. The screen is flanked by four buttons on each side and rotary power/volume and tuning/scroll buttons. Both the home screen layout and individual feature icons can be customized to the driver’s preference, and while the interface is a bit dated, it’s easy and intuitive to use.
When the all-new RAV4 debuted last year, it only had Apple CarPlay since Toyota was one of the last automakers to add smartphone connectivity. Thankfully, the 2020 model gets Android Auto as well. In addition to the two platform’s cloud-based features, HD Radio provides free weather and traffic info.
Even though the onboard navigation system comes with three years of free map updates, Android Auto’s and CarPlay’s constantly updated map apps might make you question whether to drop $1,600-plus on the Premium Audio option. The choice will likely come down to whether you want the impressive 11-speaker JBL audio system that cranks out great sound with powerful bass.
The RAV4 Hybrid’s comprehensive Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver assists is standard across the line, whereas you have to upgrade to the more expensive trim levels to get these safety features on some competitors. We also like that you can adjust the sensitivity of the driver assists via the 7-inch digital instrument cluster, which also makes keeping tabs on fuel efficiency simple once you get the hang of the somewhat kludgy steering wheel controls.
The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s battery-assisted powertrain has 16 more horsepower than its non-hybrid sibling and surprisingly snappy acceleration. Even with this extra power, EPA-estimated fuel economy is up to 39mpg combined, which is a 6mpg improvement over the previous generation.
Sport, Eco, and Normal drive modes can be dialed in via a center console knob, and unlike many hybrids, the Eco and Sport modes actually have an effect on performance. A separate Trail mode sends more power to the wheel that has the most traction, while an EV Mode provides electric-only operation for very short distances.
The XSE trim’s sport-tuned suspension handles curves and corners with minimal body roll and smooths out small bumps. The excellent performance is hampered, however, by the CVT. While the slush box is smooth at most speeds, it howls and shakes when pushed hard. The hybrid system is also one of the noisiest we’ve tested, but the commotion mostly occurs when the vehicle is stopped and you’re able to hear all the pops and pings.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is the company’s best-selling hybrid—even beating out the Prius—and accounted for around 21 percent of overall RAV4 sales in 2019. While the Ford Escape Hybrid and Kia Niro Hybrid can be considered competitors, in the small world of compact crossover hybrids, it really comes down to the RAV4 vs. the new Honda CR-V. The CR-V is smart, dependable, and affordable, but a little boring. In comparison, the RAV4 Hybrid is simply more attractive, sporty, and fun. Both are great vehicles, but we’d rather own the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which earns it our Editor’s Choice in the segment.
2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Specs