Crossover & Midsize

2020 or 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: Which Should You Buy?

The RAV4 is already one of Toyota’s most successful models, topping every other non-truck vehicle‘s sales in 2020. Despite its popularity, the RAV4 has some flaws, like a noisy engine and an uninspiring ride. However, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, released for the 2016 model year, offers a fresh powertrain to RAV4 fans.

It’s more powerful and efficient, especially the new-for-2021 Prime plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) version. Are there any other changes that make the 2021 RAV4 Hybrid a better buy than the 2020 model?

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The standard Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s powertrain carries over unchanged for 2021. Two electric motors and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine create 219 hp, paired with all-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission, U.S. News reports. It accelerates quickly from a complete stop and keeps its momentum throughout the drive. The CVT is surprisingly quiet and provides timely shifts. 

Like the regular model, the RAV4 Hybrid’s ride is tuned for comfort rather than sportiness. The RAV4 XSE is an exception thanks to its performance suspension. All RAV4 Hybrid models get about the same great gas mileage, 41/38 mpg city/highway.

The Toyota RAV4 Prime has one electric motor attached to its four-cylinder engine, but it makes an impressive 302 hp. Like the regular RAV4 Hybrid, its engine is paired with a CVT, and AWD is standard equipment. The RAV4 Prime is speedy, bolting from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.6 seconds, Car and Driver reports.

By comparison, the RAV4 Hybrid reaches 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. This additional speed doesn’t really add much to its handling. Still, the RAV4 Prime comes with the benefit of an electric battery pack. 

This supplies the RAV4 Prime with 42 miles of electric range on a single charge. Each Prime also comes with a standard 3.3-kW onboard charger or an optional 6.6-kW charger. With the bigger charger and a 240-volt outlet, it takes only 2.5 hours to recharge the battery.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is still fresh

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While both the 2020 and 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid have the same powertrain, more critics found road noise to be an issue in this year’s model. The 2020 RAV4 Hybrid appears to have a more serene ride. However, some critics thought the front passenger seat on this year’s model is mounted too high.

All RAV4 Hybrid models have the same interior quality as the non-hybrid version. It’s aesthetically pleasing and constructed of premium soft-touch materials. Both rows are spacious enough for adult passengers. Cargo room is somewhat compromised on the RAV4 Prime thanks to the battery pack in the rear.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has a long list of standard tech and safety features. Some critics think that the infotainment screen’s graphics need an update, but the interface is still user-friendly.

Which model year is better?

Without considering the Toyota RAV Prime PHEV, differences between the 2020 and 2021 RAV4 Hybrid models are minimal. The 2021 version doesn’t have fog lights, but they’re optional on the 2020 model. Also, cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring were added as optional safety features for 2021. And you can get heated mirrors and integrated turn signal mirrors on the 2021 model only.

The 2020 model is slightly less expensive: $28,350, compared to $28,500. More package options added to the 2021 RAV4 Hybrid Limited elevate the price. And the Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV starts at $38,100.

Overall, we recommend the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid if you want to save a bit of money thanks to manufacturer and dealer incentives to move last year’s models. Yes, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has more available features, but most drivers won’t miss them. The 2021 RAV4 Prime PHEV is a pricier alternative that offers more speed and efficiency.