Toyota’s compact RAV4 crossover hasn’t been updated recently, but don’t make the mistake of assuming it hasn’t kept up with the times. It still looks fresh, has plenty of room, and offers a great ride at what is a very affordable price. There are plush crossovers aplenty that cost a lot more making the RAV4 unique in the segment.
There are three trims that allow some flexibility with price and features. Our test RAV4 was the XLE with AWD so it sits in the middle of the lineup. This means it gets a good number of features without becoming bloated with things you don’t want and don’t want to pay for either.
Standard features include projector-beam headlights with auto-off feature, daytime running lights, integrated fog lights, heated power outside mirrors with turn signals, power tilt/slide sunroof with sunshade, and 17″ 5-spoke chrome-finish alloy wheels. It doesn’t look like the affordable crossover it is, but instead looks updated and stylish, especially in the Blue Crush Metallic we drove for the week.
The interior has dual zone climate control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with audio, multi-function information display, voice recognition, and Bluetooth hands-free phone controls. Seats are 6-way manually adjustable for the driver and 4-way for the passenger. They’re also fabric trimmed with no fancy perforated leather. They still look good and feel good both when you touch them with your hands and when you sit in them for a few hours. They’re supportive without being hard as can often happen in more affordable cars.
The rear seats are quite roomy with more space than competitors and they split 60/40 for hauling cargo. There are two 12V auxiliary power outlets, a backup camera, and eight cup holders so it will hold more beverages than people. The Entune Premium Audio with Navigation ($585) includes a 6.1″ high resolution touchscreen, AM/FM/CD/MP3 capability, six speakers, and a USB port with iPod connectivity. It also includes HD Radio, HD Traffic, and the Entune App Suite. It’s a huge infotainment system upgrade with a price that’s lower than you’ll find for comparable upgrades in other crossovers.
A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine provides 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque that makes this a sprightly drive. You’re not winning races, buy you won’t be lagging behind anyone when you need the car to move. It responds quickly to your foot on the gas and handles well. Push a button to choose Eco or Sport modes depending on whether you’re looking to save a little gas or have more fun.
It is very controlled and easy to drive, even on longer trips. Body lean is kept to a minimum and brakes are sure making this a rare fun crossover. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly at just the right time with no hesitation, though it costs a little in fuel economy.
The 2015 Toyota RAV4 is rated 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined which puts it behind other vehicles in its class. This is a trade-off that some will be willing to make just to avoid the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that helps other crossovers attain better numbers. There’s no droning CVT in the RAV4, but the road and wind noise is noticeable. Rainy weather is particularly intrusive.
The ride itself is very smooth. This is not luxury car plush, not even close, but it’s a comfortable ride that won’t leave you weary at the end of your daily commute. It finds that middle ground between overloading a crossover with features and stripping it down so much that it’s unbearable.
The RAV4 manages to hit the middle on every front. Its minimalist interior is welcoming without being econobox cheap. It’s responsive without becoming too sporty and rough, and it gives styling that’s not out there, but still updated and modern.
Toyota isn’t known for making cars that are fancy and fussy. They’re known for making cars that do the job for an affordable price. The RAV4 delivers on this expectation and then some with a crossover that looks good, has plenty of features, and is fun to drive.
2015 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD
Base Price: $26,640
Price As Tested: $28,082 ( not including destination charge)
- Fun to Drive
- Road Noise
- Fuel Economy