Game Changer: The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE
2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE.
Just over a year ago, in reviewing the 2015 Toyota RAV4, we noted that it seemed stuck in third-place in sales in its segment, behind the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V.    No longer.  The RAV4 is on a roll, selling enough to beat the Ford and Honda, despite not being significantly different from the 2015 RAV4.

Except for one model.

Side view of 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE
2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE.
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is all-new.  And it hits the competition where they ain't, as the saying goes.  There used to be a Ford Escape Hybrid, but that is long gone.  Nor is there a Honda CR-V Hybrid.  Toyota has this all to themselves.

By the simple---for Toyota, the leader in hybrids--- move of adding a hybrid model, the RAV4, already competitive in terms of space, utility and price, dominates in another area that matters to small SUV buyers---fuel economy.  The gasoline-powered RAV4's EPA estimate of 22 city/29 highway leaps to 34 city/31 highway, leaving the Escape (22/28) and CR-V (25/31) in the dust when it comes to in-town driving.

Toyota also wisely makes the Hybrid an easy-to-swallow choice when it comes to initial cost, pricing the Hybrid XLE we drove only $2,100 above the gasoline-powered XLE, and throwing in all-wheel-drive as part of the bargain.  Nicely equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof, privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, an 8,1-inch touchscreen audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, smart key, pushbutton start and rearview camera for $28,370.

Interior view of 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE
2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE interior.
In fact, the RAV4 Hybrid XLE is so well-equipped that all the Toyota press fleet people added to it was an upgraded Entune audio system for $525.  With $900 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price was $29,795.  Keeping a well-equipped small SUV under $30,000 is not easy these days.  Getting stellar fuel economy and four-wheel drive as part of the package makes the RAV4 Hybrid a true game-changer in the segment.

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