As the automotive landscape continues to fill up with hybrid and all-electric vehicles, it’s no surprise that perennial stalwarts like the Toyota RAV4 have followed suit in the past couple of years. It seemed like just a decade ago, the thought of putting a hybrid powertrain into a compact crossover like the Honda CR-V or RAV4 sounded far-fetched and somewhat unnecessary. However, after spending some time in the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, I’ve realized that it makes more sense than buying the gas version of it.
Fuel economy is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s strong point
The obvious strong point of buying the hybrid version of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 is that you’ll get better fuel economy than the gas-powered version. For reference, all gas-powered RAV4s are powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 203 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque and is able to achieve up to an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
In contrast, all of the RAV4 Hybrid trim levels are powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s mated to an electric motor up front to power the front wheels and there’s also an electric motor to power the rear wheels, making it a true AWD setup. Combined, the system makes 219 hp and can achieve an EPA-estimated 41 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.
A side-by-side comparison on Fueleconomy.gov reveals that you’ll be able to get up to 580 miles on one tank of fuel in the hybrid version versus the estimated 406 miles in the gas version. And according to the site, you could save approximately save around $2,500 in fuel costs as compared to the average new car with the hybrid mode over a five-year period and only $250 with the gas model. So it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of fuel savings to be had in picking the hybrid.
The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid feels more powerful on the road
During my time spent with the RAV4 Hybrid so far, I feel like the electric power of the equation really helps when driving it. At slower, parking lot speeds, the car gets around on the electric motor only, which not only saves fuel but makes for a quiet and smooth operation. And under heavier acceleration loads, the gas engine comes online with a soft growl, but ultimately, the two powerplants work well in unison.
In contrast, when I drove the RAV4 TRD Off-Road, I wasn’t too impressed with the engine’s power output in a real-world setting. It was smooth in its operation, but considering I’m at a mile-high elevation, I felt like it really needed more power. Of course, the four-cylinder engine will work well for at least 98% of the consumers that buy the RAV4, but if you’re looking to head toward a higher elevation, or at least climb up some steep roads, the hybrid version feels like the better way to go.
The hybrid version of the RAV4 makes a good value proposition
Lastly, Toyota just released an XSE trim level for the RAV4 Hybrid this year, which means that there are currently five different hybrid trims levels now to fit almost anyone’s budget. In case you’re wondering, the XSE trim adds black wheels and a tighter suspension in case you want a sportier feel to your hybrid SUV.
Every Toyota RAV4 Hybrid trim level costs $2,500 more than its gas-only counterpart, which might sound like a steep increase, but take into consideration that you’re also getting an all-wheel-drivetrain. Couple that with the fuel costs savings, and the RAV4 Hybrid makes a much better value proposition.