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2015 Toyota RAV4: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2014

The compact crossover segment is growing -- and the 2015 Toyota RAV4 appears poised to take on its ever-increasing list of rivals. No, it doesn't stand out from the crowd in terms of equipment or styling, but the RAV4 boasts reasonable pricing, impressive fuel economy, high resale value, a roomy interior and a strong reliability record.

Admittedly, there are some drawbacks -- including its average powertrain, which offers just 176 horsepower and no available upgrade. But in general, we think the RAV4 is a strong competitor and worthy of a spot on your shopping list as you consider a new compact crossover.

What's New for 2015?

The RAV4 is largely unchanged for 2015, offering only two updates: new wheel design and an available power liftgate for XLE models.

What We Like

Updated styling inside and out; peppy and fuel-efficient engine; advanced audio options; improved driving feel; Toyota resale and reliability

What We Don't

Interior space still a bit narrow; no V6 engine; rough ride with 18-inch wheels; towing ability limited to 1,500 lbs

How Much?

$24,500-$30,700

Fuel Economy

While earlier models offered V6 and 4-cylinder engine options, the latest RAV4 is only available with a 176-hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder mated to a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive, or 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with optional all-wheel drive.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 is offered in three trim levels: the base-level LE, the mid-level XLE and the upscale RAV4 Limited.

Shoppers who choose the RAV4 LE ($24,500) get 17-in steel wheels, automatic headlights, cruise control, air conditioning, power accessories, a CD player, a split-folding and reclining second-row seat, a 6.1-in center-mounted touchscreen system, a rearview camera, power folding mirrors and a USB/iPod interface.

Step up to the RAV4 XLE ($26,000) and you get 17-in alloys, a power sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights, heated side mirrors and roof rails. Newly optional for 2015 XLE models is a power liftgate.

Topping the RAV4 lineup is the Limited ($29,300), which offers heated front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, a power driver seat with memory, a power liftgate, hands-free keyless entry with a push-button starter and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

In terms of options, the RAV4 offers several. Highlights include a navigation system, a JBL sound system and Toyota's Entune infotainment system, which boasts HD radio, voice recognition, Bluetooth streaming audio and app connectivity. Safety options include a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, a lane departure warning system and automatic high beam control.

Safety

The RAV4 boasts standard front-side and side-curtain airbags, along with optional features like blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. In government crash tests, the latest RAV4 received four stars out of a possible five. It earned a 4-star frontal crash test rating, a 4-star rollover rating and a 5-star side impact rating.

Behind the Wheel

Overall, the RAV4 rides and handles very well, especially considering its tall ride height and 6.3-in ground clearance. The electric power steering doesn't feel numb or disconnected, providing good feedback in tight turns. Likewise, the suspension soaks up most road distortions and bumps, yet it doesn't allow the car to lean or bob uncontrollably when pushed hard.

One area that could use improvement is the somewhat busy ride when driving the Limited trim. The Limited's larger 18-in wheels don't allow for much tire sidewall, resulting in a harsher ride with somewhat rude jolts transmitted to the interior when encountering bumps and potholes. We think the 17-in tire and wheel package found on the LE and XLE strike just the right compromise between comfort and performance.

As for performance, the 2.5-liter is acceptable in most circumstances -- although we found that when left in Eco mode, the 6-speed transmission delivered a rather sluggish and unresponsive feel. Leave it in Sport mode and you'll be much happier, with almost no real difference in fuel economy.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Ford Escape -- The Escape offers a wider variety of engine choices than the RAV4. It also boasts better gas mileage and a more modern interior. But the RAV4 has more interior room and costs a bit less when comparably equipped.

2015 Honda CR-V -- The CR-V has slightly better fuel economy than the RAV4 and more power. Plus, it offers the option of genuine leather seating. But the CR-V doesn't have as much legroom or cargo space as the RAV4.

Used Toyota Highlander -- If you like the RAV4 but want a larger vehicle, you might want to consider the Highlander, which offers a comfortable ride, Toyota reliability and three-row seating. It's expensive new, but a used model is a worthy competitor to the RAV4.

Used Toyota Venza -- If you're looking for a little more power than the RAV4 offers -- and a slightly more car-like ride -- consider the pricier Toyota Venza. There's an available V6 and a lower driving position for those who aren't used to SUV ride height.

AutoTrader's Advice

For the money, we'd have to go with the RAV4 in an AWD XLE trim with the Entune and navigation options. If you don't regularly encounter snow or rough roads, the front-drive version will do just fine and will save you about $1,500. If you desire extras such as the JBL audio, power rear liftgate and heated front seats, the Limited is still affordable -- although you might be tempted to throw on a set of aftermarket 17-in wheels and tires, just to smooth out the ride.

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Used 2015 Toyota RAV4 AWD LE
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Used 2015 Toyota RAV4 Limited
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Toyota RAV4: New Car Review - Autotrader