Toyota Raises the (Real) MPG Bar for Crossovers
It should come as no surprise that Toyota is banking on hybrid power to lead the way to the future, and the last few months have been pretty darn exciting for the Japanese automaker. The Mirai broke cover, an all-new Prius promises driving enjoyment and improved fuel economy, and (finally) a hybrid version of the popular RAV4 crossover made its debut.
We drove the new 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and were intrigued by the way it conducted business. We called it a “solid improvement on the current-generation crossover” and noted thoughtful improvements in interior refinement. Now, in time-honored Motor Trend tradition, we’ve tested the Hybrid, and the results are a little bit surprising.
Toyota is making sure you know the new RAV4 Hybrid is a hybrid. Visual styling cues link it to the newest Prius, and the standard complement of badges make it clear it’s a hybrid. The EPA’s estimated 34/31 mpg (6.9/7.6 L/100km) city/highway rating falls right in line with the status quo: Hybrids are really efficient in the city and only so-so on the highway. Our friends at Real MPG, however, brought us the first surprise: 34.3 mpg (6.9 L/100km) in the city and 39.0 (!) mpg (6 L/100km) on the highway for a combined 36.3 mpg (6.5 L/100km).
With a 34.3/39.0 RMPG rating, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid beats every single crossover we’ve put through the Real MPG testing regiment, including our long-term Honda CR-V (numbers below reflect testing with ECON mode on) and the hot-on-its-heels Nissan Rogue. What about subcompact crossovers? Both the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3 also failed to dethrone the newly crowned Real MPG king.
|Vehicle||2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid||2015 Honda CR-V Touring AWD||2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD||2016 Honda HR-V AWD||2016 Mazda CX-3 AWD|
|Real MPG – City||34.3||24.5||22.6||27.7||28.6|
|Real MPG – Highway||39.0||30.7||28.9||32.7||34.4|
We made sure to use the RAV4 Hybrid in the same ways you would probably use it, which included getting groceries, shopping for holiday gifts, toting around a 1-year-old, general puttering about, and helping a friend move. Getting groceries and gift shopping were both a cinch, as the space behind the second row easily fit the reasonable loads we threw at it and the net attachment made it simple to keep the cargo secure. It’s a little harder to install/uninstall the retractable cargo cover. It’s a bit long and unwieldy, but it stows nicely out of sight underneath the rear cargo area floor when you need to make the most of the available space.
The IIHS gave the RAV4 a rating of Marginal for child seat anchors (my daughter’s car seat was a little tough to install), though it also notes that once a seat is properly installed, it’s as safe as a seat in any other LATCH-equipped vehicle. We found the RAV4 Hybrid to have ample room for toting baby and all of her things. The 2016 Toyota RAV4 is also one of only a few vehicles to earn the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS. When equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, the RAV4 avoided a collision in both the 12- and 24-mph (19- and 39-km/h) autobrake tests. In the real world, the adaptive cruise control functioned as intended, accelerating and slowing the crossover along with the typical Los Angeles traffic. Toyota’s adaptive cruise control is no match for the worst stop-and-go grind, however, as it shuts off below about 8 mph (13 km/h) with a notification beep. You’ll have to skip the “look, Ma, no hands!” routine, but it takes the edge off of long-distance driving.
We’ve noticed that hybrids typically give up a few cubic feet of cargo capacity to their non-hybrid relatives, and the RAV4 is no exception. The non-hybrid RAV4 has 38.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 73.4 cubic feet with them folded; the Hybrid has 35.6/70.6. The most noticeable intrusion into the cargo area is a triangular section where the rear seats reach the floor. Instead of lying nearly flat like the rear seats do in the non-hybrid, the seats sit up a decent amount. You couldn’t run a terribly exciting pinewood derby down them by any means, but we noticed it when helping a friend move. You can fit a good number of small items, but don’t count on any long and wide ones leaving any room for the boxes of comic books.
|Vehicle||2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid||2016 Toyota RAV4||2015 Honda CR-V Touring AWD||2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD|
|Rear Seats Up (cubic feet)||35.6||38.4||37.2||32.0|
|Rear Seats Down (cubic feet)||70.6||73.4||70.9||70.0|
The RAV4 Hybrid does give up some cargo capacity to the non-hybrid RAV4 and the incredibly versatile Honda CR-V, but it pays dividends on the other side of the coin in fuel savings.
