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Review of: 2016 Toyota RAV4 AWD 4dr SE


2016 Toyota RAV4: Back-to-basics Toyota

By Chris Chase

Aug. 11, 2016

Introduced in Canada and the U.S. in 1996, Toyota’s RAV4 helped establish the now-ubiquitous compact crossover segment, and remains one of the best-known vehicles in that class.

For 2016, Toyota has updated the fourth-generation model with refreshed styling, interior upgrades, and new available safety features. An optional hybrid powertrain makes Toyota the first to bring gas-electric power to the compact crossover crowd.

Pros & Cons

  • + Good fuel efficiency
  • + Interior materials
  • + Trunk access
  • - Some odd exterior styling touches
  • - Glossy interior trim generates glare
  • - Steering feel
Read the full review
  • Walkaround

    RAV4’s basic shape remains the same, but the revised styling includes new headlights and taillights. I like the more sophisticated going-away view better than the new front end look.

    The new SE trim, reviewed here, is most easily distinguished by its black-and-silver 18-inch wheels.

  • Interior

    Toyota has made a serious effort to improve to improve the quality of materials in its interiors, and the RAV4 shows it. I hadn’t driven a RAV4 since the final years of the previous generation, and this 2016’s accommodations were much better than what I recall from that drive.

    There’s a lot less hard plastic in here, at least where it counts: the lower half of the dash is padded and covered in a soft material meant to emulate leather, with contrasting red stitching to match that on the seats.

    Among my favourite RAV4 traits is the low trunk floor, which makes this one of the most convenient vehicles in its class for loading heavy cargo. Another nod to convenience is the new-for-2016 cupholder just ahead of the shifter: its oblong shape was conceived to fit travel mugs with big handles.

    But the most remarkable thing about the RAV4’s interior is how unremarkable it is: aside from a high-gloss trim piece around the driver’s side power window controls that tended to reflect sunlight directly at my face, there’s very little to complain about here.

  • Tech

    Some of the industry’s more common safety technology has migrated into lower-priced RAV4 trim levels for 2016. Last year, if you wanted blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, you had to ante up for the top-end Limited model at nearly $34,000. Now, those features are standard in the $27,505 LE AWD model, just one step up from the entry-level, front-drive LE trim.

    At $34,870, the SE also gets navigation (along with a seven-inch touchscreen in place of a 6.1-inch display), an upgraded backup camera with dynamic guidelines (they bend as you turn the steering wheel to show what’s in the way on your projected path), and LED headlights.

    If you want Toyota’s full suite of safety kit (pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and radar-based cruise control), you still have to move up to the Limited, whose price has crept up to $37,750.

    Striking by their absence in the nearly-$35,000 SE were passive keyless entry and push-button start.

  • Driving

    My backside thanks Toyota’s engineers for (apparently) tuning the RAV4’s suspension for a bit more compliance than I remember from the various third-generation models I’ve reviewed. This SE did much better at isolating its occupants from the worst roads, without sacrificing handling or body control.

    Add that to a list of other positive attributes, such as a smooth engine (the only one offered) that moves the RAV4 eagerly and a six-speed automatic transmission whose operation you’ll barely notice.

    While other automakers have started moving toward small-displacement engines with turbocharging to improve fuel efficiency, Toyota has stuck with its proven 2.4-litre four-cylinder. We’re not surprised: fuel consumption estimates for a RAV4 with all-wheel drive are 10.6/8.1 L/100 km (city/highway), figures that are actually better than those for the Ford Escape AWD with its 1.5L turbocharged engine. My tester averaged 9.2 L/100 km in a week of mixed driving.

  • Value

    While I’d argue the RAV4, like most current Toyota vehicles, is a better value than it used to be, it still doesn’t pack in as many convenience features as others are putting in their compact crossovers.

    For about $1,800 less than my RAV4 SE tester, a Hyundai Tucson gets heated rear seats, panoramic sunroof and a hands-free power tailgate. At a shade under $33,000, the Kia Sportage EX Premium gives up the heated rear seats, but is otherwise still better-equipped than the Toyota. And both of those models get passive keyless entry.

  • Conclusion

    Toyota knows its buyers are more interested in the brand’s reputation for quality and reliability than a long list of convenience goodies, and that shows here. But who cares? Toyota has fixed the harsh ride that turned us off in the past, and created a RAV4 that’s easier to live with than any that have come before it.

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