Toyota RAV4 Prime: Best Car To Buy 2021 nominee

December 29, 2020

Quicker, more powerful, more efficient, and more capable, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid makes the compact crossover's winning formula even better. The RAV4 offers what consumers want. It's the bestselling non-truck in the U.S., and last year the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and its 39 combined mpg shouldered past the Toyota Prius to become the bestselling hybrid. The RAV4 Prime plug-in version follows the same path. 

The RAV4 Hybrid qualified for last year's Best Car To Buy 2020 award, and might have pulled it out if not for the incomparable 2020 Kia Telluride

In the RAV4 Prime, two motors supplement the 2.5-liter inline-4 to make 302 horsepower, which is 83 hp more than the Hybrid; Toyota says the RAV4 Prime hits 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, making it the second quickest Toyota behind the Supra sports coupe made in partnership with BMW. One of those motors powers the rear axle when needed for traction or impressive bursts of acceleration. Otherwise, the all-wheel-drive crossover skimps on fuel and optimizes electricity to get 42 miles of all-electric range, or the equivalent of 94 mpg, according to the EPA. Without the juice, it averages 38 mpg combined. 

The seamless operation of the hybrid system means all you have to do is remember to plug it in at night. Or not. Hit the road, skip the charger, fill up at gas stations and preserve battery power for around town, when the combustion engine is most inefficient. With the 18.1-kwh battery pack mounted under the floor between the axles, cargo space shrinks only 4.1 cubic feet from the Hybrid's figure to 33.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat. Five passengers and their gear can still fit, and with the seats folded down, the 63.2 cubic feet of cargo volume compares with other compact crossovers. 

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime

The RAV4 Prime might wear a macho truck-inspired exterior with its flat-faced grilled and squared off wheel arches, but the interior maintains a simpler yet sophisticated layering of textures. An 9.0-inch touchscreen tops a layered dashboard covered in black and accented with silver plastic meant to look like chrome. 

For a value-loaded price under $40,000, the RAV4 Prime comes with such features as heated power front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control. Moreover, the 3-year/36,000-mile warranty is supplemented with an 8-year/100,000-mile hybrid component warranty. 

The main problem with the 2021 RAV4 Prime is finding one; Toyota's initial limited production met steep demand that we hope will balance out soon.  

Follow along as we crown The Car Connection's Best Car To Buy 2021 on Jan. 4, and reveal the best vehicles in 15 categories to help you choose the best cars, trucks, and SUVs. Vote for our annual Driver’s Choice awards and tell us what you think is best in every category. We'll also announce the winners from our sister sites, Motor Authority and Green Car Reports

2021
The Car Connection
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2021
The Car Connection
 
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