2020 Toyota RAV4

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
October 9, 2019

Buying tip

If all-wheel drive is a must-do, the 2020 RAV4 Hybrid offers all-wheel drive and fuel efficiency that’s tough to match for a relatively low upfront cost.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 covers more bases this year with smartphone compatibility and tough-looking off-road trims.

One of the most popular crossovers on the planet finally looks like it can go anywhere on earth, too. The 2020 Toyota RAV4 adds a TRD Off-Road trim level this year that bolsters the soft-roader’s trail-running resume (on paper) and gives shoppers another reason to get lost. 

We give the 2020 RAV4 a 6.5 on our overall scale thanks to its good looks and impressive safety scorecard. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year the RAV4 is available in LE, XLE, Adventure, TRD Off-Road, and Limited trim levels. The RAV4 Hybrid will be offered in LE, XLE, XSE, and Limited trim levels. 

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The RAV4’s good looks go further in TRD Off-Road models. They add more off road-adjacent hardware and twin-tube shocks, chunky 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, and gray exterior accents. The base RAV4 looks great in our eyes too: it combines the rough-and-tumble 4Runner and Tacoma looks with the RAV4’s compact dimensions. 

Under the hood of most RAV4s is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 203 horsepower mated to an 8-speed automatic. It’s just fine, although asking more from the engine can reveal its less-refined side. The RAV4’s ride is similarly fine, although competitors smother the road a little better. 

The RAV4 Hybrid rates up to 39 mpg combined, which is good compared to nearly any vehicle. (The Honda CR-V Hybrid or Ford Escape Hybrid may do better when they’re rated.) 

Four average adults won’t have any problems fitting into the RAV4. Head room may be an issue for taller adults, and three broad-shouldered adults may be cramped in the back. 

Every RAV4 is equipped with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitors are standard on most models, and a surround-view camera system is on the options list. 

The redesigned 2019 RAV4 earned top crash-test scores from safety officials, which should be peace of mind for small families and new-car buyers. 

Every RAV4 gets a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, at least one USB port, and power features. Most RAV4s have five USB ports, dual-zone climate control, and options for heated seats.

8

2020 Toyota RAV4

Styling

The 2020 RAV4 swings for the fences and hits a stylish home run among compact crossovers.

We’re still figuring out how the 2020 Toyota RAV4 can come from the same automaker as the Prius. 

To our eyes, the RAV4 is stylish without being brash, angular without being busy, trendy without being tired. TL;DR: The RAV4 is woke not broke. 

We give the RAV4 points above average inside and out and one more for the outside. It’s an 8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The RAV4 channels the 4Runner and Tacoma in all the right ways. The mini off-roader may not have the hardware, but it certainly has the look—sometimes that’s all you need? 

In profile, the RAV4’s roof is low and stylish without overplaying its hand with too-small windows. The chunky fenders are a good look, but the fat rear roof pillar goes too far and compromises rear outward vision. The tail has high-mounted tailights that are connected with a small panel that can add contrast to the blocky rear end. 

Adventure and TRD Off-Road models add tougher-looking parts (even if they’re not completely functional) including a fake skid plate. RAV4 Hybrids have small differences in the front grille and bumpers, but are virtually identical to the others. 

Inside, the RAV4’s dash is wide and horizontal, punctuated by a tablet-style touchscreen planted on top of the vents. There’s good storage inside that’s helpful, although it may be surrounded by cheaper-feeling plastic in LE and XLE trims. 

The trims are differentiated by accent stitching and upholstery patterns, which we like. For example, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road gets red stitching on black synthetic leather upholstery, with a red accent in the center console and stitched headrest accents that play up the high-contrast, butch feel. 

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5

2020 Toyota RAV4

Performance

Performance isn’t the 2020 RAV4’s forte, but it keeps pace.

The news for the 2020 Toyota RAV4 is an available TRD Off-Road package that adds “mucho” to the already-macho soft-roader’s looks—just not much hardware. 

