An overdue redesign gives the 2019 Toyota RAV4 mini-SUV looks, but peel back its angular styling cues and it remains a pavement-pounding crossover more adept at taming the Target parking lot than climbing to base camp.
With the 2019 RAV4, Toyota has a solidly competitive crossover SUV, albeit one that doesn’t outdo its competitors in some key areas such as interior space.
For that, we rate the 2019 RAV4 at 6.2 out of 10. It hasn’t been crash-tested, but that figure could rise if it aces federal and independent evaluations. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Review continues below
The 2019 RAV4 comes in two basic guises. A 2.5-liter inline-4 powers LE, Adventure, XLE, and Limited trims and can be fitted with either front- or all-wheel drive. The RAV4 Hybrid channels its Prius sibling with gasoline-electric power but throws in an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery to motivate the rear wheels for standard all-wheel drive.
The base engine’s 203 horsepower provides good around-town power matched by more underhood growl than in some rivals. While costlier than the base RAV4, the hybrid makes good use of its powertrain for better acceleration and highway passing. The 8-speed automatic transmission in the base RAV4 sorts through the gears quickly but lacks paddle shifters for descending grades. RAV4 Hybrids use an electronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s prone to surging.
MORE: We compare the 2019 Ford Escape and 2019 Toyota RAV4
With running ground clearance of up to 8.6 inches, the RAV4 has some off-road chops to match its chunky, 4Runner-lite looks. All-wheel-drive models have a trail mode for their traction control system, while the Adventure trim level has additional, terrain-specific modes. The RAV4 does not have a two-speed transfer case with a low range like traditional SUVs, even if it now kind of looks like one.
Additionally, the all-wheel-drive system mandatory on Adventure and optional on non-hybrid Limited RAV4s is a sophisticated setup that features brake-based torque-vectoring for better on-road handling and improved dirt road tenacity. The simpler system on RAV4 LE and XLE models is suitable for lousy weather but not as oriented toward spirited driving.
A downside to the torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system is its toll on fuel economy. RAV4s with the simpler all-wheel-drive setup are rated at 29 mpg combined, while Adventure and Limited trims with all-wheel drive are rated at 27 mpg. Hybrids are estimated by Toyota at up to 40 mpg.
2019 Toyota RAV4 comfort and features
The RAV4’s rakish looks dictate some surprising compromises inside. Its roofline is low, and while that doesn’t hinder forward or side vision, it makes climbing into the front and rear seats a challenge for taller passengers.
The front seats are comfortable and a power driver’s seat is widely available. The passenger’s seat doesn’t adjust for height in any trim, an odd oversight in a vehicle that can cost around $40,000 with every option. The passenger’s seat sits high, which cuts into head room considerably with either the conventional power moonroof or the much larger panoramic moonroof.
Rear-seat riders will find a bench that sits low to the ground to allow for more head room and doors that don’t open as wide as in some rivals.
The RAV4’s interior space deficit relative to its competitors shows doesn’t carry over to its cargo area. At around 37 cubic feet with the rear seats upright, it has plenty of space for gear and a power liftgate is included on most trim levels.
The RAV4’s busy dashboard has nice materials on most trims and either 7.0- or 8.0-inch touchscreens for infotainment with Apple CarPlay compatibility. Active safety tech such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control is standard on every RAV4 and most trims offer blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts.