2018 Toyota RAV4 Review & Compare in Corona, CA

Friendly, fun, and functional, the Toyota RAV4 remains a top seller

In a bit of news that will shock absolutely nobody, the Toyota RAV4 stays strong in sales as a top competitor among small SUVs and compact crossovers. It may not be the biggest or boldest, the loudest, the cheapest, or the most powerful, but it handily checks off every box on the list of things that SUVs must do the be a great addition to your commute or to your family. It's the do-everything SUV that just does everything pretty well.

Even if it's not winning any gold medals for power or speed.

The most recent lineup offers more available configurations and options than ever before, with a new Toyota RAV4 LE, LE Hybrid, XLE, XLE Hybrid, Adventure, SE, SE Hybrid, RAV4 Limited, Limited Hybrid, and RAV4 Platinum.

How does it look?

While the Toyota RAV4 has definitely seen some sporty new lines carved into its sides within the last generation--to better fit with Toyota's aggressive, pointy new look that we're seeing in models like the all-new Camry and the C-HR--it's not going to be mistaken for anything other than a RAV4. And that's not a bad thing. It's proof that the recipe is working, and the solid, durable styling of Toyota's most iconic crossover (and possibly the industry's most iconic SUV) is holding strong against competitors who are constantly trying to flash-and-flair their way to the top.

The biggest exterior stand-outs in the new lineup are the new RAV4 SE, with its attractive dual-tone color options; and the new-for-2018 RAV4 Adventure, which raises ground clearance for the Toyota crossover to a total 6.5 inches, and brings bigger fender flares, bigger wheels, and black roof rails to give it a bossier, more capable look than its other model siblings.

How does it drive?

If you're shopping for a five-door sports car, there's a chance that you're not shopping for a Toyota SUV--or shopping in this price range. But, while the Toyota RAV4 may not have the most horsepower or the fastest 0-60 sprint time, it can offer a comfortable and relaxing driving experience that isn't going to challenge you or demand any more than you're willing to give when you're just trying to get from A to B. Do you need that heart-pounding engagement on your way to the store? Or, do you want an easygoing and mature partnership that optimizes for fuel efficiency? The RAV4's got your back.


Front-wheel drive comes standard on the RAV4, but if you frequent rougher roads, dirt trails, or wet and slippery pavement, you'll appreciate the added confidence of Toyota's All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) System with Dynamic Torque Control, available on all models and standard on all Hybrid trim levels.

What's the inside like?

The interior of the new RAV4 is clean, smooth, and comfortable. Toyota is infamous for its balance of practical amenities and economy, so unless you opt for one of the highest-level trims and package options, you'll have to be content with the usual run of softer plastics and compact screens. However, check in with the Limited or the Platinum, and you get an advanced infotainment system, more premium features, and leatherette seat upholstery that's sleek and easy to clean.

Select trim levels--like the RAV4 Adventure--offer a Cold Weather Package (heated fabric front seats, a heated leather steering wheel, and a wiper de-icer). It might seem like a pleasant bonus, but after you've experienced the serious pleasure of warm hands and a toasty lower back on your cold-morning commute in, you'll wonder how you drove without it.

How much can it carry?

Inside or behind? Whether you're carrying passengers, dogs, cargo, or a trailer in the back, the new Toyota RAV4 is a surprisingly tough option among compact SUVs. Behind the second row of seats--even with five people seated--you'll get a full 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space; plenty of room for weekend trips, overnight camping, trips to the dog park, and all of your everyday basics. If you're traveling solo or with a single passenger, you can fold the second row almost entirely flat for up to 73.4 cubic feet of usable cargo space.

But, if you're looking to carry equipment or gear along on a tow hitch, you'll want to seriously consider the RAV4 Adventure. Along with its surprising list of standard features and options, it also comes standard with the Toyota Tow Prep Package, which boosts the RAV4's normal one-ton towing capacity up to 3,500 pounds. Seeing as some hobby trucks are towing that much, that's not bad for a crossover.

What's under the hood?

For the average RAV4 driver, utility and interior is more important than straight power numbers--after all, Toyota offers a few options that are going to be more performance-oriented than its stable and affordable crossover. But, the RAV4 isn't without its muscles.

Standard power for the Toyota RAV4 comes from a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired to an easy six-speed automatic. You might not be winning any drag races, but your powertrain is probably going to outlast just about any other sports car ripping it off the line. The RAV4 also offers ECO Mode (which optimizes for efficiency), Sport Mode (which can tweak the handling for a more athletic feel), and EV Mode--which is exclusive to models with the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system. RAV4 Hybrid models make slightly more combined horsepower thanks to the added power of the electric motor.

At the end of the day...

The Toyota RAV4 is going to be the right choice for shoppers who want a rock-steady, trustworthy crossover SUV that's as good for families as it is for first-time young drivers, and who want a car that's going to last with minimal maintenance outside of the basic services. If you're confident enough to admit that you don't need a turbo-charged full-size SUV with ten inches of ground clearance--the RAV4 should be at the top of your list.

Compare the Toyota RAV4 vs the Competition