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Review: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

It was January of 1996, and consumers who had longed for an SUV that didn’t take up two parking spaces finally were granted their wish.

Toyota unveiled the first compact crossover SUV. They made sure to play off the intended use of the vehicle by naming it the “Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-Wheel-Drive.”

When you crunch that mouthful down to an acronym, you wind up with the RAV4.

And for the past 20-plus years, Toyota has satisfied the segment of the population looking for a smaller, nimble crossover that’s a little easier on the bank account.

Granted, over the years the price has swelled, but it’s still reasonable. And while there are shortcomings, the RAV4 continues to satisfy the market it targeted in the first place.

The Basics

The RAV4 can be found in five different trim levels, starting with the base LE and working your way up to the Limited.

All of them are powered by a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces a smidge more than 200 horsepower. And even though the 4 in RAV4 signified all-wheel drive, each of these trims (with the exception of the Adventure model) come with front-wheel drive as the standard choice. All-wheel drive is available.

For one week I was treated to the Adventure trim level, the one that ships with AWD.

For 2019 Toyota has redesigned the crossover, making it a bit snazzier on the outside. Some have pointed out that Toyota wanted to give it a similar appearance to their truck line, and I can see that.

The only thing about the exterior I couldn’t embrace was the somewhat-gaudy two-toned paint job. But that’s simply a choice you can forego. Should, in my opinion.

The Interior

One of the positive attributes of the RAV4 is the interior space. No, it’s not massive, but considering that you’re driving a compact crossover, it’s quite good.

The materials are slightly above average, and nothing about the interior feels cheaply made. I found the seats to be comfortable, and even back seat passengers will be content with the roominess.

Buttons and knobs (Hooray for buttons and knobs!) are well-laid-out, everything easy to reach and — this is key — easy to understand.

I give top marks to the RAV4 for the storage space, too. Often the smaller SUVs will get stingy with the bins and cubbies, but not here.

The bin between the front seats is generous, and you get not one, not two, but three cubbyholes: one in front of the shifter, one to the left of the steering wheel (which I didn’t find for the first few days because I didn’t expect it), and even one for the passenger just above the glove compartment.

Technically that last one is a shelf, but it functions the same way.

Cargo space is good, but even better when you fold the rear seats, which will drop flat. That provides nearly 70 cubic feet, which is great.

Visibility is also quite good, thanks to pillars that are not obnoxiously large.

The Drive

I didn’t give the RAV4 too many knocks, but this was one of them. Even with the increase in horsepower with the redesign (it bumped up by 27 hp over last year’s model) I didn’t care for the acceleration.

It felt like it struggled, and if you’re in a hurry it can be a bit frustrating. Terrible? No. But certainly not reassuring. Once you get up to speed the worries mostly melt away.

The rest of the drive was fine. I thought the steering was about average, but braking was good, and overall handling featured the nimbleness you’d expect from a smaller crossover.

Thanks to the vehicle’s 8-speed transmission you get an overall smooth ride.

The Tech

I was in the Advantage, which comes with an upgraded 8-inch touchscreen and a few other tech goodies, like a power liftgate.

It’s a huge bonus, in my opinion, that the RAV4 doesn’t try to blow you away by overdoing the tech. As mentioned above, buttons and knobs dominate, so there’s no question or brain-delay when you have to adjust something quickly.

I appreciate the addition of Apple CarPlay to the RAV4, and it worked flawlessly. That’s not a given, by the way.

If you’re an Android user you’re out of luck at the moment. For now you’ll have to tie in with Toyota’s Entune system, which isn’t a barrel of laughs, but functional.

Driver assist aids are generous, though. Auto-emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are standard, which is nice.

You get a bevy of USB ports throughout the vehicle, one of which is a data port.

The Bottom Line

This has been a popular vehicle for Toyota, evidenced by the sale of more than 400,000 units each of the last two years.

There’s nothing in the new redesign that will bother lifelong fans, and probably enough new goodies to turn some new heads.

Mileage is a big plus for many fuel-conscious shoppers, and the Adventure model I drove pulled in a combined 28 mpg.

It’s not large, which to me is a thumbs-up, but it doesn’t drive like a small car, either. You can put the RAV4 squarely in the Goldilocks zone: It’s just right.

The Details

2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD
2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine
203 horsepower
8-speed automatic transmission
Fuel economy: 25/33/28 combined
MSRP: $32,900
As tested: $39,948

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Vehicle provided by manufacturer


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