Hybrids & Electrics

The 2021 RAV4 Prime Has Left Some People Conflicted

It only makes sense that the Toyota RAV4 family keeps growing. The latest addition to the current dynasty is the 2021 RAV4 Prime. This new Toyota has garnered attention for its spunkiness and efficiency. But at the same time, it’s left some reviewers conflicted. 

Performance is enough reason to get excited about the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime 

A red 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime parked on the top of a parking deck.
2021 RAV4 Prime | Toyota

The RAV4 Prime shares similarities with the regular hybrid model. The Prime lineup features a plug-in hybrid powertrain that places a greater emphasis on performance. The new powertrain has the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that the gas-powered RAV4 has, plus an electric motor. Together, these two sources combine 302-hp. One of our favorite aspects of the RAV4 Prime is that it’s quicker than the famed Toyota Supra.

As with other Toyota hybrids, the RAV4 Prime comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). What makes it more attractive is that it’s standard with all-wheel drive. It’s also eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit. And as  Kelley Blue Book highlighted, the RAV4 Prime’s pure electric range of 42 miles is the most exciting thing about it. However, KBB said they got 46 miles out of a full charge without the engine kicking in. 

“The electric-assist power steering feels natural, and Toyota has figured out the interplay between regenerative braking and hydraulic-assist stopping power to provide a balanced and linear feel when you depress the brake pedal. There’s a nice balance between the RAV4’s operation in both pure electric and hybrid mode that speaks well to Toyota’s commitment to refinement.”

Kelley Blue Book (2020)

Where the new RAV4 Prime model has lost some folks 

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Like we just mentioned, power and quickness are highlights of the RAV4 Prime. However, reviewers like KBB have been disappointed with the model’s lack of off-road prowess. Some enthusiasts have also called out other disappointing aspects. For instance, the RAV4 Prime can feel extra jerky on bumpy roads, and its steering is vague. 

Toyota RAV4 Prime driving through tunnel
The 2021 RAV4 Prime in action | Toyota

Similarly, there are a few trade-offs on the inside of the RAV4 Prime. On a positive note, its interior is much quieter than the gas version. The RAV4 Prime also comes with synthetic leather upholstery, but some might wish for genuine leather, which isn’t an option. Reviewers at KBB and Edmunds have also griped about the RAV4 Prime’s in-car alerts.

The RAV4 Prime makes a bothersome warning sound as you back up. Aside from the quirky driver assistance technologies, the infotainment system is also less than ideal. TorqueNews, U.S. News, and Car and Driver are among the reviewers who feel the Prime’s infotainment display could use some updating. The RAV4 Prime comes with an 8-inch touchscreen and smartphone integration. It’s not the size that’s the problem; it’s the graphics. The picture looks outdated, which is disappointing for a brand-new car in 2021. 

Yay or nay?

A blue 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime facing away while parked in the middle of a city.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime on display | Photo via Toyota

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The RAV4 Prime does have a few flaws, but they don’t have to be dealbreakers. Consumer Reports already recommends this new Toyota especially and it offers many advanced safety features. It’s also a worthy alternative to the Tesla Model Y. The starting price for the 2021 RAV4 Prime is $38,100.