Stick Shift: 2018 RAV4 Hybrid

With all of the compact crossover SUV’s flooding the market, it can be a tall order to find the perfect fit for you and your family. Blending into the mix is the understated, somewhat innocuous Toyota RAV4. Though it might not be the most visually arresting specimen amongst the group, its always been a reliable, practical choice. Now though, in hybrid form, it brings exceptional fuel economy to its growing list of strengths, and really, who doesn’t love that.

Though it won’t turn many heads, the exterior design still feels modern and looks up-to-date. LED headlights, taillights and daytime runners brightly illuminate the road ahead and help keep things looking fresh. 18” alloy wheels compliment the RAV4’s size and roof rails add an extra level of ruggedness.

Inside the cabin, you’ll find more space than you’d initially expect. Back seats can be folded flat for loading larger items. SofTex seats are heated, with plenty of width and a good overall shape. Only the driver side will benefit from lumbar support and height adjustments though. Controls on the center console are arranged in an easy to reach and intuitive way. Unfortunately, I found the shape of the glove compartment, combined with a passenger seat that only scoots back so far, to cause extra tall passengers some long distance discomfort, as they had to pivot on their hips slightly to really stretch their legs. At highway speeds, a good amount of road and wind noise leaks into the cabin as well.

Pushing the little RAV4 Hybrid along is a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, paired to an AWD system with a variety of drive modes from Sport to Eco and EV. In Sport mode especially acceleration is surprisingly quick. Combined fuel economy will be in the 32 mpg range. Handling felt composed and controlled as well, only getting tipsy in slow, tight turns.

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid lacks some of the attention to detail found in the Honda CR-V, and certainly the sporty flair and good looks of the Mazda CX-5. What it will strongly deliver on though, is a worry-free ownership experience. The RAV4 boasts a long history of that famous Toyota reliability. It also comes with a respectable list of standard tech features, a spacious interior, great cargo capacity and surprisingly brisk acceleration for a hybrid. Combine everything with awesome fuel economy for its segment, high resale value and reasonable pricing across the whole range of models, and the RAV4 starts to separate itself from the rest of the pack in some pretty big ways.

By: Brandon Randall

Price as tested: $36,055.00

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