2022 Toyota RAV4 Review: Popular for Good Reason

For those who just want a relatively affordable, reliable transportation device for active, modern life, the 2022 RAV4 is as solid a choice as it’s always been.

byChris TsuiJun 17, 2022 11:00 AM
2022 Toyota RAV4 front 3/4 view.
Share

Reading a review of the 2022 Toyota RAV4 is like reading a review of a new iPhone. They’re both products that have been expertly crafted to be palatable and easy to use for most people, are immensely popular for that very reason, and if we’re honest, you already pretty much know what you’re getting when you cop a new one. 

I’m still glad you’re here, though. A new car, no matter what it is, is a hefty investment, and it’s definitely your responsibility to make sure what you’re getting is actually what you want and something that fits your needs. 

Chris Tsui

And if you’re a regular-ass person who wants a car that’s easy to drive, easy to live with, reasonably spacious, solidly built, and higher-riding than a sedan (whether it be for the sake of easier ingress and egress or that one time a year you go skiing), the Toyota RAV4 is—shocker—a decent, solid choice.

2022 Toyota RAV4 Specs

  • Base price (Limited AWD as tested): $38,090 ($40,555)
  • Powertrain: 2.5-liter inline-four | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 203 @ 6,600 rpm
  • Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 3,640 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Towing capacity: 1,500 pounds
  • Cargo volume: 37.5 cubic feet (69.8 cubic feet with second-row folded)
  • EPA fuel economy: 25 mpg city | 33 highway | 28 combined 
  • Quick take: A perfectly fine vehicle for everyday life. 
  • Score: 8/10

The Basics

The RAV4, if you’re just waking up from a 30-year coma, is Toyota’s compact crossover. Seating five with a reasonably sized second row, it slots underneath the three-row Highlander and above subcompacts such as the C-HR and the brand’s new Corolla Cross. It’s similar in size to the Toyota Venza, but because the Venza is hybrid-only and leans a bit more toward luxury, the more rugged-looking RAV4 can afford to cost a few grand less. 

At this point, you know what a Toyota freakin’ RAV4 looks like. I know what a Toyota RAV4 looks like. It blends in, and if you get one, let’s be frank, nobody will be looking at you. If I had to take a good hard look at its exterior design, however, (and I will because it is my job) I’d say that the current-gen RAV4 looks decidedly not bad. I quite enjoy the chiseled-ness of its design, while the shiny 19-inch wheels and chrome door handles that come on this Limited trim are nice, luxurious touches. They say you work hard and play hard in a humbly suburban, @middleclassfancy kind of way. Headlights on trims XLE and above are new for 2022.

It’s a similar story on the inside, too. Nothing all that special, but it’s a decent-looking, utilitarian space. Chunky, rubberized climate knobs give off a rugged vibe, and the brightwork—particularly on the shifter—and dash stitching, which appears to be made of actual thread, keep it from appearing too basic. The 2022 model year updates include a locking glovebox, LED interior lamps, illuminated interior switches for trims XLE and above, as well as an eight-way powered passenger seat for the Limited.

Chris Tsui

Under the hood, all RAV4s use a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, but buyers can choose whether they’d like an electric motor to go with it. RAV4 Hybrids make a combined 219 horsepower with electric all-wheel drive while the gas-only versions, like the one tested, make do with 203 horses and can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. An eight-speed automatic transmission connects the engine to the wheels in gas RAV4s while the Hybrid uses a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

Toyota also makes a plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime that gets 94 mpge and can beat a GR86 sports car to 60 mph, but good luck getting your hands on one of those. 

Driving the Toyota RAV4

Toyota has come a long way in terms of making its everyday offerings more fun to drive than they used to be, but likely in the interest of not alienating its vast, core audience, the RAV4 is still first and foremost a very easy, unfussy, and comfortable commuter. Steering is fairly responsive and has an OK amount of heft—that’s to say it isn’t a complete wet noodle—but it’s still far from sporty. That is perfectly fine and probably what you want if you’re looking for a vehicle like this. Its brakes are comfortably progressive, and it moves through bends obediently. 

