2019 Toyota RAV4 XSE Hybrid new car reviews

The Toyota RAV4. What started life as a funky little two-door cute-ute in 1996 has evolved into one of Toyota’s best sellers in 2019. 

Freshly redesigned for 2019, the RAV4 shows no signs of slowing down its sales. According to Toyota, RAV4 sales are up 1.7 percent year-to-date, which are surprisingly led by the RAV4 Hybrid. In 1996, Toyota sold 56,709 RAV4s. In 2018, Toyota sold 427,168. That's a lot of RAV4s.

So then, what makes the RAV4 special? Or rather, why do people buy them? Well, according to Toyota:

The 2019 RAV4 is, in essence, disrupting the segment it created. It is bringing more sport and more utility back while enhancing the agile handling, everyday comfort and exemplary fuel efficiency that made RAV4 the segment leader it is now. All told, the 2019 RAV4 is designed to tackle urban, suburban and great outdoor adventures with equal aplomb. The look is tougher, and there’s greater capability with a new type of all-wheel drive, yet the ride is smoother and quieter, with new comfort touches inside.

As for the design, Toyota says they took inspiration from the trucks while following the themes of “Adventure” and “Refined”. In other words, they made a bunch of curvy shapes into angry shapes. 

Our tester was a Hybrid model which gets a trick rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed. The system is said to help in both limited traction and understeer situations, but we didn’t test that feature. 

The Hybrid XSE starts at $34,050, with our tester coming in at $37,570.

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Colin Wood Colin Wood
Reader Services

If you are newly married like myself, and you see 1-2 kids in your future, the new RAV4 is an attractive option. There was enough leg room and elbow room no matter what seat I found myself in, and the space behind the rear seats looked to be spacious enough for groceries and the like. Overall, the inside was a pleasant place to be.

The XSE--which can only be had as an all-wheel-drive hybrid--looks to be the edgy, sporty trim for younger people that live in the city (not unlike the polarizing CH-R), and as a millennial, that styling spoke to me. While sporty might be an overstatement, the hybrid powertrain and continuously variable transmission did well to deliver power in a predictable and linear manner no matter what drive mode selected.

Despite a sport mode that allows the driver to shift between six “ratios,” the lack of a tachometer and a well-insulated car made shift points hard to find. Instead, the RAV4 performed best as a commuter, soaking up my hour drive to and from the office. As well, the infotainment system was easy to figure out, and I was listening to podcasts from my phone in no time.

I also want to point out my favorite feature, which I discovered on accident: the drive mode selector knob changes color based on what drive mode you are in, green for eco, red for sport, and blue for normal.

J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

When my wife told me she wanted her next car to be a small SUV or crossover, I tried to talk her into a wagon. Really, I tried to talk her into anything but a small SUV, because most of them are fairly lame. But she insisted, so I set out to put her in the best one we could find, both from a dynamic driving perspective and a bang-for-the-buck perspective. We decided on a Mazda CX-5, which was the SUV that really led the way in showing us that cute-utes could actually have fun driving dynamics, while being feature-rich and value-heavy. In my opinion, the CX-5 has led those categories for several years.

Well, things may be changing. I just finished a several-hundred-mile road trip in the RAV4 Hybrid, and it’s… good. Really, really good. Great even. The darn thing averaged—AVERAGED—38.4mpg on my trip, carried a ton of stuff, drove like a car, and was overall user-friendly and competent.

I mean think about how crazy 38.4mpg is for an AWD SUV in mostly 75mph highway cruising. That’s nuts. And the interior is a throwback to Toyotas of the 1980s, where every Toyota product had awesome seats, easy-to-understand controls, and near-perfect ergonomics. Usually when a new press loaner shows up, I have to at least spend a few minutes figuring out how everything works and where all the important controls are, but Toyota nailed it on this interior. It’s intuitive, useful and attractive enough to be pleasing without being a distraction.

