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2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2017

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is not the typical hybrid version of a popular car. Its cargo area isn't compromised by batteries and its price premium is perfectly reasonable -- it won't take you several years or even decades to pay it back using fuel savings alone. And save fuel it certainly will, as the RAV4 Hybrid gets the best fuel economy in its segment.

As such, this might also be the rare occurrence when the hybrid model is actually a popular car's most appealing variant -- regardless of whether you have any interest in going green. That fuel economy allows the RAV4 to do something its other versions do not: stand out from the crowd of top competitors that otherwise match or better its large interior, high resale values and strong reliability record. If fuel economy is important to you, then this utility-focused small SUV definitely deserves a spot on your shopping list.

 What's New for 2017?

For 2017, every RAV4 Hybrid comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense package that includes forward-collision warning and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

 What We Like

Best fuel economy in segment; affordable for a hybrid; more cargo and back seat space than all but one competitor; standard accident avoidance tech; Toyota resale and reliability

 What We Don't

Disappointing interior materials; fewer usable storage compartments; leather seating not available

 How Much?

$27,910-$34,000

 Fuel Economy

The RAV4 Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter hybrid 4-cylinder mated to a battery pack and a pair of electric motors front and rear that effectively create standard all-wheel drive. Total output is 194 horsepower. Fuel economy is 34 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg combined.

 Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comes in LE Plus, XLE, SE and Limited trim levels.

The base LE Plus ($27,900) is limited in its availability, but nevertheless includes 17-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, air conditioning, a backup camera, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic steering, lane-departure warning and intervention, automatic highbeams, a height-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth, a USB port, a 6.1-in touchscreen and a 6-speaker sound system.

Step up to the RAV4 XLE ($29,000) and you get 17-in alloys, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, fog lights, heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and the Entune Audio Plus package that adds satellite and HD radios, a smartphone-app based navigation system and various other smartphone connection apps.

The sporty SE ($32,200) adds 18-in alloy wheels, revised exterior styling, a height-adjustable power liftgate (optional on XLE), a sport-tuned suspension, automatic LED headlights, passive entry and keyless start, a power driver's seat, SofTex vinyl upholstery, heated front seats, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems (optional on XLE), steering-wheel paddle shifters and memory settings for the driver's seat.

The Limited ($34,000) loses the SE's sporty styling cues and suspension but keeps its other equipment. It also adds chrome wheels, auto-dimming mirrors and a 7-in touchscreen (optional on XLE and SE).

An 11-speaker JBL sound system can be added to the SE and Limited as an option. Also available on those trims is the Advance Technology package, which includes a 360-degree parking camera, an integrated navigation system and the JBL sound system.

 Safety

No other compact crossover can top the 2017 RAV4's standard safety equipment. Besides the usual content of antilock brakes, stability control, front-side airbags, side-curtain airbags and a rearview camera, it boasts a driver-knee airbag, a front passenger under-cushion airbag, forward-collision warning and automatic braking and lane-departure warning and keeping. Blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems are standard on the SE and Limited, and optional on the XLE.

In crash testing carried out by the federal government, the RAV4 earned a perfect 5-star overall rating. In tests carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the RAV4 offers an impressive Top Safety Pick+ score after earning strong ratings in all the firm's crash tests.

 Behind the Wheel

Overall, the RAV4 rides and handles well, especially considering its tall ride height. The electric power steering is reasonably precise and the suspension soaks up most bumps while not allowing the car to lean or bob about uncontrollably when pushed hard.

For the most part, though, like the regular RAV4, it is simply outdone by its competitors. The Honda CR-V in particular is more responsive, comfortable and refined to drive, while the Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape have sharper responses still and could even be described as fun. Of course, the Hybrid's fuel-sipping gasoline-electric powertrain puts a big plus sign on its scorecard that the regular RAV4 cannot match.

The RAV4's interior is also a mixed bag. On the upside, it has easy-to-use technology and it effectively matches the CR-V's huge back seat and enormous cargo area. The latter also boasts a low load height, which is great for lifting in heavy objects or having the dogs jump aboard. Apart from some questionably useful interior storage bins, the RAV4's functionality is hard to fault.

Unfortunately, its cabin materials consist of disappointing black plastic, and the SofTex vinyl upholstery found on most trims won't fool anyone into thinking it's leather (which isn't available at all). The overall appearance and vibe also feels a bit Spartan compared to the surprisingly upmarket new CR-V and CX-5. They both seem more premium and grown up than the RAV4.

 Other Cars to Consider

2017 Kia Niro -- This is really the only vaguely SUV-ish hybrid worth considering at this price point. Though it certainly isn't as large and family-friendly as the RAV4, it gets better fuel economy while still allowing you to sit up high a bit and offers more cargo versatility than most hybrids do.

2017 Honda CR-V -- The all-new CR-V is the SUV to beat in this segment. It takes every drop of functionality its predecessor possessed and adds a thick shellac of refinement. Then again, it can't match the RAV4 Hybrid's fuel economy.

Read 2017 Honda CR-V vs 2017 Toyota RAV4: Which is Better?

2017 Mazda CX-5 -- The CX-5 is also all-new for 2017 and, like the CR-V, builds upon its successful predecessor. It's a more responsive vehicle to drive than the RAV4 and arguably more visually appealing, but can't match the Toyota's utility or fuel economy.

Used Toyota Highlander Hybrid -- If you like the RAV4 but want a larger vehicle, you might want to consider the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which offers a comfortable ride, Toyota reliability and 3-row seating. They're expensive when new, but a used model is a worthy competitor to the RAV4.

 Autotrader's Advice

We actually recommended the Hybrid in the regular RAV4 New Car Review, so there's that. From there, we would recommend driving both the SE and Limited, then get whichever one you prefer (their suspension and styling differ). Each offers a commendable amount of desirable equipment at a fair price.

Find a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid for sale

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Used 2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD LE
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Used 2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD XLE
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Certified 2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD XLE
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Used 2017 Toyota RAV4 AWD XLE
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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.
2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: New Car Review - Autotrader