Daily Driven: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Idiot-Proof Efficiency with Stalwart Toyota Genetics

Sep 10, 2018
Photographers: Courtesy of Toyota, Brett T. Evans
Toyota tends to build vehicles that could be likened to whole-grain crackers: wholesome, nourishing, and sometimes delicious, but not that exciting. The advent of the company’s Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) is set to change that, transforming even the Prius, long a pet peeve of auto enthusiasts, into something with a little driving verve.
The next model slated to undergo the change to TNGA will be the RAV4, which should arrive in showrooms about the time you read this. If the new architecture is as transformative as it was for the Camry, Corolla Hatchback, and Prius, then the 2019 RAV should be stiffer, more agile, and more comfortable than before. Keen to get a baseline, we rang up Toyota and asked if they had any 2018 RAV4s for us to borrow, and since we wanted to run it through our Daily Driven cadre, could it please be a hybrid?
Photo 2/22   |   Daily Driven 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 3 4 Rear
And so we started our week with a RAV4 XLE Hybrid, a model that comes very nicely equipped with Toyota Entune infotainment, forward collision monitoring and adaptive cruise control, and hard-wearing cloth upholstery. Like all Hybrids, it comes standard with all-wheel drive, the front wheels driven by the internal combustion engine and an electric motor and the rears driven solely by an electric motor when conditions require it. The XLE Hybrid starts at $29,280, making it a very popular choice with families looking to pinch a few pennies both at the pump and the dealer’s finance department.
To its long list of standard features, our RAV4 added the $2,785 Hybrid Convenience Package with Options, which includes blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, Entune premium audio with navigation, heated front seats, and a power liftgate. With a few dealer-installed accessories, the RAV had an MSRP of $33,335 after $1,045 destination.
Photo 3/22   |   Daily Driven 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Side View
The RAV4 has been on the market in its same basic form since the 2013 model year, so we’re very familiar with the ins and outs of the popular crossover. A mostly cosmetic refresh for 2016 did nothing to upset that familiarity, so getting settled into the RAV is an easy affair. Knowing this machine was destined for families and young folks alike, Toyota designed the interior with pockets and cubbies galore—our favorite is the mail slot above the glovebox that’s big enough for a cell phone and a wallet, keeping those items within reach for the drive-thru or parking garage. It’s easy to find a comfortable position in the supportive front seats, and the rear seats are spacious enough for two adults or three kids, with an adjustable backrest improving comfort further.
Photo 4/22   |   Daily Driven 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Interior
Thumbing the blue starter button (cleverly labeled “POWER” on the battery-electric RAV4) wakes Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain with a whir. The first 30 or 40 feet of driving can be done under electric power, even if you’re a bit of a jackboot on the throttle. Furthermore, punching the “EV Mode” button at the bottom of the center stack expands that all-electric envelope even more, as long as we didn’t exceed 32 mph or punch the gas pedal too forcefully. Toyota’s powertrain programming tended to encourage us to keep our speeds lower than we might otherwise have liked—the RAV4 makes it all too easy to become a rolling roadblock by judgmentally firing up the gas engine any time we asked for a reasonable amount of forward momentum.
But once at speed, the RAV4 settles into a good groove. For a vehicle with compact car roots, the hybrid is composed on the highway, with decent straight-line stability and great sightlines in all directions. And there’s plenty of space for driver, passengers, and stuff, owing to the RAV’s commendably low rear cargo floor.
Photo 5/22   |   Daily Driven 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Wheel
Still, there are a few opportunities for improvement. As with many lower-priced vehicles, the RAV4’s adaptive cruise control isn’t a paragon of smoothness. In LA traffic, it cut power abruptly when another vehicle appeared up ahead, then floored the throttle to catch up after losing too much speed. And the efficiency-oriented tires loved to transmit an unpleasant, gritty texture on certain road surfaces, although most of the time the RAV4 rides smoothly and quietly.
Which brings us to the question we implied at the beginning: Should you wait for a 2019 RAV4, or will the 2018 do? To be honest, we think the 2018 is as good at daily driving/carpool/family responsibilities as it needs to be, with an adequate driving experience backed up by good fuel economy, plenty of passenger space, and plenty of convenience and luxury features. Of course, if you’re hellbent on getting the best driving experience possible or you’re in love with the 2019 RAV4’s styling, that’s one thing. But if all you need is comfortable family transportation with a dash of Toyota’s quality-laden (if somewhat boring) driving experience thrown in, find a good deal on a remaining-stock 2018 RAV4 Hybrid.
Photo 6/22   |   Daily Driven 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Vehicle: 2018 Cadillac Escalade ESV Platinum 4WD

Base price: $27,385 (RAV4 LE Hybrid), $29,280 (RAV4 XLE Hybrid)
Price as tested: $33,335
Engine: Naturally aspirated Atkinson-cycle 16-valve 2.5L I-4, front and rear AC synchronous electric motors, 1.6kWh nickel metal hydride battery pack
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Horsepower: 194 hp
Torque: N/A
Towing capacity: 1,750 pounds
EPA fuel economy rating: 34 city/30 highway/32 combined
Actual calculated economy, 305-mile trip: 32.91 mpg
Passenger volume: 100.7 cubic feet
Cargo volume, seats up/down: 35.6/70.6 cubic feet

POPULAR TRUCKS

MOST POPULAR

Subscribe Today and Save up to 83%!

Subscribe Truck Trend Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truck Trend
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Diesel Power Magazine

Subscribe to:

Diesel Power
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
Subscribe Truckin Magazine

Subscribe to:

Truckin
Magazine

PRINT DIGITAL
SUBSCRIBE TO A MAGAZINE
CLOSE X
BUYER'S GUIDE
SEE THE ALL NEW Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
NEWS, REVIEWS & SPECS