2016 Toyota RAV4 Review

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6 Reviews
2017
The Car Connection
2017
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 is a competent crossover utility with a new Hybrid model this year, updated safety systems, and lots of interior space.

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 is the latest update to the smallest utility vehicle in the company's lineup. This year, there's a mild refresh of a handful of styling and interior features, but the big news is the addition of a RAV4 Hybrid model. That gives the RAV4 not only a version with better fuel economy, but the only hybrid in the smaller SUV segment, and a possible replacement for the much-loved Ford Escape Hybrid sold from 2004 through 2012. There's also a new RAV4 SE model, designated the sportiest in the lineup.

Toyota spent most of its effort revising and updating the interior this year, which it says came in response to customer feedback. The 2016 RAV4 uses better-quality materials, including more soft-touch surfaces. It adds trim around certain dashboard and console elements, a digital display in the revised instrument cluster, an available 7.0-inch touchscreen display, and a 12-volt outlet for the rear plus another USB port.

The RAV4 emerged in the 1990s as part of the first wave of compact crossovers—small SUVs build on car underpinnings—and it's grown up some. It's now technically a mid-size, though Toyota's Highlander seven-seat model is really the company's entry in that segment. But the RA4 has become one of the consistent best-sellers among small crossovers, popular with families and a strong competitor for the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Subaru Forester, among others in the hotly contested segment.

The current RAV4 is the fourth year of a model redesigned for 2013, when it lost the options of a vestigial third-row seat and a V-6 engine. It offers more room inside than some of its competitors, and a dash of driving enjoyment—though it's the balance of space, features, and Toyota reliability that keeps it selling well year after year.

The 2016 RAV4 retains its familiar small-SUV shape, shared among essentially all compact SUVs. The tailgate-mounted spare that gave it faux-truck credentials is long gone, and its profile now matches those of the Escape, the Hyundai Santa Fe, even the sportier Mazda CX-5. Its front end shares design notes with Toyota's latest passenger cars, but the rear is chunky, upright, and has unusual taillights that stand proud of the body. Inside, the dashboard is busy; to our eyes, the simplest RAV4 LE is more coherent than the many trims and surfaces of the top-of-the-line RAV4 Limited.

Only two powertrains are offered in the RAV4. The base engine is a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter inline-4 paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. For the few families concerned about sporty driving, the automatic's sport-shift mode makes it more enjoyable. A 0-to-60-mph time of less than nine seconds is acceptable; while the RAV4 isn't fast, it's quick enough for most family needs. All-wheel drive (AWD) is a $1,400 option.

The new RAV4 Hybrid is actually more powerful than the base RAV4, with a combined peak power of 194 hp from a 154-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 paired with the latest generation of Toyota's two-motor Hybrid Synergy Drive system. The RAV4 Hybrid's standard AWD is not mechanical—as in the gasoline model—but instead uses a 50-kw (67-hp) third electric motor on the rear axle to provide the rear wheels with torque when its control system senses power is needed. The hybrid RAV4 is the quickest model in the lineup—capable of getting to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which is about a second less than with the base engine. And it gets EPA ratings of 33 mpg combined, more than a 30 percent improvement over the 25 mpg delivered by the other RAV4 AWD models.

On the road, the RAV4 is responsive, but far from as sporty as a Mazda CX-5, a Subaru Forester XT, or even the base Ford Escape. It rides lower than other compact SUVs, and the AWD version improves on-road handling as well as providing better traction in inclement weather. The well-weighted electric power steering provides a good sense of center. For a slightly better ride, we suggest sticking with the 17-inch tires on LE and XLE versions.

The new 2016 RAV4 SE model doesn't change the standard powertrain, though it adds paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and a sport-tuned suspension to the compact crossover. It also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a unique front bumper and grille design, interior finishes that include a black headliner and contrast stitching on the seats, and red lighting and needles on the instruments. It also bundles a host of features that are optional on other models. Those include LED headlights and taillights, power driver's seat, and the option of a black-and-tan interior.

Base versions of the RAV4 have seats that we found less supportive than the firmer bolsters offered in the XLE version. Seating space in the RAV4 is about on par with the equally large CR-V—and clearly more generous than that of the Escape. But the back bench is less supportive than many adults will prefer, and its flip/fold mechanism is one step shy of the Honda's. Cargo space is cavernous, and RAV4 Limited versions get a power tailgate.

