The Toyota RAV4 was one of the pioneers in the crossover segment when it was introduced for the 1995 model year.
When others were focusing on body-on-frame sport utility vehicles, Toyota gave us the cute yet rugged RAV4, even available at the time in a two-door convertible model. It has since been joined by competition from every major automaker, but the RAV4 has soldiered on selling well year after year. Buyer satisfaction is among the top of the automotive landscape, with RAV4 owners keeping their vehicles for decades, and many of them sticking with the Toyota/Lexus family when the time comes to replace it. This year marks the debut of the fifth-generation model (XA50), so we opted to spend a week with a top-trim 2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD.
Aesthetics are an area where the RAV4 has consistently remained conservative. Every single model before this one has been visually forgettable, opting to stick with a “beige” design. This new one thinks outside the box a little bit, with availability of an aggressive Trail model that appeals to more outdoorsy buyers. The Limited model tested here retains the more traditional styling cues, but still appears handsome enough when compared with the Kia Sportage (reviewed here) or Hyundai Tucson.
A new “Dynamic Force” high-compression 2.5L inline four-cylinder is in play here, with 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque. It’s a quick motor and propels the RAV4 to speed with ease, but the engine is very noisy and drones on acceleration. It quiets down when the desired speed is achieved, but it doesn’t feel as smooth or refined as the model it replaces. This is the price to pay for a bit more power. The eight-speed automatic transmission is a decent application, but gets confused in low speed situations and jerkily hunts gears.
Ride quality on the RAV4 is unsurprisingly excellent, as expected for a Toyota at this price point. The 19” aluminum wheels on our test vehicle are wrapped in winter tires, and this makes for a relatively cushy ride, if not a bit on the softer side for the segment. The Honda CR-V (reviewed here) rides similarly, and these two are our top picks for overall comfort if you live in an area with questionable road quality. The RAV4’s selectable drive modes alter the behaviour of the throttle, all-wheel-drive system, engine calibration and transmission. Along with the “Normal”, “Sport” and “Eco” modes, there are two settings for “Mud/Sand”, and “Rock”. There is also a “Snow” mode, as well as a hill descent control feature.
The RAV4 Limited AWD’s fuel consumption is rated at 9.2L/100km city, 7.1L/100km highway, and a combined average of 8.3L/100km. Taking into account cold temperatures, rush hour commuting, and winter tires; our average of 9.0L/100km is within expectations. We saw average highway consumption in the low 7L/100km range, so the ability to get the projected number in warmer conditions doesn’t seem unreasonable. The 55L fuel tank will gladly accept 87-octane regular fuel.
A fully redesigned cabin is reminiscent of the current Toyota interior design language. Materials are decent, though they don’t feel premium by any means. An eight-inch touchscreen houses the Entune 3.0 infotainment system. Apple CarPlay is compatible, but Android users are out of luck for now. A dual-zone climate control is clearly labeled with nice displays, and large knobs that are easy to use even when wearing heavy gloves. The heated rear seats are a nice touch, but one glaring omission is a power passenger seat. At over $40,000, this is expected, and the only rival that also lacks this feature is the Volkswagen Tiguan.
One area in which the RAV4’s interior really excels is overall space. The roofline is consistent and doesn’t have any swoops downward that would dig into usable headroom. Six-footers were comfortable in the front and rear accommodations, with ample headroom and sufficient headroom. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats is a generous 1,064L, but the angle of the rear liftgate digs into valuable real estate for stacking taller items. The CR-V and Forester both have boxier designs that, while not as visually appealing, have more functional cargo areas.
Toyota Canada prices the 2019 RAV4 at $27,990 to start, for the base LE FWD model. The cheapest way to get into an all-wheel-drive RAV4 is an LE AWD at $30,690. At the LE, XLE, and Limited levels, a $1,400 premium will get you into a Hybrid model. Our $40,690 Limited AWD only had an added $255 for the Ruby Flare Pearl paint, and was otherwise very well equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, a power sunroof, Apple CarPlay, LED headlights, heated steering wheel, and both heated and ventilated front seats. Personally though, the $1,400 extra to get into a Hybrid model is a no-brainer and well worth the cost of admission.
The new RAV4 fights fierce competition in the compact crossover lineup. The Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester (reviewed here) are the closest and most viable options, with the Korean twins offering up a bit more value. Buyers of the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited will find themselves in a reliable vehicle with effortless ownership and bulletproof reliability. It’s not the most refined of the bunch, but the RAV4 has rugged simplicity and comfort behind it and on that alone, it will sell like hotcakes.