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2021 Toyota RAV4 Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.8

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 is an engaging performer, with a strong powertrain, a balanced ride, and supple handling.

  • "The RAV4 offers good power and fuel economy, and its hybrid models serve as both performance and fuel-economy leaders." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)
  • "Regardless of which setup you choose, the RAV4 rides and steers far better than it ever has. As in other new Toyota products that use the company's new family of architectures, the RAV4 has a solid and satisfying feel, with a nicely weighted steering rack and controlled body motions. The ride is firm but compliant, and damping keeps impacts from intruding on the cabin." -- Car and Driver (2019)
  • "On the road, every iteration of the new RAV4 impressed with high levels of composure, substantiality, and refinement." -- Automobile Magazine (2019)

Engine Options, Horsepower, and Acceleration

  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: standard eight-speed automatic

The RAV4's four-cylinder engine provides plenty of power for daily use and helps get this crossover up to speed quickly. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly for the most part but may occasionally catch when downshifting. The engine may also whine loudly at highway speeds.

  • "The dutiful four-cylinder can be noisy, especially during highway-passing attempts, and the transmission on our test vehicle seemed to stumble when called upon for a downshift." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 4-cylinder engine offers the most standard horsepower in the segment, but it doesn't feel overtly quick as a result. ‘Sufficient’ sums it up best." -- Autotrader (2020)
  • "Most compact SUV buyers will be happy with the engine’s power, and the transmission does a fine job. The 8-speed is eager to upshift, optimizing fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)

MPG Estimates

The base RAV4 gets an EPA-estimated 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. All other trims with front-wheel drive get 27/35 mpg city/highway. These are great estimates for the compact SUV class. Adding all-wheel drive to the base LE trim drops those figures to 27/34 mpg city/highway. The TRD Off-Road gets 25/32 mpg, while estimates for the remaining AWD trims get between 25 and 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

We review the even more fuel-efficient Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid separately.

Handling and Braking

This Toyota has a comfortable ride, and its balanced handling allows you to take corners with confidence. However, it's no match for the athleticism of class rivals like the Mazda CX-5.

  • "The RAV4 feels solid and stable when cruising the interstate and holds its own when pitched into a twisty section of road, but it doesn't inspire the same confidence as our segment favorite, the Mazda CX-5." -- Car and Driver
  • "The new RAV4's stiffer body structure, redone suspension and improved steering result in a compact SUV that's more involving and responsive to drive. It's not as fun as the Mazda CX-5, which is great to drive, but most drivers should appreciate the new RAV4's poise around corners and improved steering feedback compared to past generations. The torque-vectoring AWD system offered on the Adventure, Limited, and TRD Off-Road trims further enhances on-road handling and also benefits off-road and poor-weather traction." -- Autotrader (2020)
  • "The new RAV4 also drives very well in other respects, displaying all the maturity and poise of other vehicles on this platform, like the new Camry. Natural-feeling steering is perfectly simple to use everywhere from city parking lots to winding coastal roads, with none of the vagueness that has afflicted some older RAV4s. The suspension settles easily after crests, dips or quick lane-change maneuvers. All told, it's a driving experience that offers a lot of confidence. Ride quality is also very good, with the chassis dispatching bumps before I feel them." -- CNET (2019)
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2021 Toyota RAV4

MSRP: $26,050 - $35,980

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