2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review: Easy On The Gas, Hard On The Eyes

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
In This Review:
After an extensive overhaul last year, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is largely unchanged. It's a fuel efficient and affordable SUV, although the exterior styling is a face only a mother could love.
Exterior Styling
Interior Layout
Driving Dynamics
Safety & Tech Features
Everyday Functionality
Sporty Ride
Cargo Space
Fuel Economy
CVT Noise
Artificial Brake Pedal Feel
Uncomfortable Back Seat

Toyota is a leader in hybrid technology and the new RAV4 Hybrid is a very compelling choice. Shoppers wanting a compact SUV with excellent fuel mileage should have the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid on their list. Toyota is bringing more hybrids rather than going all-electric like other automakers. Although they have increased electric vehicle development, Toyota still seems to believe you will buy a partial electric before making the leap to an EV. 

So far it’s working because the RAV4 Hybrid is a huge success for the Japanese automaker. RAV4 sales increased 26.4 percent last month, making it a best-ever November for Toyota with the vehicle. The RAV4 Hybrid was the biggest factor in that percentage jump with 10,057 units sold.

This week, we drove the sporty 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE with all-wheel drive.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: What’s New For 2020?

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was all-new for 2019 and carries over with the major changes from last year. For 2020, Android Auto joins the existing Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa systems. Several new standard features are added throughout the lineup, including satellite radio, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a premium JBL sound system.

Projector-beam LED headlamps are exclusive to the Hybrid XLE grade and above, and do produce better illumination at night. Exterior color options include Blizzard Pearl, Silver Sky Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and Blueprint.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in the Blueprint exterior color.

Features & Options: Safety & Convenience

Our 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE AWD tester ($34,050) came with LED headlights; 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seats; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; a six-speaker sound system; and Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 package of safety aids which includes:

  • Road Sign Assist
  • Lane Tracing Assist
  • Automatic High Beams
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
  • Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control

The XSE also gets a push-button start, proximity entry, and more USB ports to keep passenger devices charged up. The XSE is the athletic trim with larger wheels and a sport-tuned suspension. It also comes standard with a power liftgate; simulated-leather upholstery; heated front seats; and an eight-inch infotainment display screen. 

This XSE tester came with some nice options, including navigation; an upgraded sound system; the Technology package; and the XSE all-weather package.

What Does The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Cost?

Total MSRP, including destination, for our 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid test vehicle: $38,074. The XLE Hybrid starts at $29,395 by comparison. A comparably equipped, non-hybrid RAV4 model (XLE) has a starting MSRP of $28,265. 

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid interior layout.
2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid interior layout.

Interior Highlights: Warm & Classy

The RAV4 cabin offers plenty of room with soft-touch surfaces and some hard plastic throughout the cabin. The eight-inch optional touchscreen sits conveniently in the middle of the dash and the climate and audio controls are easy to figure out. It was easy to find a good seating position too, with the power driver’s seat. The heated option kept us toasty warm this week as temperatures continue to drop around Denver.

The XSE gets a shiny black trim giving it a high-class feel as if it were ready for a night on the town. The view from the driver’s seat is good, despite the contemporary raked roofline. 

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid rear cargo area.
2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid rear cargo area.

Interior Highlights: Good Cargo Space

In the back, there is ample room for three adults, but they may find the rear bench seating low and a bit uncomfortable for long trips. The seatbacks do recline and fold forward, making it a good cargo-hauling SUV.

The RAV4 offers up 37 cubic feet of cargo-carrying ability behind the rear seats, and 57 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. A power liftgate is standard on the XSE. Given these features, the RAV4 is still an ultra-practical small SUV for families with kids and pets.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid under the hood.
2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid under the hood.

2020 RAV4 Hybrid: Engine & Powertrain

The RAV4 Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, paired to an electric motor with a continuously variable automatic transmission. An additional electric motor powers the rear wheels in low-traction situations. Total system output is a combined 219 net horsepower.

The LE, XLE, and XLE Premium grades offer all-weather, all-wheel drive capability which our tester came with. The system can direct up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels. When all-wheel drive isn’t needed, the system disconnects to save fuel.

What Is The Gas Mileage of The RAV4 Hybrid?

EPA fuel mileage estimates are 41/38 city/highway and 40 combined mpg. By comparison, most of the non-hybrid models come in at or around 30 combined mpg.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
The RAV Hybrid is available with all-wheel drive, and can direct up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels.

How Does The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Drive?

The RAV4 Hybrid’s 219 horsepower is 16 more than the non-hybrid model. This is because the electric motor gives it extra power, and we could feel it when we hit the pedal. Toyota’s hybrid technology offers responsive acceleration and has more power from a stoplight than many of the gas-only competitors.

Toyota says the Hybrid model can reach “highway speeds” on electric power alone before the gas engine kicks on. We found the gas engine kicked in sooner but there aren’t many flat spots where we live in the mountains of Colorado. Instead, we pushed the fuel-efficient model hard up I-70, into the mountains west of Denver, to see how it performed. The hybrid has plenty of power and we never felt we needed more.

Driving Dynamics: Efficient Yet Sporty

For urban commuting the RAV4 Hybrid will meet your needs, and you will save on fuel costs. In addition to the nice interior, fuel economy is the biggest reason to opt for the RAV4 Hybrid. In heavy traffic this week, we used the ECO mode which also helps. ECO is useful for most city driving, while Sport got us onto the highway without issue.

Responses are a bit sharper in Sport mode, as the transmission makes downshifts smoother by blipping the throttle momentarily. The Hybrid XSE has a sport-tuned and stiffer suspension but it’s still comfortable in most driving situations. For driving enthusiasts, the XSE is the trim you want. 

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Conclusion: Good Choice Overall

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers ample cargo space and a powerful, yet fuel-stingy powertrain that will save you money if you do commute. It comes with Toyota’s reputation for reliability and has new standard safety features as well.

Denis Flierl has invested nearly 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Gallery

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