An essential question we at MT feel compelled to ask: How does it drive? There are some people who won’t care, and indeed the RAV4 Hybrid makes an excellent case for itself on a spreadsheet. But does the driving experience back up those good feelings imparted by the positive numbers on paper? The answer is an emphatic yes—as much as a mainstream crossover can excite someone, at least. It’s not the second coming of the V-6 RAV4, but it points the way to a bright future of Toyota hybrids.
The brakes deserve a special mention. We’ve almost always complained about the uncivilized way our fuel misers have traded braking duties between the friction brakes and the regenerative brakes. Systems range from “huh ” to “Dive! Dive! Dive!” as they transition from regenerative braking to friction. Toyota has nailed the brake pedal feel in the RAV4 Hybrid. We could watch the Hybrid System Indicator needle sweep up and down from ECO and PWR to CHG, so we knew the system was using the regenerative brakes, but it was imperceptible through the pedal.
|Vehicle||2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid||2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE||2015 Honda CR-V Touring AWD||2014 Nissan Rogue SL AWD||2011 Toyota RAV4 V-6|
|0-60 MPH||7.8 sec||8.4 sec||8.9 sec||9.1 sec||6.3 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.0 sec @ 86.4 mph||16.4 sec @ 85.8 mph||16.9 sec @ 85.3 mph||17.0 sec @ 83.2 mph||14.9 sec @ 92.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft||117 ft||117 ft||118 ft||122 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.78 g (avg)||0.75 g (avg)||0.79 g (avg)||0.77 g (avg)||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.0 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)||29.0 @ 0.57 g (avg)||28.1 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)||28.9 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)||28.1 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is an incredibly promising vehicle if you think about the implications. Toyota, a company not known for its sports cars these days, has made a hybrid crossover that is faster than most, more efficient than all, and pretty nice on the inside. When the only new competitor outrunning your hybrid in the stoplight drags is a turbocharged Ford Escape, you’ve done hybrid right.
Whether or not you’re laying into it, the RAV4 Hybrid remains composed as the engine starts, stops, and is supplemented by the electric motors. Gently rolling on the accelerator results in seamless acceleration, with the engine start-up nearly unnoticeable to driver and passengers. More spirited acceleration and full-throttle runs are a touch rougher when the engine fires up and joins in on the fun, but noise, vibration, and harshness is kept in check. Because the electric motors provide instant torque, we didn’t find the stop/start system to be as intrusive as in other vehicles.
The different drive modes, which include Sport, Eco, and EV, all function as advertised. Sport mode livens the Hybrid up and changes the shift logic, making it more eager to drop a few “gears” and make the most of the hybrid powertrain. Sport also calls up a more aggressive regenerative braking schedule, which is similar to the B mode in most EVs though not nearly as strong. Eco slows the throttle response from the normal mode and adjusts the air-conditioning settings, all in the name of improving efficiency. EV mode functions below 25 mph (40 km/h) and will hold the RAV4 in all-electric mode for up to 0.6 mile. Be careful with your accelerator inputs, as anything beyond a reasonable pace will kick the gas engine back on and kick you out of EV mode.
We’ve been waiting for Toyota to deliver a hybrid version of its popular RAV4 crossover for quite some time now. We had to suffer through a pair of low-volume RAV4 EV models, but that’s all water under the bridge. The 2016 RAV4 Hybrid is here, and it’s good. Really good. Once again, Toyota proves that it deserves the cachet it gets in the hybrid segment by taking a successful vehicle and not messing it up with hybrid parts. King of the Real MPG Hill is also no small accomplishment, though the segment looks like it will be heating up. How long will the RAV4 Hybrid retain its bragging rights? Time will tell.
|2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$29,795 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.5L/112-hp/206-lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 141-hp/199-lb-ft front, 67-hp/103-lb-ft rear electric motors; 194 hp combined|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont. variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,935 lb (56/44%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||181.1 x 72.6 x 65.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.0 sec @ 86.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.78 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.0 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||34/31/33 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||99/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.60 lb/mile|