Every crossover—TRD Off-Road or otherwise—is powered by an inline-4. RAV4 Hybrids add an electric motor and batteries for better fuel efficiency, but not much more power. 

We give the RAV4 an average score for performance because it does everything well, even if some do a little better. It’s a 5. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The gas-only RAV4 is powered by a workaday 2.5-liter inline-4 paired to an 8-speed automatic that makes 203 hp. It's competent but hardly refined. Front-wheel drive is standard on all crossovers, and all-wheel drive is optional on all trim levels except Adventure and TRD Off-Road, where it’s standard. 

Toyota offers two all-wheel-drive systems in the RAV4: LE and XLE trims get a conventional system that shuttles power around unobtrusively; TRD Off-Road, Adventure, and Limited versions get an all-wheel-drive system that also uses the brakes to grip side-to-side. When the latter system detects slip in wheels, it brakes those wheels for better grip to the wheels that aren’t slipping. It’s a slick system but slightly dents fuel economy. 

The RAV4’s stiff frame and four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson struts in front with  multi-link, trailing wishbones in the rear) give the RAV4 a supple ride over rough bumps, but competitors such as the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V are a little softer. 

RAV4 Hybrid performance

The RAV4 Hybrid adds a nickel-metal hydride battery and electric motor to the 2.5-liter inline-4 for 219 hp, and uses an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to keep the crossover efficient. Compared to the regular RAV4, the RAV4 Hybrid’s 39 mpg combined rating by the EPA is impressive. Compared to just about any other car on the road, the 39 mpg rating is impressive, too. 

The CVT works to keep the RAV4 Hybrid in low revs; stamp on the accelerator and the Hybrid growls just the same too. 

The RAV4 Hybrid is available in all-wheel drive only, but it’s not a slick setup like the RAV4 Adventure of TRD Off-Road trims. The RAV4 Hybrid can scramble to find traction and take a second or two too long—we’re not sure off-roaders will consider the hybrid version anyway. 

Considering the extra weight, the RAV4 doesn’t ride roughly or poorly. It’s just as composed and calm as the RAV4 regular in our tests. 

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6

2020 Toyota RAV4

Comfort & Quality

Average bodies will fit fine, but the 2020 RAV4 struggles with more than four bigger adults.

The 2020 RAV4’s stylish exterior writes checks that passengers will need to pay. Taller riders may need to crane while inside, and front passengers may want for more head room. The seats are comfortable for average builds or smaller, but the RAV4’s cargo area is good by any measure. 

Starting from an average score of 5, the RAV4 gets points above average for the way back—where passengers won’t sit. It’s a 6. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Starting from the front seats, the available moonroof can cut into head room for taller passengers. A 5-foot-11 editor brushed up against the headliner while sitting in the driver’s seat and others have found that slouching in the front seats isn’t just a lifestyle choice. 

The rear seats are a little lower and offer scant more head room—just barely—but the door cutouts are somewhat small compared to the rest in its class. (That could be a challenge for parents trying to install car seats.) 

The seat bottoms are thin and can be uncomfortable for big bodies. Three abreast in the back is possible, but not preferred for wider bodies. There are more than 37 inches of rear leg room, which should be enough for average builds, but long legs will need to horsetrade with front-seat riders to fit in the back. 

Behind the second row is more than 37 cubic feet of cargo space—even in the hybrid version. The load floor is a little higher than other compact crossovers, including the 2020 Ford Escape, but the cutout is wide and the opening can accommodate big boxes. 

With the second row folded, the RAV4 holds about 69 cubic feet of cargo. 

Most versions of the RAV4 have softer materials on the places that are frequently touched, but hard plastics in the doors on lower-priced versions don’t impress us much.

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8

2020 Toyota RAV4

Safety

Good active safety features complement good crash-test scores in the 2020 Toyota RAV4.

Federal and independent safety officials give the RAV4 high marks for its crashworthiness. Standard automatic emergency braking on every model adds to the Toyota crossover’s impressive resume and it checks in on our safety scale at an 8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The IIHS called the 2019 RAV4 a Top Safety Pick+ thanks to its top “Good” scores in all crash tests, a front crash prevention system rated “Superior” at preventing forward crashes, and headlights that were rated as “Good” in Hybrid Limited trim with an optional package. (The other RAV4 trims are not equipped with the same headlights and don’t qualify for the same award.)

