- Performance plug-in hybrid
- Great exterior looks
- Wide customization possibilities
- Standard active safety features
- Good all-wheel-drive systems
- Interior is compromised
- Top trims cost how much?
- Buzzy base inline-4
- Small-ish rear seat
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 is the meat-and-potatoes crossover for many buyers; the RAV4 Prime supplies the all-electric range.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 is a mega-selling compact crossover that still has a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s due in mid-2020, and brings with it a plug-in hybrid with a twist: the 2021 RAV4 Prime that may be the best performer of the bunch.
It gets a 6.4 TCC Rating for now. We’ll adjust it when we drive it, and when official safety data rolls in. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Like last year, we expect the 2021 RAV4 to come in more flavors than many ice cream shops. Toyota will offer the RAV4 in LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Limited, TRD Off-Road, SE, and XSE trims. The RAV4 Hybrid likely will be offered in LE, XLE, and Limited trims, the RAV4 Prime comes in SE and XSE trims.
The good news: All RAV4s get the same mini-’ute good looks that started in 2019. The roofline and chunky body sides are a boon to curb appeal, even if they make the RAV4 slightly more uncomfortable inside this time around.
All RAV4s start with an inline-4 under the hood, although what happens down the driveline depends on how deep your pockets are. The base 2.5-liter inline-4 makes 203 horsepower and drives the front or all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The RAV4 Hybrid teams that inline-4 to a hybrid battery pack and electric motors for 219 hp net that drives all four wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission. It’s fuel-efficient and rates up to 40 mpg combined, according to the EPA.
The RAV4 Prime adds bigger electric motors, a bigger hybrid battery pack and bumps up overall output to more than 300 hp. Unlike other plug-in hybrid crossovers, the RAV4 Prime’s song is performance: it’s the quickest RAV4 to 60 mph at 5.8 seconds (two seconds faster than the RAV4 Hybrid) and can travel more than 30 miles on electrons alone.
We’re not sure how much the RAV4 will cost, but every model gets active safety features that include automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control.
Base RAV4s get cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with smartphone compatibility and at least one USB port. Top trims get synthetic leather, better performance, off-road hardware, a bigger touchscreen, or better audio.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 will arrive in summer 2020.
2021 Toyota RAV4
The 2021 RAV4 is now the looker among the compact crossover bunch; never thought we’d say that about a Toyota.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 channels all the right angles—90 degrees and otherwise—into its body for a shape that’s not only better than RAV4s before it, it’s also better than it needs to be.
It’s a good look and we give it an 8 for styling.
The RAV4 draws closer to the Tacoma and 4Runner in all the right ways. It’s a mini off-roader in some looks, even if it lacks the hardware to match.
The roofline is low and stylish, we can even see a little FJ in there, but it doesn’t overplay its hand with too-small windows. The low roof takes its toll on passengers inside, driving while slouched is more than a life choice sometimes.
The RAV4’s chunky fenders in TRD Off-Road and Adventure trims look good, and the sporty touches to the new RAV4 Prime are a win for the ‘ute.
Inside, the RAV4 is a mishmash of soft-touch materials and hard plastics with a wide and horizontal dash and touchscreen planted above the vents. Some trim levels differentiate with contrast stitching, which is a nice touch. The RAV4 Prime goes further with red inserts and synthetic leather.
2021 Toyota RAV4
Now with a performance, plug-in hybrid powertrain, the 2021 RAV4 covers all of the bases.
The sleepy performance of the Toyota RAV4 gets a shot in the arm this year with a new, higher-horsepower 2021 RAV4 Prime.
An efficiency-minded, performance-ready crossover is the world we want to live in, but the one we do live in still buys the regular RAV4 at an alarming rate.
We give the 2021 RAV4 a 5 for performance based on the regular powertrain. If rated separately, the RAV4 Prime would score higher.
The gas-only RAV4 is powered by a workaday 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 203 hp, paired to an 8-speed automatic and front- or all-wheel drive. It’s competent but rough around the edges and can buzz when pressed into duty.
The all-wheel-drive systems offered on the RAV4 aren’t all the same: LE and XLE versions get a base system that shuttles power backward for low grip.
The RAV4 TRD Off-Road, Limited, and Adventure get a more sophisticated system that shuttles power front to back and side to side at the rear via a torque vectoring system. It’s more sophisticated and slick, but it also takes a larger toll on 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.
The RAV4 Hybrid adds a battery and electric motor to the 2.5-liter inline-4 to make 219 hp total. The engine and front electric motor typically drive the front wheels for better efficiency, while a separate rear electric motor can spin up the rear wheels when more power is needed. The RAV4 Hybrid’s all-wheel-drive system is geared for all-weather confidence; off-roaders won’t likely be attracted to the heavier, off-road RAV4 Hybrid anyway.
