Pickup trucks from the Big Three automakers are the top three best-selling vehicles in the United States, but the first car on the list, at number 4, is the Toyota RAV4 compact crossover. Introduced 23 years ago, RAV4 pioneered the compact crossover frenzy that continues to this day.
For 2019, there’s an all new fifth-generation RAV4, with dashing exterior design, more powerful yet more fuel-efficient powertrains, an advanced version of Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of safety features, and updated infotainment systems.
RAV4 is available in conventional gasoline or hybrid powertrain versions. Pricing with a $1,120 destination charge included starts at $26,770 for the base LE trim with gas engine and front-wheel drive.
In the early years of hybrid technology, hybrid cars cost thousands more than conventional models, but current RAV4 hybrid models are only $800 extra.
For this review I drove the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which comes in LE, XLE, XSE, and Limited trims. Every RAV4 Hybrid model has all-wheel drive (front-drive not available), and pricing starts at $28,970 including destination charge.
My tester was the RAV4 Hybrid XSE model with a sticker price of $34,795 including destination, and about $3,000 in optional equipment. Among those options are a weather package, an extravagant Entune 3.0 infotainment system with premium JBL audio, navigation and all the latest in connectivity technology, and a panoramic sunroof. A separate technology package added Intelligent Clearance Sonar (driver assistance for parking maneuvers) with rear cross-traffic braking, and wireless smartphone charging.
Apple CarPlay integration is included in the infotainment system but not Android Auto. As the owner of an Android phone, all I can say is “Hmpf.”
The XSE trim is aimed at sportiness fans. It’s tuned for more lively driving dynamics, has 18-inch black alloy wheels, and comes with black exterior accents including the front end, fender arches and rocker panels. Its standard two-tone exterior paint theme matches a black roof with a choice of Blizzard Pearl, Silver Sky Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, or Blueprint body color.
Anecdotal evidence garnered during my test week in the XSE says this is a big winner, the first head-turning RAV4 in its 23-year history. (For the record, the tester had silver paint.)
The RAV4 Hybrid’s new interior reflects the angular motif of its exterior. The XSE interior has an exclusive all-black interior with Toyota’s SofTex better-than-leather synthetic material. Blue stitching on the seats and dashboard, and high-tech synthetic fabric seat insets with blue striping provide nice contrasting accents.
Front seats are heated and the driver’s seat has power operation, but front seat passengers are left to their own devices with manual operation only. Both seats offer excellent support with ample bolstering.
An 8-inch tablet-style touchscreen standing at the middle of the dashboard is the infotainment system’s command center, but there are manual buttons and steering-wheel controls as backup for those with touchscreen avoidance syndrome.
The car’s performance on Snohomish County’s twisty backgrounds was plenty able enough, not quite reaching a level of actual excitement, and this won’t matter much at all to the many buyers the RAV4 Hybrid will attract.
As if a fuel economy rating of 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined weren’t enough of an incentive, another great advantage of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is all the extra torque. It bounds forward from a standstill like an agility-trained border collie, and there’s still lots of torque on tap even after you’ve reached top freeway speeds.
2019 TOYOTA RAV4 HYBRID XSE
Base price, including destination charge: $34,795
Price as driven: $37,899
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.