Federal testers gave the RAV4 a top five-star overall rating, but that rating included four stars in front and rollover crash safety. 

Outside of the report card, the RAV4 is equipped with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitors are standard on XLE and higher trim levels. That’s exceptional safety hardware and software for the RAV4 and it could help save lives on the road. 

We recommend the 2020 RAV4 XLE not only for the optional equipment covered below but also for its standard blind-spot monitors. The new RAV4’s body style makes some concessions to outward vision in the name of style. 

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2020 Toyota RAV4

Features

A new 2020 RAV4 TRD Off-Road adds more trail-riding goodies, but every RAV4 gets good stuff.

New Android Auto compatibility complements an outstanding suite of basic features in every RAV4 that includes at least a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility, automatic emergency braking, at least one USB charger, Bluetooth connectivity, and power features. 

Good basic equipment and a generous touchscreen, which grows to 8.0 inches on Adventure, Limited, and TRD Off-Road trims, is how we arrive at our score of 7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, the 2020 RAV4 adds a TRD Off-Road (based on the Adventure trim) to its lineup of LE, XLE, XLE Premium, 

The 2020 RAV4 LE costs about $27,000, including destination, and includes cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels with hubcaps, a split-folding rear seat, the 7.0-inch touchscreen, one USB port, and a suite of active safety features that we describe above. All-wheel drive is optional and costs $1,400 on non-hybrid models. (Hybrid, Adventure, and TRD Off-Road RAV4s are equipped with all-wheel drive as standard equipment.)

We’d opt up for a 2020 RAV4 XLE, which costs $28,265 for a gas-powered model or $30,515 for a hybrid model with all-wheel drive. The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless ignition, five USB chargers, and more available options including heated seats and safety add-ons. 

Adventure and TRD Off-Road versions will appeal to outdoorsy buyers thanks to their beefed-up hardware, even though both use the same inline-4 rated at 203 horsepower as the rest of the gas-powered range. 

Adventure models add 19-inch wheels, roof rails, dual-zone climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment, digital instrument cluster, synthetic leather upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, orange accents inside, soft interior materials, and a household-style power plug. TRD Off-Road versions wear chunky all-terrain tires on 18-inch wheels, sub in red interior accents, twin tube shocks, and add a standard moonroof, and power liftgate. 

The top RAV4 Limited models go all-in with synthetic leather upholstery, premium audio, 19-inch alloy wheels, and unique bumper. For $36,900 with all-wheel drive, the 2020 RAV4 Limited costs nearly as much as a Lexus NX, which has more power and nicer interior materials. 

RAV4 hybrid versions are equipped similarly to their gas-powered counterparts. 

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5

2020 Toyota RAV4

Fuel Economy

The 2020 RAV4 keeps pace with the crowd, the RAV4 Hybrid does better.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 is economical with its fuel compared to other compact crossovers. Spend more on the crossover and the RAV4 can be economical with its fuel compared to any other car on the road. 

The EPA rates front-wheel-drive versions of the 2020 RAV4 at 26 mpg city, 35 highway, 30 combined. That’s a 5 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Adding all-wheel drive doesn’t sink fuel economy either. The EPA rates most RAV4 AWD models at 25/33/28 mpg. (RAV4 LE with all-wheel drive fare slightly better: 27/34/30 mpg.)

The 2020 RAV4 with hybrid batteries does best. Equipped with all-wheel drive, the RAV4 Hybrid rates 41/38/40 mpg, which is far better than many other small crossovers. 

The CR-V rates up to 30 mpg combined in most configurations, although a hybrid model is coming and may top the RAV4. The Chevy Equinox rates up to 28 mpg combined, and the Ford Escape rates up to 30 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. 

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6.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 8
Features N/A
Fuel Economy 5
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