Compact SUVs are a dime a dozen nowadays, crowding freeways, byways, and parking lots everywhere. Some are great, and others miss the mark by miles. With so many options to choose from, many potential buyers can find themselves overwhelmed quite quickly. While this is hardly an issue in any capacity, it can be difficult to sift the good from the bad sometimes. If you’ve ever been into a Toyota dealership near you, you may have noticed a particular compact SUV that has been on the road since the mid-90s, the Toyota RAV4. The Toyota RAV4 has always exuded a kind of rugged modernity that has attracted all sorts of drivers, and in many ways, continues to be a highlight within the compact SUV space.
With the recent release of the 2020 model we’re left asking ourselves the same questions, however, does this compact SUV offer a worthwhile experience behind the wheel, and should drivers put it on their radar. In this blog post, we’ll answer these tough questions, and hopefully, help you decide whether you should head down to a Toyota dealership and take one of these SUVs out for a test drive.
An Evolving Sense of Style
Go to a used dealership and hunt for the early versions of the Toyota RAV4, you’ll likely notice a stark change from then to now. What existed then was very indicative of mid to late 90s car design which included a boxy chassis, and a kind of buggy-like appearance. If you check out a modern 2020 model, you’ll notice right away that the boxy styling has been done away with entirely.
The Toyota RAV4 of today is a both sleek, but still rugged crossover, that promises long excursions in the outdoors and plenty of modern onboard technology. The 2020 Toyota RAV4 blends both previous designs and the automotive styling trends of the here and now. Unfortunately, it isn’t a style that is unique to the road, no matter how charming that front face can be. Even though Toyota did a superb job in designing their flagship SUV, don’t expect it to stand out in a crowded parking lot.
On the subject of similarity, the trim model spread for the 2020 Toyota RAV4 is quite diverse. When you visit a Toyota dealership, you’ll have the choice of the LE, XLE, Adventure, TRD Off-Road, and Limited trim levels. There is also a Hybrid variety of the Toyota RAV4, which is offered in the LE, XLE, XSE, and Limited trim levels. At a starting price of $25,850, the Toyota RAV4 offers quite a lot of value in a well-designed package and can be upgraded and turned into a true off-road champion, competing with the likes of Jeep and Chevy.
While style, trim diversity, and cost all play a huge role in the overall value of the 2020 Toyota RAV4, it certainly isn’t the only thing that this Toyota SUV has going for it.
Power Designed and Built By Toyota
There is a right way to do an SUV, and there is a wrong way. Many automakers design their compact SUVs with a diverse powertrain lineup, and while options are never a bad thing, sometimes these engines don’t quite live up to expectation. Often, drivers can be left disappointed and would have rather settled for a single strong powertrain instead of a handful of rather mediocre ones.
The Toyota RAV4 attempts to do just that, by offering the reasonably powered 2.5-liter inline-4 engine across all trim options. While we would have liked it if Toyota offered something a little beefier, like a turbocharged option, what’s there isn’t bad and deserves some focused appreciation. The 2020 Toyota RAV4’s single-engine, pumps out 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft worth of torque. This base engine is also supported by an 8-speed automatic drivetrain, which does short work of climbing mountains and venturing into rugged terrain.
Speaking of ‘venturing into rugged terrain,’ the 2020 Toyota RAV4 can be purchased with all-wheel-drivetrain, making it the most off-road capable Toyota yet. While front-wheel-drive is standard, the small bump in price is a small price to pay for the ability to drive on both pavement and dirt interchangeably.
So, how does the RAV4 fair as an off-roader? Well, it won’t be overtaking a Jeep Wrangler any time soon, but it does a solid job of keeping up with other SUVs that can be built for off-road driving. The all-wheel drivetrain comes with a strong four-wheel independent suspension that makes the feeling of even rigorous trails far smoother than they would have been otherwise.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid does a decent job of adding to the powertrain options, providing the same level of power in an engine that is much better about consuming fuel. The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid combines a 2.5-liter inline-4 gas-powered engine and a nickel-metal hydride battery to make for about 219 horsepower. The use of both electric and gasoline lends for far greater torque but also bumps fuel efficiency to a remarkable 39 mpg combined.
So, as you can tell, the performance levels offered in the 2020 Toyota RAV4 is fairly comprehensive; however, they aren’t the only highlights of this incredible SUV.
The Inside of the 2020 Toyota RAV4
As a compact SUV, we expected the Toyota RAV4 to offer some room, but not the level of room that the vehicle actually offers. Amidst soft-touch plastics and lush cloth upholstery, drivers will find about 37 cubic feet of cargo space in the rear, regardless of what model you opt for. That number can be bumped up to 69 cubic feet of cargo space when the rear seats are folded too. Thirty-seven inches of rear legroom does a decent job at providing wiggle room for rear passengers, and the interior amenities can be upgraded to sport synthetic leather.
No matter what trim model that you decide to go with, you’ll get some serious technology packed inside. A 7.0-inch touchscreen, a single USB port, and a convenient split-folding rear seat make for a pretty solid base package. That’s not to mention the wide variety of active safety features that come in base models, which include automatic emergency braking, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams, a combination that you’d have to pay a premium price for in competitor models.
Upgrade the 2020 Toyota RAV4, and you’ll find synthetic leather upholstery, a premium audio system, a sprawling digital instrument cluster, dual-zone climate control, roof rails, and a marginally larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen. Although considering what’s offered at standard models, you can get a pretty solid driving experience even at an entry-level price.
What We Think of the 2020 Toyota RAV4
If you’re looking for some serious value, packed into an SUV that has a charming appearance, and plenty of onboard technology, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 is certainly an excellent choice. Few compact SUVs deliver quite what the Toyota RAV4 does, at least at the low entry price that Toyota asks for. While the Toyota RAV4 could use some reimagining stylistically to stand out from the universally similar lineup of 2020 SUVs, we can’t complain about what’s already there and urge those interested in checking it out for themselves.