Reintroduced in 2016 following a 13-year hiatus, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers buyers a roomy interior, smooth ride, a slew of active safety features, and better fuel economy and acceleration than its gasoline-only sibling. But it also disappoints with a quirky design, a pedestrian interior, and mundane handling.

Best Value

Available in four all-wheel-drive trim levels, pricing for the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid begins at $28,430 for an LE and finishes up at $37,000 for a Limited model with the available Advanced Technology Package with options.

With a single engine and transmission choice, the RAV4 Hybrid comes with a range of standard advanced safety features (a rearview camera, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams), and an equipment list that includes the usual power bits plus dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, keyless push-button start, and privacy glass.

The choice comes down to equipment level. Although it isn't any sportier, we'd gravitate to the SE with easier-to-clean leatherette seats, brighter and more efficient LED headlights and taillights, a moonroof, a height-adjustable power liftgate, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless push-button start, and an upgraded audio and rearview camera system with navigation, Siri Eyes Free, satellite radio, and HD traffic and weather. Here's how we'd build it:

  • Model: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE
  • Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, 50-kw electric motor
  • Output: 194 hp / 206 lb-ft (hybrid system net)
  • Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • MPG: 34 City / 30 Hwy
  • Options: None
  • Base Price: $33,480 (including a $1,045 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $33,480

Performance

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Although an 8.1-second zero to 60 time is one second quicker than the gasoline-only version, the RAV4 Hybrid is best at smooth, relaxed cruising. A comfortable everyday vehicle, it easily manages bumps and road irregularities, is quiet, and little wind and road noise makes its way into the cabin. With a high-tech two-motor setup that includes a winter-friendly 67-horsepower motor that powers the rear wheels, it can accelerate – albeit gingerly - to 20 miles per hour on electric power alone.

Hardly fast, it lacks the usable low-end torque found in the available turbocharged entries from Honda, Subaru, and Ford. When pressed, the 2.5-liter four-pot emits a tortured howl. In addition, the comfortable ride comes at the expense of handling prowess and, compared to the Mazda CX-5, the RAV4 Hybrid isolates its driver much more, both through the chassis and the steering. Finally, fuel economy, with an EPA-estimated 34 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway, and 32 combined, isn't much better than many of its gasoline-only rivals.

Style

The RAV4 Hybrid's functional cabin offers solid build quality with fine materials, a logical layout, and with well-placed buttons and knobs. The front seats offer plenty of all-day driving support along with an easy to access cargo area and up to a nearly class-leading 73.4 cubic feet of space.

At the same time, the steering wheel doesn't telescope enough for taller drivers, the second row bench isn't nearly as comfortable as the seats up front, while the lack of available leather upholstery is an affront – especially on the range-topping Platinum trim, which can cost $37,000.

As for the exterior, we'd appreciate a bit more personality. The RAV4 Hybrid is neither exciting nor attractive to look at.

The Best and Worst Things

Like most of the rest of Toyota's lineup, all RAV4 Hybrid trims come standard with a best-in-class array of advanced safety technologies. At the same time, the RAV4 Hybrid's priciest trim doesn't come close to matching that of rivals from Honda, Mazda, or Ford.

Right For? Wrong For?

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

An extensive list of standard advanced active safety features is sure to attract safety-conscious buyers.

A dearth of luxury features and quirky, odd styling are sure to be turn-offs for style-conscious drivers.

The Bottom Line

A solid contender in the compact crossover class, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid adds improved fuel economy to the gasoline-only model's repertoire. At the same time, buyers looking for performance and luxury touches should check out its competitors.