Complaints? Sure, I can nitpick, but it kind of feels like sour grapes. Some of the haptic feedbacks are a little intrusive, but I guess that’s what they’re supposed to be. Steering is a little light at speed, but it’s a tall SUV on narrow all-weather tires, not a sport sedan. Dynamically, though, it’s much more car than SUV.

Our tester was capital—L loaded, and stickers out at around $38,000. That’s real money, but you’re not going to find much else this feature rich for less. And did I mention the 38.4mpg? That kind of efficiency makes sticker shock a little less shocking.

So, yeah, I like another small SUV. But I also like the fact that our CX-5 is paid off, so I’m going to do much best to not let my wife in this thing before the fleet service takes it away.

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therieldeal
therieldeal Reader
10/25/19 12:06 p.m.

My friend was seriously considering one of these, until she watched the "Moose test" video.

Vigo
Vigo MegaDork
10/25/19 9:39 p.m.

That interior looks nice, but the front end on the current model has never grown on me. 

RX8driver
RX8driver Reader
10/26/19 9:14 a.m.

We bought one for my wife, I think the first one off the lot and it's been averaging (according to the computer) 5.6 L/100 km. That's a HUGE step up from the 10.2 L/100km that her 2012 RAV4 V6 did. She's quite happy with it overall.

300zxfreak
300zxfreak New Reader
10/26/19 4:32 p.m.

Apparently, Toyota is having an internal competition for the worst looking front end of a vehicle since the Edsel, even my wife said this is one of the ugliest cars ever, surpassing the Lexus RX, and that's really hard to do.

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed UltraDork
10/26/19 8:55 p.m.
therieldeal said:

My friend was seriously considering one of these, until she watched the "Moose test" video.

Ok..........you made me jump over to YouTube and watch the RAV4 moose test video. Interesting.

Feedyurhed
Feedyurhed UltraDork
10/26/19 9:01 p.m.
300zxfreak said:

Apparently, Toyota is having an internal competition for the worst looking front end of a vehicle since the Edsel, even my wife said this is one of the ugliest cars ever, surpassing the Lexus RX, and that's really hard to do.

You are sooooo right. Who is approving this stuff? I guess the new Chevy Silverado designers are happy so someone else can have an uglier front end than theirs. 

Error404
Error404 Reader
10/27/19 5:59 p.m.

What's the final count of shaving ready edges on that car? Double digits?

I think TruckNutz would be an improvement on that car. As in, just duck taped to the hood would be a significant improvement.

The rear end looks stunningly like they walked onto the Ford production line and walked off with a stack of Edge rear ends.

Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela Digital Editor
10/28/19 8:17 a.m.

For what it's worth, they look better in darker colors. Ours was pretty close to black. 

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
10/28/19 11:28 a.m.

And the previous RAV4 front end was even worse.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UberDork
10/28/19 12:39 p.m.

We just sold our leased 17 4Runner to vroom and leased a 19 Rav4 XLE with the cold weather package and the Entune 3.0 stereo. It isn't as cool as the body in frame 4Runner, but my wife loves it so much more, and the ruby red paint is way nicer than the silver on the runner. We scored a smoking deal on the lease via lease hackr, and my wife is very happy with the car. Happy wife,happy life. I wish we had seen the moose test video however. Not that we encounter moose that often,or rather ever. We do see deer though.

 

 

I don't get the styling hate. I mean we both liked the look and handling of the CX-5 a lot better, but the CD issues they are having scared me away. I fell the styling on the Rav4 at least in the shade of red we got is quite handsome. I mean the front grille area resembles the 4Runner in many ways, and it's better looking than the last model I feel. the interior is really where it shines though. Ours has the tan clothe, and it looks great contrast with the ruby red exterior.

Kreb
Kreb UberDork
10/28/19 4:44 p.m.

I liked my older Rav-4 so much that both my sisters ended up buying them as well. Haven't liked the looks in a while, and....huge. Probably a great vehicle, but I'll still take a CX-5.

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