The Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Honda CR-V are to passenger vehicles what the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and RAM 1500 are to trucks: they dominate the market. Last year was huge for compact crossovers, and as more buyers flock to crossovers, that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon. The 2018 Toyota RAV4 faces some stiff competition, though, from CUVs like the CR-V and Rogue as well as the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5.
Of course, Toyota is credited with popularizing this segment when it first introduced the RAV4 globally in 1994 creating an SUV-like feel with car-like ride and fuel economy. The RAV4 hit the U.S. market in 1996, and it has been selling like crazy ever since. In fact, last year was the RAV4’s best sales year ever with 407,594 units sold making it the best-selling non-truck last year – representing a 15.7-percent sales increase over 2016. Not bad for a crossover nearing the end of its life cycle.
We expect to see the all-new RAV4 by the end of the year, but to see how the current model stands up to the growing competition, we spent a week in the loaded 2018 Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD.
2018 Toyota RAV4 Exterior
For starters, even though the current RAV4 was launched for the 2013 model year, the styling has aged remarkably well thanks to a minor update for 2016. The angular edges, aggressive front fascia and short overhangs gives the 2018 Toyota RAV4 an attractive look without getting too crazy, like the Jeep Cherokee. The Platinum trim level looks even better with its monochromatic effect that features body-color fender arches, lower rocker panels and fascia – other RAV4 models have grey accents. With standard LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and LED taillights, the Platinum even looks great at night, but by day, this tester’s optional Blizzard Pearl ($395) paint job sparkled in the sun light.
2018 Toyota RAV4 Interior
Fitting in with other Toyota trucks, crossovers and SUVs, the interior of the 2018 Toyota RAV4 has a utilitarian design with an uncluttered layout and lots of storage – including a nifty cubby just above the glove box and up to 73.4 cubic feet of cargo space. There is plenty of headroom and legroom for five adult passengers, which still leaves 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space in the back. Bottom line is that the RAV4 offers up enough interior space that doesn’t feel as small as you’d expect from a compact crossover. The front seats are comfortable on long trips, and all of the dials and controls are easy to reach for the driver with the exception of the Eco and Sport drive mode buttons and the heated seat buttons – tucked deep under the center stack near the power outlets and USB port.
The Platinum trim level spruces the cabin up with luxurious touches including the leather seats, heated front seats and the stitched leather on the instrument panel. Even the color and trim combinations give an upscale appearance with stylish black (Charcoal) and tan (Ash) interior, satin faux metallic accents and Platinum-exclusive marble pattern trim on the door panels and center console. This trim level also adds heated steering wheel, Bird’s Eye View Camera, Smart Key System (on all doors and liftgate!), push-button start, ambient cabin lighting, “Platinum” door sills and floor mats and the 11-speaker Entune Premium JBL Audio with Integrated Navigation and App Suite. Toyota’s infotainment system looks dated, but at least it’s easy to operate. The biggest downfall of this system is that neither Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are available.
2018 Toyota RAV4 Powertrain
Of the few areas where the 2018 Toyota RAV4 shows its age, the engine is probably the one that stands out the most. This isn’t a knock against the 2.5-liter inline-four engine or its 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque, but it just doesn’t feel as smooth, peppy or efficient as newer CUVs with turbo, direct-injected engines and more advanced transmissions. Thankfully, Toyota still uses a conventional six-speed automatic giving it smoother acceleration than the CR-V and Rogue. The RAV4 AWD has official EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway**, which beats the new Tiguan but misses the mark compared to key rivals like the Rogue, CR-V and CX-5.
On the road, it is easy to see why the RAV4 is universally loved with a ride that is smooth and quiet. The engine offers Eco and Sport modes, but choosing the Eco mode makes the engine feel even more anemic while the Sport mode just makes the engine noisier. This tester was equipped with the Dynamic Torque Control AWD system that can send up to 50 percent of the engine torque to the rear wheels automatically. One of the best parts of this system is the AWD Lock button, which allows the driver to manually engage the rear axle sending that 50 percent power to the rear wheels at speeds under 25 mph. During a heavy winter storm that brought snow and ice to the South, I was able to try out the RAV4’s AWD system, and while it handled the slick conditions just fine unprompted, selecting the AWD Lock resulted in less off-the-line wheel slip.
2018 Toyota RAV4 Safety
Like other recent Toyota products, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 adds Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) to its list of standard safety features. This bundle of driver assist features includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist function, Automatic High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Toyota’s Star Safety System is also standard with Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control. Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake‐force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology. Adding to the RAV4’s safety technology, the Platinum trim level brings Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. With all these features, the five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration isn’t surprising.
2018 Toyota RAV4 Overall
Over the years, the compact CUV market has exploded with rivals from just about every automaker, and the 2018 Toyota RAV4 remains one of the best options for three reasons: it’s affordable, practical and has a 22-year track record for being reliable. And in this segment, that’s a winning trifecta! The 2018 Toyota RAV4 is priced starting at $24,510*, but if you want to go all in, the Platinum starts at $36,250*. Add in a few options including the premium paint job, and you’re looking at an as-tested price of $38,125. While that is stepping well into the mid-size price realm, the RAV4 Platinum AWD is a great vehicle for families looking for a safe, well-equipped and care-free vehicle.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Toyota dealership and test drive the 2018 Toyota RAV4 today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.