"Completely redesigned" gets thrown around a lot in the automotive industry, but rarely has it applied so completely as it does to the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Its mechanical underpinnings replace those that had been around for 13 years. Its styling is a radical departure from the crossover it replaces, adopting a more overtly SUV like appearance. Suitably, ground clearance has been raised considerably — even on the new, sporty XSE trim level that’s exclusive to the Hybrid. That exclusivity may seem odd, but every Hybrid is actually more powerful than the gasoline-only RAV4.
So the RAV4 Hybrid is fundamentally different, but it still maintains many of the elements that have made it a good call for sensible-minded buyers. Fuel economy is even better, passenger space is excellent and there’s little reason to believe that reliability will be anything less than superb. Now, a lower roof does reduce headroom and maximum cargo capacity is less than before. You may no longer find the RAV4 quite as versatile as the outgoing version.
Ultimately, though, we think the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid represents a net win. It’s more stylish and characterful than before, while still delivering above-average fuel economy and utility. Indeed, it could actually be the best RAV4 to get.
What’s New for 2019?
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has been completely redesigned for 2019. Read more about what’s changed in 2018 vs 2019 Toyota RAV4: What’s the Difference?
What We Like
Best-in-class fuel economy; better acceleration than regular RAV4 and many rivals; standard safety tech; different looks for different trims; easy-to-use infotainment
What We Don’t
Headroom is a bit tight; less maximum cargo space than some rivals
The RAV4 Hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor powering the front wheels, while a second electric motor powers the rear wheels. As a result, every RAV4 comes standard with an all-wheel-drive system. Total system output is 219 horsepower, which is more than the gas-only RAV4 model. Acceleration is therefore a bit quicker.
Fuel economy is considerably better. It is estimated to be 41 miles per gallon in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 39 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is available in four trim levels: LE, XLE, Limited and the XSE, which is exclusive to the Hybrid. We review the regular 2019 RAV4 separately.
Standard equipment on the LE ($27,700) includes 17-in alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights and high beams, roof rails, rear privacy glass, a backup camera, forward-collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, Safety Connect emergency communications, dual-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split folding and reclining back seat, one USB port, a 7-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, in-car 2G Wi-Fi and a 6-speaker sound system.
The XLE ($29,500) adds upgraded LED headlights, running/accent lights, fog lights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, proximity entry and push-button start, a sunroof, upgraded cloth upholstery and five USB ports. The XLE Convenience package adds an 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats and a height-adjustable power lift gate. The Entune 3.0 Audio Plus package adds an 8-in touchscreen, HD radio and satellite radio. To it, you can add the XLE Technology package that brings with it enhanced parking sensors and rear cross-traffic emergency braking.
The XSE ($33,700) is the only trim level that gets a sport-tuned suspension and special blacked out styling elements. It also adds the contents of the XLE’s optional packages plus 18-in wheels, an upgraded backup camera, black SofTex simulated leather upholstery with blue stitching and cloth inserts, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded interior materials and interior ambient lighting.
The Weather Prep package adds to the XLE and the XSE automatic wipers with de-icer, and a heated steering wheel (leather-wrapped in XLE).
The Limited ($35,700) adds different 18-in wheels, special exterior and interior trim, all-SofTex upholstery and integrated navigation. The Limited Weather Prep package also adds a heated steering wheel and automatic wipers with de-icer, but further adds heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats. The Limited Advanced Technology package requires the JBL sound system described below and adds a hands-free power lift gate, a top-view parking camera system and wireless smartphone charging.
Options on the XSE and Limited include a panoramic sunroof and an 11-speaker JBL sound system.
Every 2019 RAV4 Hybrid comes with a comprehensive array of safety equipment that includes anti-lock brakes, stability control, eight airbags (front, front-side, side curtain, driver knee, passenger under-cushion), a backup camera, forward-collision warning with pedestrian and cyclist detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and Safety Connect emergency communications. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard starting with the XLE. Rear cross-traffic emergency braking is optional on XLE and standard on XSE and Limited.
The 2019 RAV4 had not been crash tested by a third party at the time of this writing.
Behind the Wheel
The new RAV4’s stiffer body structure, redone suspension and improved steering result in a compact SUV that’s more involving and responsive to drive. It’s not fun like a Mazda CX-5 can be, but most drivers should appreciate its poise around corners and the feedback from its steering wheel. The XSE trim, which is exclusive to the Hybrid, goes a step further with a sport-tuned suspension that improves road holding. Again, we wouldn’t call it overtly sporty, but if you like a higher level of engagement in your cars — and especially if you don’t want to sacrifice fuel economy or versatility in the process, the RAV4 XSE Hybrid is a potential best-of-all-worlds proposition.
The same could be said of the Hybrid powertrain itself. Not only does it crush the regular RAV4’s gas-only powertrain in terms of fuel economy, but it actually nips it in terms of horsepower and acceleration. Yes, the hybrid is actually quicker than the gas-only version, which is rare, particularly among Toyotas. The XSE is exclusive to the hybrid for a reason.
Inside, the RAV4 provides a comfortable car like driving position and an abundance of rear legroom. The roof is a bit low, though, so you may find your head uncomfortably close to the headliner. There’s also less maximum cargo space that more utilitarian rivals like the Honda CR-V and the Subaru Forester, but the cargo area is still plenty useful and benefits from a movable cargo floor that lowers to increase space or flips over to reveal a more easily cleaned surface. Material quality is excellent throughout (especially the various new buttons and switches), and the touchscreen interfaces are pleasantly easy to use, see and reach.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Nissan Rogue Hybrid — We’d typically recommend other compact SUVs before the Rogue, but in this instance, it’s the RAV4 Hybrid’s only true competitor. Its fuel economy comes in at 34 to 33 mpg in combined driving. Read Nissan Rogue vs Toyota RAV4: Which is Better?
2019 Honda CR-V — The most efficient CR-V can only manage 30 mpg combined (which is pretty sensational for a compact SUV). Nevertheless, for those seeking a more family-friendly, ultra-spacious compact SUV, it’s a must drive.
2019 Mazda CX-5 — The CX-5 also isn’t available as a hybrid, but like the CR-V, its fuel economy is still among the best in the segment. Its fun-to-drive nature and sharp styling stand out.
2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid — If you don’t need all of the space RAV4 provides, the Crosstrek Hybrid is in fact a plug-in model that could easily better the RAV4’s fuel economy in daily driving. Its ample ground clearance should be helpful when getting things dirty.
Used Toyota Highlander Hybrid — If you need more space, but don’t want to sacrifice fuel economy too much, the Highlander Hybrid is a good call. Going with a used or certified pre-owned model would let you get a better-equipped version for less money.
We don’t think the Limited adds enough extra features over the XSE or a loaded XLE to warrant its price premium. Beyond that, though, the RAV4 Hybrid represents good value and even the base model is nicely equipped. We’d probably go with a loaded XLE, but the sporty XSE has proven popular among consumers.