2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review

Rav4 Hybrid

Photo: L Baures

It’s Friday evening and I have an invite to go to Deadwood, South Dakota. Looking out the window and seeing my test vehicle for the week, a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, I think, yes why not. This will be the perfect opportunity to get a good feel for the car.

I decided to bring the family so all of us could test it as a family car. We packed up half the house (traveling with a 2yr old and 4yr old means leaving the house for any period of time is like packing for doomsday).

Would all of the luggage, a 6’4″ husband and 2 children fit in a ‘small’ sport utility vehicle? RAV4’s EPA class is a small SUV. The RAV4 is a traditional hybrid so does not need to be plugged in and also has a regular gasoline engine.  Click to find out more about the different types of hybrids.

Cargo space for 4 people is not a problem for a weekend trip in the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid

suv awd

A pretty big suitcase, with a diaper bag and backpack camera bag, loaded easily in the trunk with more space to spare.


It’s an SE Hybrid with AWDi, what does that mean?

First off, it’s a traditional hybrid, which means it has a regular gasoline engine with a hybrid battery that does not need to be plugged in. The hybrid battery is recharged through driving and braking. The engine is a 2.5L 4 cylinder that puts out 194 hp (18 more horsepower than the non-hybrid RAV4). SE is the trim level of the vehicle, and this one is second highest trim level available out of the RAV4 Hybrid line up.  The AWDi part means it’s All Wheel Drive with Intelligence. An AWD system that is partly powered by the hybrid battery. I can tell you that this AWD system works extremely well.

We have been driving for well over an hour now, It’s dark and a kid needed to have the absorbent padding of the derriere changed if you know what I mean. With no rest stop or nearby town in sight (remember it’s Wyoming), we decide to take the next exit and find a quiet spot.

Lo an behold, the next exit (that is not lit up) resembles a corner a rally navigator would refer to as a 2. That means, almost a hairpin! 70 mph to a hairpin exit off the highway resulted in me having to slam the brakes on (right before the corner) into almost an emergency stop to slow down enough.

Anticipating the car to squirm a little, the RAV4 did surprisingly great. It didn’t squirm, or even skid, it never lost traction at all. Not excited about the situation with my kids in my car,  but there you have it, it happened and I can tell you the car did amazing.

How different is it to drive a hybrid?


It’s really not that different at all, other than these few parts that you’ll notice. It’s super quiet on start-up. You may think to yourself after pushing the start button, “did the car actually start?”. Yes, it did, it’s just so quiet because it starts on the battery, you can’t hear the engine revving.

You’ll see the lights and dash information pop up though which will reassure you, the car is running.

You will hear or feel the transfer when the car decides to switch from battery power to engine or vice versa. It’s not blatantly obvious if you have the radio blasting, but if not, you’ll go from almost silence to the hearing the engine.

It’s not something I found too obtrusive at all, just different. Had my kids not been in the car, the silence would actually be relaxing. When placing the car under load on battery power (accelerating hard) you will hear a slight whine. It’s pretty cool actually, reminded me of how modern and ‘green’ I was being.

It’s easy to forget you’re in a hybrid. You should have seen the look on my face when I was attempting to maneuver out of a parking spot. I thought I had the gear shifter in R for reverse, I’m busy looking around for other cars and looking at the backup camera. Attempting to move, I start pushing down the accelerator pedal, and nothing.

I can’t hear the engine revving, I’m not moving, what in the world is going on? Oh yeh, that would be me in Neutral running on battery power. The car has no rev counter either, momentarily forgetting I was in a hybrid and that revving in neutral on battery power produces no sound or revs (insert *silly me hand-over-face emoji).

Advantages of the Hybrid

fuel economy RAV4 hybrid

An average of 30 mpg in an AWD SUV full of people and luggage

It only took just over half a tank of gas to make it from Casper, WY to Deadwood, SD. After some running around and visiting some tourist spots, like Bear Country, the fuel light came on at 343.4 miles. I might add that the Air Conditioning was constantly running.

Elevation was between approx 4500 ft and 5100ft.

EPA estimated fuel economy ratings for the hybrid RAV4 are;

  • 34 mpg city
  • 30 mpg highway
  • 32 mpg combined

We mainly did highway driving so it seems the EPA estimate is spot on. Notice how the city mpg is much higher. Normally you would expect this number to be the lowest of all the ratings. However, being a hybrid, in the city at slow speeds, the car can run more from the battery and not the engine, thus better fuel economy.

Better fuel economy means less money spent on gas and fewer emissions.

As we rolled through Bear country at less than 20 mph (so all on battery power), admiring the wildlife, the car wasn’t emitting the same amount of greenhouse gases as the one in front, or behind.

According to cars.com, hybrids will hold their value longer. “Autolist looked at data points for more than 95 million vehicles and Toyota models came out ahead, showing particular depreciation resistance over their gas-powered siblings”.

Looking at the Toyota website MSRP listings, there is just over a $3k difference between the SE AWD and SE Hybrid (which only comes in AWD).


All 4 of us fitted, including my 6’4″ passenger with 2 kids in the back. With the passenger seat all the way back, legs could be straightened. However, if there was a full-sized adult in the back behind my passenger and the seat had to be moved forward, the shape of the dash would be intrusive. As it was set up for us, it worked.

No one even complained about numbness on the bottom.

The SE has sport suspension tuning, which is noticeable. Handling is a lot stiffer than say a 4Runner. I was making nimble turns through the corners of the Deadwood mountain roads. I was quickly able to find the ‘sport’ mode button which allowed faster accelerator response.

My daughter did, however, spill her drink in the back. Thankfully the RAV4 Hybrid interior is a SofTex® material which is a leatherette, so, comfy and easy to clean.


If you require charging of lot’s of devices (like say, a phone and 2 tablets) make sure you bring 12v chargers. There are plenty of 12v outlets, but only one usb port. The sound system is great and yes we all did sing along to some Dis….can I say it? songs, through plugging in my smartphone and using the Pandora app.


Toyota msg

Would you like to take rest?

Yes please, RAV4, I’d like to take a rest, but I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Wyoming? The message really did make me want to stop for coffee though.

Toyota includes most of its safety features (Toyota Safety Sense™ P) as standard with every trim level, which is not something a lot of manufacturers do. Included in this car is;

  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (which works well and doesn’t grab the steering wheel out of your hands)
  • Automatic High Beams (very quick to respond)
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (Allows you to set your cruise control speed, and a distance gap. This means when you start approaching a slower moving vehicle in front when you get to the distance gap ou set, the vehicle will automatically slow down. If you are on a 2 lane highway and you decide to pass, I noticed, the RAV4 will start to regain the speed you set, right as the middle of the car passes over the line separating lanes).
  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection

An overall 5-star safety rating is awarded to the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).


If you’d like to find out more about the RAV4 Hybrid, feel free to comment below or contact us or your preferred Toyota Dealership.

Further reading;

Toyota RAV4 Sales Reach 10 Million Globally

At least 3 Toyota’s will get Apple CarPlay for 2019

Review: 2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6