The Toyota RAV4 has consistently been on the best-selling charts in Canada, ranking first in crossovers in both 2019 and 2020 while being the third best-selling car in overall sales. Quite impressive. But the competition has stepped up its game this year. What about the RAV4?
What’s New in the 2021 Toyota RAV4?
The Toyota RAV4 has been as popular among reviewers as among consumers, enabling it to rack up serious sales figures and awards. Can the latest iteration of the RAV4 maintain the success of its predecessors?
We think so. Not a lot has changed. But if you liked last year’s RAV4, you’ll like this one even more.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 does have some updates:
- A new XLE Premium trim level for the RAV4 Hybrid.
- A new front stainless steel front skid plate for the RAV4 TRD Off-Road model.
- A new RAV4 Prime model (reviewed separately).
- A new colour scheme: Blizzard Pearl (replacing Super White).
The limited nature of the changes make sense, though. Toyota may be wondering how much you can or should change a car that is already performing tremendously well. It may also be wondering how much should you change a car that was refreshed very recently; Toyota launched the fifth-generation RAV4 only two years ago. The answer to both questions is apparently “not much.” Which is fine with us, because the package we’re getting is well-rounded and refined.
What Is Under the Hood of the 2021 Toyota RAV4?
The 2021 RAV4 comes with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The standard transmission is front-wheel drive only, but buyers have the option of getting an all-wheel-drive transmission on some of the higher trims.
The RAV4 drives surprisingly well, especially considering its size. A compact SUV that sits higher than most, it is certainly a tad larger than some of its competitors. But this doesn’t make it sluggish. In fact, the engine is fantastic. Although just a compact SUV engine, it revs up to 6,750 revolutions per minute (with a peak power of 6,600 rpm). And it does all this while achieving 40 percent thermal efficiency, a reminder that this is the same company that built the godly Lexus LFA.
Many competitors are starting to come with plug-in hybrid drivetrains. If that’s something you’re interested in, you will be happy to know that Toyota has launched a 2021 plug-in hybrid model of the RAV4 called the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime that produces 302 horsepower and is very engaging to drive.
The RAV4 also comes in a standard hybrid model with 219 horsepower called the RAV4 Hybrid.
On the asphalt, then, the RAV4 is a very capable vehicle. What about off the road? We’re happy to report that the RAV4 is capable of light off-roading (not every crossover is), with eight inches of ground clearance. But if you’re going off the beaten path with any frequency, upgrading to the Adventure or the TRD Off-Road would be a good idea. These include additional features like:
- 3,500-pound towing capacity.
- A torque-vectoring rear axle.
- Suspension tuned for better off-roading.
- Falken Wildpeak A/T Trail all-terrain tires (for the TRD trim).
The standard gasoline model offers 30 miles per gallon combined, the standard hybrid offers 40 miles per gallon combined, and the RAV4 Prime adds another 42 miles of electric-only range to the 40 miles per gallon.
What Is the Interior of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Like?
Both the interior and the exterior changes a bit from trim to trim. We think that the XLE Premium is the best value for your money. We can summarize the interior of the 2021 Toyota RAV4 in one phrase: nice and useful.
When you first get into 2021 RAV4 XLE Premium, one of the first things you notice is the seven-inch or eight-inch infotainment touchscreen above the centre air vents and that the touchscreen comes with physical buttons. The comfortable seats are covered in synthetic leather with contrast stitching. The steering wheel, although nothing special, does come wrapped in synthetic leather, and so do parts of the doors, dashboard, and centre console—not a lot of plastic, and even less hard-touch plastic. Like many other cars in this segment, the main instrument cluster uses both analog dials and a digital screen. Another highlight of the 2021 RAV4 cockpit is the automatic seat adjustments with lumbar support.
The RAV4 has an upright roof and not a coupe-style back. We’re really glad about this, because the tall roof gives rear passengers a lot of headroom and cargo space. If you want even more space, you can bring down the rear seats in a standard 60/40 split. There are also many small storage bins and compartments throughout the car that will make your life on the road easier, especially during long trips.
All in all, the interior of the RAV4 is a very pleasant place to be in.
What Technology Does the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Offer?
Inside the seven-inch infotainment touchscreen (which can be specced to an eight-inch screen), you get plug-and-play compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and SiriusXM, a compatibility that is standard in all trims.
The RAV4 Prime comes with many additional features, including a nine-inch touchscreen and heads-up display (HUD).
Varying with trim, the RAV4 has plenty of driver assist and safety features: lane assist, blind-spot monitoring, rearview parking assist (with a 360-degree view), keyless entry, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. The 2021 model has done extremely well on crash tests, getting a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and barely missing out on being the Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Our Take On The 2021 Toyota RAV4
We really like the 2021 Toyota RAV4, inside and the out. The sharp back gives it a modern appearance, and the front makes it look like a rugged SUV. But the model has more than looks. With the upgrades in the 2021 model, the RAV4 is even more capable on rough roads. But one of the best reasons to own the RAV4 is the reliability we’ve come to expect from Toyota
The RAV4 is dependable, very good-looking, and competitively priced. If you’re in the market for a modern compact SUV, it should be on your short list.