2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: First Drive – Yahoo Autos

Posted: Thursday, November 26, 2015
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Basically, this is a standard small SUV that, given Toyota’s reputation for reliability and longevity, will probably last a decade or longer. Toyota offers a very nice suite of safety options these days, with top-of-the-line automatic braking and pedestrian alert systems, though some of those features require a slight upcharge, and only at higher trim levels. But at any trim, the RAV4 hybrid will still only cost $700 more than a non-hybrid. So in that sense, it’s a pretty good deal.

On the other hand, you’re not really getting anything special. The RAV4 is as generic as cars come in terms of styling and materials, inside and out. The inside feels like a big rubber ball—there isn’t a whiff of style or wit or fake luxury—and the outside looks and acts like a generic shell.

Saints help you if you try to take this car off-road. “It’s not like this all-wheel-drive is designed to go rock-crawling,” a Toyota executive admitted at the press conference. If you want to do that in a hybrid, get an XV Crosstrek. The RAV4 is designed for on-road all-weather driving, in an attempt to sate the only question that actually matters to most car writers: How will it handle Detroit winters? It will do fine, offering a safe, generic, adequate ride quality.

But we shouldn’t expect more from drive quality out of a car like this; “performance hybrid” is an obvious oxymoron. However, if you’re paying nearly $30,000 for said hybrid, you should at least get some gas mileage out of the bargain. The RAV4 comes in at 34 city, 31 highway, and 33 MPG combined, which certainly puts it at the top of the CUV segment, but it’s not exactly brave new territory. The Ford Escape Hybrid, now discontinued, was getting close to that five years ago.

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The highest trim Limited model of the hybrid comes in at $33,610, before shipping costs. While that’s a segment-sized gap between that and the $50K at which the electric car fetched, it’s not an unbreachable one, especially given the available credits and tax breaks available for electric drivers. After a day driving the RAV4 hybrid in the same part of the world where I’d driven the all-electric version two years earlier, I couldn’t help but think how far Toyota had lowered its sights. This car offered none of the joy of the electric car, keeping only the practicality. It feels like driving the past instead of driving the future.

If you’re going to present a green car, enough with the half-measures. In two years, Toyota has traveled from a revolutionary car to a serviceable one that, despite some nods to green technology, still burns plenty of gasoline. Whether the people want the RAV4 hybrid or not, it will have to do.

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