The 2016 RAV4 buffs up its safety credentials, with a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the IIHS. An optional Toyota Safety System is new this year, and standard on the RAV4 Limited. It includes forward collision warning, followed by automatic pre-collision braking if the driver doesn't take action. It also wraps in lane-departure alert, a radar-based adaptive cruise control, a pedestrian pre-collision system, and automatic high beams. A new surround-view camera system gives drivers a 360-degree view of their surroundings using four cameras, mounted on the front, side mirrors, and rear of the car. Limited models include blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts as well; a rear-vision camera is standard on all models, as are eight airbags.

Audio systems are noteworthy in the RAV4. There are four different levels of Entune touchscreen audio, with the top two levels incorporating the App Suite—Bing for search; iHeartRadio and Pandora for audio streaming; MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Yelp for going out; and real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports and stocks. Toyota remains stubbornly resistant to both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, however.

Front-wheel-drive models of the 2016 RAV4 manage fuel economy numbers of 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined. Upgrade to all-wheel drive and you'll lower the gas mileage one click, to 22/29/25 mpg. Those aren't class-leading numbers, with competitors like the Mazda CX-5 and the most efficient versions of the Ford Escape topping the RAV4's ratings, but the hybrid RAV4's numbers bring it more closely in line. That model is rated at 34/31/33 mph.

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December 29, 2016
2016 Toyota RAV4 AWD 4-Door LE (GS)

Good, solid, reliable, dependable, comfortable.

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Functional, not high tech, but has what I need. Easy to get along with. Not sporty in the corners, so it's more peaceful to drive. Sits up high, feels solid without feeling heavy. I get 34.5mpg on highway, and... + More »
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May 15, 2016
For 2016 Toyota RAV4

pretty decent vehicle

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functional ,not exciting reliable a Toyota built to satisfy all your needs.
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February 13, 2016
For 2016 Toyota RAV4

I love this car

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I have this car xle in white and i have alot of extra stuff that i added . Love this car especially the rims . I got alot of attention with this car . This is my favorite car so far.you would not regreat... + More »
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December 20, 2015
2016 Toyota RAV4 AWD 4-Door Limited (GS)

Delighted with my new Limited

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I traded in my 2005 RAV4 L, and this new one is head and shoulders better. It has nice style (better details than the 2015, although the same basic body style). The interior (black faux leather) is gorgeous as... + More »
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October 11, 2015
2016 Toyota RAV4 FWD 4-Door XLE (GS)

2016 RAV4 is good in performance but not for style

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I've driven a RAV4 for 3 years and NEVER got any problems with the engine performance. I love it, but not so good with the body design that's less aggressive, but i see the 2016 model improves
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October 8, 2015
2016 Toyota RAV4 FWD 4-Door XLE (GS)

The exterior front end design look angry and frowning and needs to be redesigned not attractive.

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I like the new Hybrid design and inclusion of the new safety package. I think being lower to the ground has benefits for handlng however, should be higher for ease od access even with the 17inch tires.
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June 5, 2016
For 2017 Toyota RAV4

The 2016 RAV4 XLE is a very nice car to own and drive

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My Toyota RAV4 XLE is a 2016, 2017 is not out. I am enjoying owning and driving this SUV. The only thig I don't care for is the seat material. They could have picked a much better looking fabric.
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September 20, 2015
1996 Toyota RAV4 2-Door Automatic

1/4 Million Miles of Dependable Fun and Reliability

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When I decided on a second-hand RAV 4 in 98 it had won the contest against a Jeep hands down. This was a car that I could comfortably commute in and it gave me the option for some fun on weekends that required... + More »
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December 20, 2015
For 2015 Toyota RAV4

Not good. Terrible customer service

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Their customer service is absolutely and surprisingly terrible and provoking, they depend on the big name of Toyota so they totally do not care about their customers. I bought a 2014 RAV4 from the Toyota... + More »
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October 25, 2015
2015 Toyota RAV4 FWD 4-Door Limited (Natl)

Solid, reliable, with the right combination of features.

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We purchased a 2015 Limited in September. After exhaustive research, the RAV 4 seems logical. The Subaru was excellent, but did not offer dual zone heating nor push button start in the model we wanted. The CRV... + More »
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