The 2022 Toyota RAV4 lives up to its meat-and-potatoes hype, but the Prime serves up green-car red meat. With the RAV4, Toyota hits a bulls-eye for compact crossover SUV styling and features, though interior space misses some key marks by mere inches. Its Prime plug-in is a gem, and that makes it a rival for the Ford Escape as well as the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester.
Toyota has tweaked the crossover’s exterior and interior. Most notably, it now sells an SE Hybrid with cloth upholstery and a 7.0-inch touchscreen and 6-speaker audio; it can be optioned with heated front seats, a sunroof, a power tailgate, and a 9.0-inch touchscreen. Updated headlights on all models at or above the XLE grade could help its safety score, too.
The RAV4 taps rugged details and angles for a ready-to-rumble look. It hits lots of high notes and takes lots of angular chances and it all works. With hints of 4Runner and Tacoma in its profile, the stylish RAV4 has a squat stance and an abundance of angles that all hang together. The adventurous body has slim windows and a low-looking roofline, with swole fenders that get positively chunky in Adventure and TRD Off-Road spec. It can be difficult and awkward to spec out one silhouette with luxury details like a mesh grille and, in another version, with black fender trim and a black-painted roof, but Toyota’s done so with the RAV4. Even Primes get their own grille and gloss-black bumper, for a touch of visual distinction.
Exceedingly rare on dealer lots, the Prime gets a big 18.1-kwh battery pack with electric motors to generate 302 hp. Until the Supra came along, that made the Prime the quickest Toyota vehicle, period. With a 0-60 mph time of 5.7 seconds, and a tauter sport suspension, the RAV4 Prime launches with authority, handles with aplomb, and can be toggled into an EV-only mode for up to 42 miles of battery-electric driving. The battery adds about 500 lb to curb weight, and that shows up in more understeer in tightly kinked roads, but it’s a hushed drive nonetheless, a green thrill to be sought out. We often saw all electric range around 50 miles.
Get the RAV4 Prime for max efficiency f you can find one. The RAV4 Prime gets scored at up to 42 miles of electric-only driving, and at 94 MPGe for overall efficiency, or 38 mpg combined with fuel economy estimates of 41/38/40 mpg with standard all-wheel drive.
The IIHS gave the RAV4 a Top Safety Pick award in the previous model year for the Hybrid Limited with its fancy adaptive headlights. Most other models have sported LED headlights rated “Marginal”; Hybrids’ headlights have been rated “Poor.” Toyota has upgraded the headlights this year on the XLE and all models above it, so we’ll update the results here when new data is published.
The NHTSA, meanwhile, gives the RAV4 five stars overall, but that comes with a four-star score for front-impact protection. Along with automatic emergency braking, all RAV4s come with adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot monitors can be fitted, and they’re recommended since thick roof pillars blot out some of the view to the rear.
The cabin could improve upon some of its harder plastics, but what works here is the simplicity of its design. A horizontal line across the dash gives the RAV4 a calmness that’s brightened up by metallic trim around the vents and the shift lever. Spendy versions can wear synthetic leather and contrast-color stitching, even a big 9.0-inch touchscreen, but the look remains the same: thoughtful and restrained, without being dull.
The RAV4’s adventurous shape trims back some utility. Cargo fares well in the latest RAV4. It sports plenty of small bins and shelves for stuff like smartphones and water bottles. The back seat folds down, too, which boosts its 31 cubic feet of cargo space to about 63 cubic feet since the Primes lose about 6 cubic feet to bigger battery packs. The cargo floor sits at a good height for loading, and many models have or offer a power tailgate.
The optional sunroof cuts into what’s already slim head room for 6-footers, although at 6’1” yours truly fits just barely. The driving position suits many body types, though, and Toyota adds heating and synthetic leather upholstery to some versions. In back, the RAV4’s 37 inches of leg room fit tall passengers fine, but head room still checks in on the slim side. Shoulder space comes at a premium: A third passenger can elbow their way into the middle seat, but no one will want to ride that way for long.
The RAV4 offers decent value but the Prime makes us splurge. We highly recommend the RAV4 Prime with its plug-in 302-hp drivetrain, but it’s really difficult to find on dealer lots and at present, comes with significant markup over its sticker price of just below $40,000. It gets a sport suspension, cosmetic add-ons, an available 9.0-inch touchscreen, an audio subwoofer, a sunroof, and synthetic leather upholstery with red accents.
With the RAV4, Toyota has stuck the veritable sweet-spot of the small SUV class. The 2022 Toyota RAV4 is a great competitor in the compact crossover class, one that the Prime just makes better. It does everything you’d want with Toyota refinement and reliability, and in Hybrid and Prime versions, great fuel economy. The 2022 Toyota RAV4 Prime is an impressive crossover, probably the best one that Toyota builds.
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