2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD Review

Based 1-5
4.4 SOLID
Pros
  • Visibility
  • Fuel Economy
  • Interior Space
Cons
  • CVT Noise
  • Lacks Leather Seating Option
  • Other Competitors More Luxurious

If you want efficiency, the RAV4 Hybrid is a fuel-stingy model for urban commuters. Don’t think that hybrid means slow on the go either. It’s peppy and has quick acceleration. With its hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive, it’s almost in a class by itself.

This week, we drove the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD.

What’s New For 2018

The Hybrid can now be had in an LE base trim, further lowering its point of entry, while an Adventure trim is available for the first time. The SE also gains 0.4-inches of ground clearance.

Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD ($32,185) comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen, heated outside mirrors, smartphone app integration, and satellite radio. It also comes with new safety systems like Pre-Collision, Lane Departure Alert, Lane Keeping Assist, pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control.

The SE adds sportier suspension tuning, 18-inch wheels, special exterior styling, and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems. SE trims also get automatic LED headlights, LED running lights and taillights, a height-adjustable power lift gate, an eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustments, and heated front seats.

The Advanced Technology package ($2,785) added a bird’s-eye view parking camera, Entune Premium Audio with navigation and app suite, and for the SE, the parking sensors and auto-dimming mirror. Total MSRP on this Hybrid tester, including destination: $36,085.

Interior Highlights

The RAV4 cabin offers plenty of room with some soft-touch surfaces, but there are a lot of hard plastic areas. The instrument panel holds the digital display and a seven-inch touchscreen; the climate and audio controls are easy to figure out. The driver gets a car-like seating position on a fairly comfortable SofTex faux leather seat. Visibility is good in the RAV4 even with its raked roofline.

In the rear, passengers get enough room for three adults, but they may find the rear bench a little flat and hard for extended trips. The kids won’t notice a thing. The seat backs do recline and fold forward, making it a good cargo-hauling machine.

The large rear doors make it easy for adults to slide in and to load larger items. Cargo volume is cavernous: 38.4 cubic feet with all seats up, and 73.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The RAV4 is an ultra-practical small SUV for families with kids and dogs.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

This RAV4 hybrid is powered by a 154 horsepower, 2.5-liter engine coupled with the latest generation of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system. The RAV4 Hybrid delivers a total combined output of 194 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard on the Hybrid, with a separate electric motor driving the rear wheels. 

The new RAV4 Hybrid is more powerful than the standard models but still delivers an EPA-rated 34/33 city/highway and 32 combined mpg.

Driving Dynamics

When we “pushed” the push-button start there was just deafening quiet. We had to check to see if the RAV4 had really started! Once we got underway, the RAV4 Hybrid was responsive and had more power at takeoff than many of the gas-only competitors. The SE has firmer damping in the shock absorbers, but you can barely feel it. The ride is still good.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid can accelerate up to 20 mph on battery power alone, if driven mildly like we did through the parking lot this week. After that, the gas engine kicks in. If you aren’t real easy on the pedal, the gas engine is likely to kick in below 10 mph. We had fun playing with it to see how far we could get on battery power alone. We then pushed it hard up I-70 into the mountains west of Denver and it had plenty of power. Although, typical of Toyota hybrids, the gasoline engine connected to the Electronic CVT produces quite a howl when accelerating hard.

We had the option of shifting the transmission into EV, ECO, and Sport modes. Around town in heavy traffic, EV works well for saving fuel, ECO otherwise for most city driving, and Sport as we got onto the highway. Each serves their specific driving style and worked well. Responses are a bit sharper in Sport mode, as the transmission makes downshifts smoother by blipping the throttle momentarily.

Conclusion

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD offers ample interior space and a powerful, yet fuel-stingy drivetrain. It comes with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and has loads of standard safety features. It offers families a fuel-efficient city hauler with all-weather capability.

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Gallery

2018 Toyota RAV4 Official Site.

Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

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