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2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

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The Toyota RAV4 is a popular small SUV, and the redesign for 2019 delivers with a fresh athletic look and upgraded multimedia to keep up with the competition. With new safety features ready to go off the beaten path AWD and good fuel economy, the 2019 RAV4 has what it takes to hang with the CR-V and the Mazda CX-5 — depending what you want from your SUV.

While it’s not as plush as some small SUVs and not as fun to drive as the CX-5, there is a lot to like from the newest version of the RAV4. Here’s what I learned driving the newest model for a week.

Style Inside and Out

Fun, bold styling sets the new RAV4 apart.

Fun, bold styling sets the new RAV4 apart.

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Toyota shook things up dramatically in the looks department and it pays off. The new RAV4 is interesting, it draws your eye with sharp angles and creases that dare to say look at me. It reminds me of the vehicles I used to long for as a teenager, and with the two-tone top option and squared-off wheel wells, there’s even a hint of the FJ cruiser in this design.

While the exterior is about flash, the interior is all about function. That’s not to say it looks bad by any means, but even the limited trim there are a lot of hard plastics in the cabin, which is something that my wife immediately noticed and commented on. It feels very much like a small SUV you won’t mind hauling dirty kids home from practice in or that you won’t think twice about taking on a hiking adventure where you come back covered in mud.

A spacious and comfortable interior with tons of room.

A spacious and comfortable interior with tons of room.

That said, the cabin is spacious in the front and there are lots of small storage cubbies to place things. I guarantee that if I handed the keys to my mom, every cubby would have something necessary in it in a matter of days, and if you like to keep mings, glasses, cords and other items at easy reach, you’ll love the amount of storage. Another cubby holds a wireless charging pad and in the center console, there is even more room for stuff.

The front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of room for my six-foot-tall frame and the backseat is even comfortable for adults. The panoramic sunroof option really opens up the cabin and makes the backseat feel even more spacious.

Cargo space is a little smaller than you’ll find on the CR-V or the Rogue, but it is still spacious enough for your gear and the seats fold down easily to add more storage.

Technology

easy to see, responsive and it supports Apple CarPlay.

easy to see, responsive and it supports Apple CarPlay.

The infotainment system is easy to use and while the graphics don’t look like they came from 2019, it’s still a good system with a responsive screen. Toyota adds Apple CarPlay support, but there is no Android Auto support this year. I love the plethora of buttons flanking the screen for fast access to common functions and the chunky knobs to control volume and tuning. You also get a WiFi hotspot and Alexa integration. The 11 speaker JBL sound system that is part of the premium audio package sounds good and fills the cabin with

You get Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 standard on the 2019 RAV4 which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beam headlights plus road sign assist.

On the Road

The 2019 RAV4 is comfortable and handles nicely, but the engine and transmission aren't as refined.

The 2019 RAV4 is comfortable and handles nicely, but the engine and transmission aren’t as refined.

The 2019 RAV4 handles nicely with steering that is weighted nicely and it’s easy to keep in your lane and confidently maneuver. The small size makes parking lots simple and the bird’s eye view camera that is part of the advanced technology package is a helpful addition. The small SUV does an above-average job of soaking up rough roads and delivers an overall comfortable ride.

Where the experience falters is the engine and transmission which is too loud, too rough and at times had my wife asking if something was wrong. It’s powerful enough to get up to speed, merge and overtake, but you’ll hear every part of this. The noise mitigation isn’t great, so you’ll hear the road and the engine a lot. The transmission is good at high speeds, but clunky in stop and go traffic.

Front-wheel drive is standard on the RAV4, but my loaner came with AWD. This system can disconnect the rear axle to deliver better fuel economy. The EPA estimate is 28 MPG  combined with 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

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