The RAV4 Hybrid’s appeal is its 39 mpg combined rating, according to the EPA, which is very fuel-efficient.
Although a hybrid, just not one with a capital “H,” the RAV4 Prime plugs in a larger hybrid battery and electric motors to the system for 302 hp. The RAV4 Prime can hit 60 mph in less than six seconds and has a specially tuned sport suspension. We haven’t yet driven these versions, but we’ll report back once we do.
2021 Toyota RAV4
Comfort & Quality
Style takes priority in the 2021 Toyota RAV4, for better or worse.
Yesteryear’s bland and boring RAV4s are gone and a reminder for us to be careful for what we wished for.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 asks for some concessions in comfort for its avant-garde shape. It’s a 6 on our comfort scale not for people-comfort, but for cargo-comfort. Shucks.
The front seats are snug for taller drivers and riders, especially with the optional moonroof that cuts into available head room. The seat bottoms are thin too, which cramps—literally and figuratively—our comfort on long hauls.
The rear seats offer scant more head room, but not more leg room. There are 37 inches of leg stretch-out space in the back, which is good, but also not as much as some rivals including the Volkswagen Tiguan and Honda CR-V.
Three across in back is possible, just not preferable. With the rear seats up, the RAV4 holds more than 37 cubic feet of cargo, which expands to 69 cubic feet. Toyota hasn’t yet said if the RAV4 Prime’s hybrid batteries will cut into cargo room.
2021 Toyota RAV4
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 lacks official crash-test data.
Federal and independent crash-testers haven’t ruined a 2021 Toyota RAV4 because it’s not on sale yet. We’ll withhold our score here until it gets sacrificed by the lab coats, but there are reasons for optimism.
That’s because last year’s RAV4 earned top “Good” scores by the IIHS in its rigorous crash-test battery, and the agency rated its automatic emergency braking system as “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes.
Federal testers were mostly complimentary and gave the RAV4 a five-star overall score, including four stars for front and rollover crash safety.
Every RAV4 gets automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitors are available—and a good idea. The RAV4’s chunky rear roof pillars look great but compromise outward vision.
2021 Toyota RAV4
The 2021 RAV4 is available in just about any configuration.
Toyota hasn’t yet clued us into what’s coming for the 2021 RAV4, but unless there’s another MiniDisc player on the way, we’re pretty sure it’ll look a lot like the 2020 version.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 likely will be offered in LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Limited, SE, and XSE trims. Adventure and TRD Off-Road models angle toward outdoorsy folks and sub in some handy off-road hardware. RAV4 Hybrids are offered in LE, XLE, Limited, and XSE trims, while the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid is available in SE and XSE trims.
Frankly, we’re not surprised that the RAV4 is a figurative rainbow of trim levels—it’s one of the most popular cars on the planet. Based on its options and standard hardware, including a 7.0-inch touchscreen on all models, it’s an 8 for features.
We expect the 2021 RAV4 to cost about $27,000 in base LE configuration and include cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, a split-folding rear seat, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with smartphone compatibility software. Active safety features are included too, but we cover that above.
The XLE has always been a sweet spot for us for less than $30,000 with all-wheel drive equipped. (Hybrid versions cost a little more than that.) The RAV4 XLE adds alloy wheels, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless start, more USB chargers, and more available options including heated seats.
The RAV4 TRD Off-Road introduced last year is interesting with chunky, 18-inch wheels, twin-tube shocks, and a power liftgate. They’re pricey, but offer some modicum of off-road capability to the RAV4 family.
The 302-hp RAV4 Prime is the wild child. It steers toward sporty with its exterior accents, sport suspension, available 9.0-inch touchscreen, synthetic leather upholstery with red accents, subwoofer, and moonroof. All-in, it’s a safe bet that a RAV4 Prime XSE that’s fully loaded will cost more than $40,000, but Toyota hasn’t told us yet.
2021 Toyota RAV4
The most efficient 2021 Toyota RAV4 is also the quickest; we endorse that message.
The EPA hasn’t yet rated the 2021 RAV4, but based on similarities with last year’s model, we feel confident in carrying over those scores.
The most common powertrain is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that drives the front wheels. The EPA rates that at 26 mpg city, 35 highway, 30 combined. That’s a 5 on our scale.
All-wheel drive doesn’t torpedo efficiency either. Most RAV4 AWD versions rate 25/33/28 mpg.
The most efficient RAV4s are also the most expensive. The RAV4 Hybrid manages 40 mpg combined and the new RAV4 Prime goes further. Toyota says the RAV4 Prime can travel up to 39 miles on electricity alone and will rate up to 90 MPGe, which is a measurement of how efficient electrified vehicles are with their drivetrains.