Judy Rae

Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid compact sport utility is a winner

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Beach Wheels

By Jeff Mitchell

I think it’s fair to say that Toyota understands hybrid automobile technology like few others.

That’s why I was excited and interested in spending a week with the 2020 RAV4 Hybrid XSE. In short, it’s a great vehicle and a lot of fun to drive.

Coming off a major refresh in 2019, the RAV 4 conveys a more aggressive, trucklike look that is pleasing to the eye. This compact sport utility sits on handsome five-spoke steel alloy wheels.

Beneath the hood, my tester was powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, paired to an electric motor with a continuously variable automatic transmission. The power plant generates a total of 219 horsepower. A second electric motor sends power (up to 50 percent of the engine’s total torque) to the rear wheels when low-traction situations are detected. When all-wheel drive isn’t needed, the system disconnects to save fuel.

The RAV4 cabin offers plenty of room with soft-touch surfaces and some hard plastic throughout the cabin. The eight-inch optional touchscreen sits conveniently in the middle of the dash and the climate and audio controls are straightforward and intuitive. The heated option on the power driver’s seat keeps you warm on cool evenings.

The XSE also gets a push-button start, proximity entry, and a ton of USB ports. 

On the road, my tester handled very well and was very sure-footed. No rock climber here, but the RAV 4 is a great, safe all-weather vehicle to get the kids to school or to haul your mother-in-law to and from the airport.

Our tester came with some great options, including Toyota’s technology package, navigation and the XSE bad weather package. The shiny black trim gave my XSE tester a distinct “upscale” feel. 

My tester also came with a rear-view camera system which I have become a big fan of in recent years. The camera does so much more for the driver than the standard rearview mirror. They do a little while to get used to, but once you do you’ll never want to go back.

In the back, there is room for three adults, but let’s be real — you are only going to fit two of your friends back there. Any more and they probably won’t be your friends for long.

The RAV4 Hybrid offers up 37 cubic feet of cargo-carrying ability behind the rear seats and 57 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. A handy power liftgate is standard on the XSE model. 

Our tester came with LED headlights; 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seats; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a great-sounding six-speaker JBL audio system.

It also came with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 package which contains: road sign assist, lane departure and lane-keeping, automatic high beams, cruise control and pedestrian detection radar.

Now the good part — gas mileage on this thing is crazy good. Try 40 miles per gallon overall, 41 in the city and 38 mpg out on the open highway. 

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for my tester in the XSE trim was $38,307.

Final thoughts: Next to an all-electric, Toyota has nearly perfected the hybrid approach to powering vehicles these days. The RAV 4 Hybrid is one of the company’s best efforts to date. Buy with confidence.

Jeff Mitchell is a Los Angeles-based writer, journalist and automobile reviewer. Contact him with comments or questions at j.edward.mitchell@gmail.com

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