Family Car Review: 2016 Toyota RAV4

By Paul Karchut of Family Wheels on March 16, 2016

The basics:

Base price: $24,990 + taxes
As tested: $34,620 + taxes
Highway fuel economy: 7.6-8.1 (FWD/AWD)
City fuel economy: 10-10.6 (FWD/AWD)
Competition: Ford Escape, Honda CRV, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue

The review:

Toyota has refreshed its long-time small-sized SUV for 2016 with a few new features and a new hybrid option but this vehicle remains largely the same since its last redesign in 2013. This is the fourth generation RAV4 for the North American audience and it’s been a steady, reliable favourite. But since its launch in 1995, the swimming pool in this vehicle class has become significantly more crowded… so can the RAV4 continue to wow buyers after all these years? Read on.

From the outside, I find the newest RAV4 to look a little too car-like and would rather a more aggressive SUV-like look. New for 2016 is the sportier SE trim (this is how our tester was fitted-out), and while it’s not the most expensive trim, it gives you things like faux leather seats (Toyota’s very comfortable, environmentally friendly and convincing SofTex material), LED headlights, bigger wheels and a sportier looking body kit. Even still, I don’t find the exterior anything to really write home about. But once I stepped inside, that’s where the RAV4 really started to impress.

Compared to its competition, the RAV4 feels premium, spacious and well laid-out. With soft touch surfaces galore, an easy to use infotainment system and a really generous dose of legroom for front and rear passengers, I was keen to get driving on a 1,000 km ski road trip! The skis and gear were gobbled up without issue and I hit the road.

But while the relatively economical $25,000 base price might seem like a great deal, take note that the base trim does not include all wheel drive and you’ll have to spend nearly $3,000 for that piece of mind on snowy highways like those I was driving on. Base models do, however, include front and rear parking sonar, blue tooth connectivity, cruise and air conditioning. Then, looking to the top of the line Limited trim, there are all kinds of high end safety features. Things like adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation technology and lane departure warning systems.

Our SE tester was a great middle ground with nothing I was wishing I had throughout my week in this car. But through the windy, mountain roads of British Columbia, the 2.5-litre non-turbo engine (the only choice regardless of trim), did seem to struggle at times resulting in lots of gear changes through the 6-speed automatic gearbox. Power on less mountainous highways or through the city would be more than adequate, though. I also found the steering to feel a little too light. But for the most part, this is a quiet, refined and capable car… even when the highways got quite slippery and snowy.

So this car has a lot going for it. But the one big thing to consider is the price tag. Comparably kitted-out Honda CRVs or Nissan Rogues or Mazda CX5s will come in at around $2,500 to $3,000 less. And they’re all great choices to consider. So is the Toyota name and reliability and resale value enough to have you fork out the extra dough? That’s a question only you can answer. But from a space, comfort and build quality perspective, the RAV4 is as good as ever, 20 years after it was first released.

The takeaway:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 4/5

Family Wheels performance score score: 3/5

Family Wheels rear passenger score: 4/5

Family Wheels trunk test score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels fuel economy score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels build quality score: 4.5/5

Family Wheels value score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels overall score: 26/35

~ Paul Karchut is the award-winning journalist behind FamilyWheels.ca. Check-out his site for more reviews and find him on Twitter @FamilyWheels.

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