REVIEW: 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD – Will It Retain its #1 Sales Spot?

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The Toyota RAV4 is the top-selling non-truck vehicle in America. Has Toyota made the necessary changes to its RAV4 to retain its sales leadership?

What is it? 

In 2018, the Toyota RAV4 was the oldest crossover design in its huge segment. It was also the top seller. Its all-new design for 2019 is Toyota’s effort to keep the legendary RAV4 in that spot. We took a close look at this new RAV4 and found some interesting details.

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Pricing and trims

For 2019 Toyota will offer the RAV4 in six trims including, LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, Limited. There is also a separate Hybrid RAV4. The least expensive RAV4 LE with 2WD starts around $27K. A fully-loaded RAV4 Limited will cost just under $40K. Our test vehicle was a well-optioned RAV4 XLE AWD with an as-tested price of $33,699. We were glad to have tested this particular trim because we feel it is representative of what many buyers will want in terms of content.

Safety

Our RAV4 XLE had all manner of active safety equipment. The menus to select these were simple to operate and none of them were annoying. Rear Cross Traffic Alert with braking was one of the welcome options on our XLE. Due to the Marginal headlight score the RAV4 earned in IIHS testing it is not a Top Safety Pick.  Performance

The RAV4 has 203 hp for 2019, but it is from a non-turbo engine. That means that most of that peak power is never put to use. The RAV4 is certainly never slow in any normal situation, but it does not have the torque, the pull, that a Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5 turbo has. The transmission in all the non-hybrid trims is an old-school 8-speed automatic. Those gears are constantly changing as you drive. We would prefer a CVT like that found in the Nissan Rogue, CR-V, or Subaru Forester. However, we understand that many drivers prefer a geared automatic. The lack of a CVT and turbo seems to hurt the RAV4 just a bit in fuel economy. Note that the top-performing RAV4 hybrid has a CVT.

Ride and handling

We found the RAV4 to have a good combination of real-world comfort and driving enjoyment. It makes all the right moves but is not the standout that the Mazda CX-5 is in this regard.

Seating

Seating options in the RAV4 vary quite a bit by trim level. Ours had cloth seats (shown below). Other trims get synthetic seating with a more premium feel (shown above).

Overall comfort is good in front and in back. Our XLE had power adjustment up front and also heated front seats and steering wheel.

Cargo

With 37.5 cubic feet of cargo volume, the RAV4 is on the larger side of cargo capacity for its class. That’s about two cubic feet more than the Subaru Forester and almost seven cubic feet larger than the Mazda CX-5. Under the cargo floor is a compact spare tire.

Infotainment and controls

The RAV4 has Apple CarPlay for 2019. Our XLE tester had no built-in Nav, which is unusual for this price point. Instead, Toyota offers an app called Scout. We’d much rather stick to Google Maps. Those with Android phones (half the adult population of drivers) are out of luck. As crazy as this sounds, Toyota is now the only automaker with a vehicle in this segment without Android Auto.

Related Story: AAA Finds Android Auto and Apple CarPlay less distracting that automakers own systems.  

Overall

For 2019, Toyota updates its top-selling RAV4 with a great new look and many individual trims. Those shopping the value-trim XLE AWD will find much to like about the new generation. Our only surprise was the price of the RAV4 XLE we tested. It matches up with higher content trims from other brands. Perhaps Toyota is positioning the price points for discounting. We hope so, because we can’t remember the last $34K compact crossover with cloth seats we tested, and we have tested almost every 2019 model in this segment. What Toyota does have that none of its peers do is two years of included maintenance and a bullet-proof reputation for reliability. That goes a very long way in this family-targeted segment.

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John Goreham

John Goreham