The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is an all-new model and rarely has “all-new” been so accurate. Its mechanical underpinnings replace a platform that had been around for 13 years. Its engine and transmission are new. Its styling is a radical departure from its predecessor, signaling a change in overall philosophy: from more of a car like design, to something more akin to more rugged SUVs. In that vein, the ground clearance is considerably greater, the available all-wheel-drive systems are more sophisticated and the Adventure trim level is more capable of taking you on actual adventures. See 2019 Toyota RAV4 models for sale near you
Ah, but what about the RAV4’s long-appreciated utility and family friendliness? Well, the cargo area loses some maximum capacity because of a lower roof and a more sloped tailgate design — boxier items or a Golden Retriever may not fit as well. That lower roof also might make headroom a bit tight. However, the RAV4 still has one of the biggest, most comfortable cabins in its segment. It also gains an attractive new cabin design with greatly improved materials, more functional small item storage and the latest Toyota tech interface that includes Apple CarPlay. For most consumers, we think that equals a net win.
And indeed, the new RAV4 is more generally appealing than the vehicle it replaces. It’s definitely different, and perhaps some won’t like the new direction, but we’re guessing it’ll attract even more.
What’s New for 2019?
The RAV4 has been completely redesigned for 2019.
What We Like
Fuel-efficient and powerful engine; capable AWD systems; standard safety tech; easy-to-use infotainment; different looks for different trims
What We Don’t
Headroom is a bit tight; less maximum cargo space than some rivals; no real performance upgrade available
There are two optional AWD systems available. One, available on most trim levels, is a typical AWD system that sends power to the rear wheels when front wheel slippage is detected. The second, more sophisticated AWD system (optional on Limited, standard on Adventure) not only constantly sends power to the front and the back, but it differs power between the left and the right rear wheels. This is an advantage in terms of traction, but a disadvantage in terms of fuel economy.
FWD models return an excellent 26 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving. The basic AWD system is basically the same. The more sophisticated AWD system still returns a quite good 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.
The available hybrid powertrain we cover separately in our 2019 RAV4 Hybrid Review gets 39 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is available in five trim levels: LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure and Limited. There is also a RAV4 Hybrid model, which we review separately, that offers a unique XSE Premium sport-oriented trim level.
Standard equipment on the LE ($25,500) includes 17-in steel wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, roof rails, rear privacy glass, a backup camera, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and keyless entry. Interior equipment includes a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split reclining and folding back seat, a 7-in touchscreen, one USB port, in-car Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, and a 6-speaker sound system with an auxiliary audio jack. The optional AWD system adds multiple traction settings (“Mud & Sand,” “Rock & Dirt,” and “Snow”)
The XLE ($27,300) adds 17-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, heated mirrors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, proximity entry and push-button start, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded upholstery, a cargo cover and four additional USB ports (two front, two rear). The XLE Convenience package adds an 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats and a height-adjustable power liftgate.
The XLE Premium ($29,500) adds 19-in wheels, extra ground clearance, a power liftgate, the 8-way power driver seat, SofTex simulated leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Optional on the XLE trims is the Entune 3.0 Audio Plus package adds an 8-in touchscreen, satellite radio, and on the XLE Premium, an 11-speaker JBL sound system.
The Adventure ($32,900) features distinctive styling, taller roof rails, orange-accented interior trim, hill-descent control and a sophisticated AWD system as standard (described above in the Fuel Economy section). It further adds several tech upgrades including an upgraded backup camera, a 7-in all-digital instrument panel, the 8-in touchscreen and satellite radio. It reverts to the non-leather steering wheel and offers the sunroof as a separate option.
The XLE, XLE Premium and Adventure trims offer a Technology package that includes parking sensors and rear cross-traffic automatic braking. The XLE also gains an auto-dimming rearview mirror, while the other two add a rearview camera mirror, wireless smartphone charging and a JBL audio system.
The Limited trim ($33,500) gets its own, ritzier styling and is available with the Adventure’s upgraded AWD system, but otherwise adds features to the XLE Premium. These include heated front seats, the rearview camera mirror, blue ambient lighting, the Adventure’s various tech upgrades and an integrated navigation system (optional on Adventure). The JBL sound system is optional. The Limited’s Advanced Technology package adds a birds-eye parking camera system, wireless smartphone charging, a hands-free power liftgate and proximity entry points on all doors.
Available on all trim levels is some version of the Weather Prep package that adds a heated leather-wrapped steering and automatic wipers with a de-icer function. The XLE Premium version also includes heated front seats and driver memory functions. The Adventure and Limited version further adds heated and ventilated front seats, while only the Limited adds heated rear seats.
Every 2019 RAV4 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, eight airbags (front, front-side, full-length side curtain, driver knee, front passenger under-seat), a backup camera, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking and a more sophisticated lane-keeping assist system than most. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist systems is optional on the LE and standard on all others. Parking sensors and a rear cross-traffic automatic braking system are standard on the Limited and optional on all others but the LE).
The new 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 available torque-vectoring AWD system further enhances on-road handling, while also benefitting off-road or poor-weather traction.
The 4-cylinder engine offers the most standard horsepower in the segment, but it doesn’t feel overtly quick as a result. “Sufficient” sums it up best. The Hybrid is actually a smidge quicker and given its superior fuel economy and reasonable price tag, we’d seriously consider it.
Inside, the RAV4 provides a comfortable car-like driving position and an abundance of rear-seat 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 than 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 Honda CR-V — For those seeking a more family friendly, ultra-spacious compact SUV, the CR-V is the smartest alternative to the RAV4.
2019 Mazda CX-5 — For those seeking a more fun, engaging compact SUV to drive with eye-catching styling, the CX-5 is a great choice.
2019 Subaru Forester — For those seeking a more utilitarian, go-anywhere and safety-focused SUV, look to the also-all-new Forester.
Used Toyota 4Runner — If you want even more serious off-roading chops from Toyota, the 4Runner will deliver that along with greater interior space. Prices are higher, so a used or certified pre-owned version might be in order. Note the 4Runner’s much worse fuel economy, antiquated interior and relatively ponderous handling.
The XLE is really where you want to start given its abundance of desirable extra features that come at a reasonable price. Beyond that, we don’t think you can go wrong. Just make sure to consider the RAV4 Hybrid model that provides more power and much better fuel economy for a surprisingly affordable price premium of $800 over a comparable regular RAV4 with AWD. Find a Toyota RAV4 for sale