The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has seating for five passengers. The rear cargo area looks cavernous for a compact SUV. (Manufacturer photo)

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has seating for five passengers. The rear cargo area looks cavernous for a compact SUV. (Manufacturer photo)

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid aces the critical driveway challenge

The perennially best-selling RAV4 compact SUV proves a stroke of luck substitute in extreme weather.

When is a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid more than just a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid?

When it’s a godsend.

That was the case last week when the car I was scheduled to have was out of commission due to a cracked windshield, so it was substituted by a RAV4 Hybrid.

With standard all-wheel drive, 8.1 inches of ground clearance, Toyota’s trusty hybrid system, and the top-of-the-line RAV4 Limited model with an optional Weather Package, I was sitting pretty (behind the wheel) when last week’s monster snowstorm and its record low temperatures arrived.

I have access to a sophisticated test track for evaluating a vehicle’s snow worthiness. It’s called my driveway. Anything able to make it up that sucker in deep snow without faltering is rated ideal.

An 8-inch touchscreen is the centerpiece of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid multimedia system. The Limited trim level interior is shown here. (Manufacturer photo)

An 8-inch touchscreen is the centerpiece of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid multimedia system. The Limited trim level interior is shown here. (Manufacturer photo)

The RAV4 Hybrid aced the test track but also took top honors in the specialty category of not being horrible to sit in while waiting for a vehicle to de-ice in 10-degree weather. The RAV4 Hybrid’s interior warmed up quickly against the bitter cold. The optional Weather Package ($1,015) added perforated heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, rear outboard passenger heated seats, and rain-sensing variable intermittent windshield wipers with de-icer function. Waiting for the car to be cleared for take-off was easier to tolerate knowing it wasn’t noxiously burning gasoline the whole time, thanks to the wonderful hybrid system (which, by the way, has a fuel economy rating of 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined). The terrific 11-speaker JBL audio system refused to help with heating, but its contribution toward making the situation less unpleasant was huge.

All-weather (rubber) mats for the floors and cargo area were another option ($269) on my test car. Consider these things mandatory if you live in Snohomish County and plan to buy an outdoorsy SUV.

And since the cargo area was just mentioned: The RAV4 Hybrid cargo area looks cavernous for a compact SUV. Precise dimensions are 37.6 cubic feet when the back seats are upright, and 69.8 cubic feet when they’re folded. The seats recline, have a 60/40 split, and fold flat. My favorite thing about the cargo area is how the floor is level with the back bumper, making heavy and bulky items much easier to load and unload.

A final fact in praise of this popular little Toyota: The accelerator and brake pedals are large and well-spaced enough that I could drive with my Sorel snow boots on. These aren’t the kind of cute Sorels called “ladies’ winter boots” in catalogs. They’re the massive Sorels of antiquity, when they were still made in Canada. I got them to wear on the Alcan Winter Rally. Serious stuff.

Fuel economy ratings for the 219-horsepower Toyota RAV4 Hybrid are 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined. Maximum towing capacity is 1,750 pounds. (Manufacturer photo)

Fuel economy ratings for the 219-horsepower Toyota RAV4 Hybrid are 41 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 40 mpg combined. Maximum towing capacity is 1,750 pounds. (Manufacturer photo)

2021 TOYOTA RAV4 HYBRID LIMITED

Base price, including destination charge: $38,205

Price as driven: $42,462

Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.

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