“What SUV should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would senior production editor Zach Gale drive? Keep reading for the answer, and see other editors’ picks here.
The effect was transformative, even if it didn’t happen overnight. Once my concern heightened about the negative impact humans are having on our planet, my new-car buying priorities changed. No longer was I interested in any of Mazda’s entertaining and sexy cars, the incredibly practical Subaru Forester or, really, anything else that isn’t a hybrid, plug-in, or electric. But I’m not about to buy an $80,000 Audi E-Tron for the same reason I will never buy a Rolex: I’m cheap and afraid of damaging expensive things. So if you’re frugal and trying to minimize your environmental impact in a fairly easy way, here’s why the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is the best SUV choice—for now.
I want an SUV with enough interior space so that I don’t need to apologize every time someone shoehorns themselves into the back seat behind me. This eliminates the Hyundai Kona Electric. And I still want a decent-sized cargo area, which removes the Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid from consideration. The soon-to-be-replaced Nissan Rogue Hybrid could work, but I wasn’t impressed with that crossover when I drove a 2017 model. Then there’s the Kia Niro, which feels to me more like a practical, tall hatch than a crossover. The Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid intrigues, but the closest dealerships to me are about 20 Los-Angeles miles away.
So, almost by last-player-standing logic, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid wins my fantasy dollars … if the 2020 Ford Escape hybrids and anticipated Honda CR-V Hybrid aren’t also available. First, though, here’s what the Toyota does well besides merely existing. Compared to other compact crossovers, the RAV4 Hybrid kicks their butts in overall driving range. What this means is that after a long day at work, you don’t need to stop to refuel. Maybe do it next week. Because the hybrid has the same-sized gas tank as the non-hybrid RAV4, the flagship model will go 100 or more miles longer than a Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, or non-hybrid Toyota RAV4, depending on your mix of city and highway miles.
The RAV4 Hybrid’s fuel economy of 41/38 mpg city/highway is impressive, but so is the fact that it’s quicker than the non-hybrid model. What really sells me on hybrids, though, is the way they can gamify your commute. Stop-and-go traffic suddenly becomes more interesting with hybrids. Can you beat your previous efficiency record while still keeping up with traffic? If no one is behind you, can you make it to the next stop sign without the engine turning on? That’s part of the appeal.
Another common issue with hybrids has been brake feel, but my first impression with the RAV4 Hybrid was that the brakes felt almost as good as a non-hybrid. Plus, now that Toyota offers Apple CarPlay on its vehicles, I can recommend its vehicles.
There’s no getting around it: The RAV4 isn’t as rewarding to drive as the CR-V, a MotorTrend favorite. The Toyota also lacks a couple smart features such as wide-opening rear doors and rear seats that can be folded down from the cargo area. Despite these CR-V advantages, Honda has left hybrid-crossover leadership to Toyota. I can’t buy a car that isn’t (yet) for sale in the U.S., so until the 2020 Ford Escape hybrids and maybe a Honda CR-V arrives for the 2020 model year, I’ll take a loaded 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in XSE form with blue paint and a contrasting black roof, as well as matching black and blue seats.
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