The 2016 Toyota RAV4 is the top selling compact crossover SUV right now with over 32,000 copies sold in May of this year. It’s ahead of the Ford Escape and Honda CRV as well as all the rest. Adding to its success is the new hybrid model that has propelled it well ahead in sales as well as fuel efficiency.

Toyota owners have been asking for a hybrid version of the popular RAV4 for a long time, and Toyota used the 2016 model year when it received a significant styling and tech update as the time to launch it.

For 2016 the RAV4 received an all-new face with a more aggressive look by way of a raised profile, new headlights, thinner grille, and a deeper lower air intake. The rear also got a nip and tuck with new LED tail lights and less black plastic on the bumper.

The Hybrid model takes a different direction than many Toyota’s of the past in that its styling isn’t greatly different from the standard gasoline model. The major difference on our XLE test vehicle was its unique 17-inch wheels. A few extra emblems are the only other sign.

Moving to the interior, it remained much the same for 2016 except for some new finishes here and there. The XLE has cloth seats, an upgrade to SofTex simulated leather requires the Limited model. They are comfortable none the less, but manually operated.

Rear seats are still somewhat low in their mounting position in spite of being raised to accommodate the hybrid battery underneath. They do however offer a recline adjustment. Room is plentiful as well, but no HVAC vents back here are a bummer.

The rear cargo area like in all competitors can be expanded with 60/40 split fold down seats. In the hybrid, the cargo area is slightly less due to the raised rear seat, and as you can see the floor isn’t entirely flat as a result.

Under the floor however is a temporary spare tire even with the hybrid, a good thing in a world where some offer only a can of fix-a-flat and an air pump. You’ll also notice the standard 12-volt battery is mounted back here as well.

Technology in our RAV4 was the optioned Entune premium audio system with navigation. The system works well enough with easy to operate and understand menus. The audio quality really isn’t up to the name “premium” however and connectivity does not yet provide for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

16-Toyota-RAV4-Hybrid-7Under the hood of the RAV4 Hybrid is an Atkinson Cycle 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine combined with Toyota’s legendary Hybrid CVT, or continuously variable transmission. In it are two electric motors which can operate alone for maximum efficiency or along with the gasoline engine for maximum thrust which comes to 194 horsepower.

All wheel drive is standard on the RAV4 Hybrid, afforded by an additional electric motor mounted at the rear axle.

Power delivery is decent on the highway and around town, but if you don’t like the leaf blower ooze of power from a CVT, this powertrain exhibits all of that in high form. Most buyers aren’t likely to care much. And if you must have tradition, you can use the manual shift gate for some simulated shift feel.

The EPA rates our tester at 34 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined. In our week with it we achieved 32 mpg which is close to as promised given the AC was on at all times.
When it comes to overall quality apart from the hard plastics of the interior the RAV4 exhibits excellent fit and finish inside and out and was rattle free in our week of testing. The doors have the typical Toyota hollowness to them, the only major gripe.

16-Toyota-RAV4-Hybrid-14When it comes to safety, the 2016 RAV4 is rated by the IIHS as a Top Safety Pick+, their highest rating. It performs with Good scores on all their crash tests including the brutal small overlap crash and it offers a superior level crash prevention system as an option.

Our tester’s MSRP was $29,795 with the sole option being the upgraded Entune audio and navigation system for $525. It’s hard to compare pricing against competitors as there aren’t really any at least in the hybrid realm.

With 5-6 mpg over the standard Toyota RAV4, the price difference and value to it is really something one would have to pencil against their annual miles driven to see if it makes sense. Otherwise, it’s a Toyota and will likely last long enough to pencil.