The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE Rocky Mountain Review by Dan Poler

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Dan Poler
Senior Editor
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

When it comes to cars, it’s my job to nitpick. I’m here to tell you, the reader, the good and the bad about a particular car - its strengths and weaknesses, what it might be like to live with on a daily basis. What you should know and consider to make a purchase decision you’re likely to live with for years.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 XSE Hybrid, however, brings along very little to nitpick. It’s really, really good.

The RAV4 was all new for 2019; the 2020 model year carries with it only minor updates, Android Auto integration being chief among them. Spring for the hybrid - it’s not that much more than the conventionally powered RAV4, and drives much better with its higher output gas-electric powertrain. Once in the Hybrid, I recommend you opt for XSE Hybrid trim - the cost does start to add up, but the XSE brings a host of upgrades including a power liftgate, upgraded interior including simulated leather and ambient lighting, larger wheels, and better suspension.

The trim is distinctive in its appearance - subtly aggressive, or as aggressive as a RAV4 can look. It carries two-tone exterior, with a black roof and trim, sitting high - with more than eight inches of ground clearance - on 18” black-painted alloy wheels and beefy rubber framed by also black wheel surrounds. As a whole, the RAV4 looks more substantial than the prior generation - surprisingly, however, it’s a couple inches shorter and only about half an inch wider.

The interior is well-appointed; materials have been tastefully upgraded for this generation of the RAV4. In the XSE trim, the RAV4 sports contrast stitching and color-coordinated seat inserts. Storage is extensive and well laid out, with illumination in most cubbyholes. Seats are comfortable and the cabin feels spacious. Inside the rear hatch, there’s 37.5 cubic feet of space for stuff, exactly the same as in the non-Hybrid model - no space is lost to the batteries, which are under the rear seat. There’s even a normal doughnut spare, rather than saving space with just a patch kit and a pump.

Sitting in the driver’s seat however that I found a couple of very small things about which to complain: Various controls are not illuminated at night and are hard to find, like those for the interior lighting and the windows and locks. The instrument panel, a mix of analog and digital, is extremely cluttered, with a lot of very small symbols all displayed at the same time. I counted no less than a dozen distinct pieces of information displayed in the digital portion alone while driving in normal conditions.

While driving, acceleration is smooth and consistent, with only a hint of lag before the gas engine engages and applies power. Cornering feels competent, with just a bit of lean when pressed around the corners. Braking also is consistent, absent are the usual issues introduced by a hybrid’s regenerative braking. Owing to the hybrid powertrain, I averaged an impressive 40 MPG in mixed city and highway driving.

Of course, being a modern Toyota, the RAV4 Hybrid comes with a host of safety features packaged as Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. This includes collision mitigating braking that can detect pedestrians and lane departure warning with assisted steering, among others. These features are standard on any RAV4 trim, Hybrid or conventional. This is in addition to Toyota’s STAR safety system, inclusive of traction control, VSC, ABS, brake-force distribution, and, of course, airbags. Some RAV4’s earn IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ honor, when equipped with curve-adaptive headlights.

In sum, it’s clear that Toyota 2019’s update to the RAV4 was well-executed and this carries through to 2020. There’s not much to complain about here - the RAV4 Hybrid is refined, and a pleasure to live with. If you’re in the market for a crossover, I very much recommend you put the RAV4 Hybrid on your list.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XSE
Engine Type: 4-Cylinder + Hybrid
Engine Size: 2.5L + Multi-electric motor assist
Horsepower: 219 (total system)
Torque (lb-ft): 184 @ 5000 rpm (engine); 149 (electric motor)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
Wheelbase / Length (in): 105.9 / 180.9
Curb Weight: 3,755
Pounds per HP: 17.15
Fuel Capacity (gal): 14.5
Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded
Tires: Michelin Primacy A/S; 225/60R18 100H
Brakes, front / rear: 12.0-in. ventilated disc / 11.1-in. ventilated disc
Suspension, front / rear: MacPherson strut / multi-link
Ground clearance (in): 8.1
Drivetrain: On-Demand All Wheel Drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG
city / highway / combined / observed: 41 / 38 / 40 / 40
Base Price: $28,100
Base Trim Price: $34,050
Options and Charges
Option: XSE Weather Package - $375.00
Option: Premium audio / navigation - $1,620
Option: XSE Technology Package - $640
Option: Carpet floor mats / cargo mat - $269
Delivery: $1,120
Price as Tested: $38,074

The Original In-Depth Toyota Vehicle Research