Chris Tsui
Chris Tsui

Calibrated for everyday comfort, the RAV4 rides fairly well, too. You can still feel and hear bumps as it’s not a complete magic carpet ride, but uncomfortable vertical movements are rare in Toyota’s breadwinner compact crossover. Outside sound isolation isn’t quite Lexus-grade, but the decibel level isn’t bad either, letting in an acceptable level of unwanted sound for this segment. The RAV4 is reasonably easy to see out of, too, with A-pillars that aren’t as chunky as the ones in some other cars. Further aiding visibility is blind-spot monitoring (optional on base LE, standard on all other trims) and a digital rearview mirror (optional on XLE Premium, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and the Hybrid XSE). 

That 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine isn’t winning many races (nor did it help secure that gap between an ending lane and one particularly unyielding BMW driver), but it is mostly adequate for friendly, everyday commuter duties. In terms of physical power delivery, it’s reasonably smooth, but the sound it makes is, to my ear, straight-up unpleasant. As an automotive journalist and enthusiast who gets to drive an unusually large number of fun performance vehicles, it’s easy to fall into the echo chamber of sonorous V8s and romanticize internal combustion. 

Getting back into something like the RAV4, I’m reminded of exactly why most regular folks are more than ready to move on from burning fossil fuels to get around. On more than one occasion during this test, I found my ears (and fuel expense account) actively regretting not opting for the RAV4 Hybrid that can crawl around at low speeds on electricity alone. I suspect I’d feel very much the same if I were an actual owner.

Chris Tsui

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard on all RAV4 trim levels and includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist. Radar Cruise works fairly well, but that Steering Assist is truly an assist and isn’t able to negotiate highway curves with your hands off the wheel. This tech is a step behind a lot of Toyota’s competitors such as Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist, Honda Sensing, and Nissan’s ProPilot. Those hands-on systems are able to carve through highway bends by themselves. 

Primitive driver-assist system and jarringly unmusical engine noises aside, the RAV4 is overall a far cry from the actively boring Toyotas of the past but still provides a staunchly middle-of-the-road and simple drive.

Chris Tsui

The Highs and Lows

Look out your window or visit any parking lot in the U.S. and you’ll probably see at least one or very likely multiple Toyota RAV4s. The RAV4 is everywhere and for good reason: It’s just comfortable. That’s not just in the cushy-ride, soft-seats sense either. It’s easy to see out of, the rear row is roomy, the cargo area is usably big, the controls aren’t confusing, and it isn’t intimidating to drive. Is it the most exciting machine out there? No, but the compact Toyota crossover fits modern life extremely well. 

One user-experience highlight I’d like to shout out is the heated steering wheel button that’s located near the left knee. It seemed kind of hidden and out of the way at first but this is actually OK. It happens to be one of those switches that stays on and physically pushed in even after you’ve turned off the car. Turn it on once at the beginning of winter, and your steering wheel is always heated. No need to touch it again until summer. 

The rear seats fold down very easily in a 60/40 split, giving way to almost 70 cubic feet of cargo room. And Toyota has equipped this crossover with a full-size spare tire instead of making you make do with a sealant and inflator kit. 

As for things that could be improved, the infotainment and gauge screens are slightly cloudier looking and have a lower resolution than the ones in most of the competition. The heated steering wheel button may be smartly implemented, but the actual function only heats the sides of the steering wheel and not the top or bottom. And I fully recognize this as a first-world problem, but the pullable trunk cover that protects your belongings from prying eyes does not have a handle or a hole to put your hand through. You kind of just grab onto it wantonly like a barbarian. I know—it’s tough out here. 

Toyota RAV4 Features, Options, and Competition

In base LE form, the Toyota RAV4 starts at $28,190. That car comes with the same 2.5-liter engine as this top model, along with front-wheel drive, keyless entry, fabric seats, 17-inch steelies with hubcaps, power windows with auto up/down for all four, three USB ports, and a seven-inch touchscreen. Spring for the Limited AWD version—which starts at $38,090—and Toyota throws in shiny 19-inch alloys, LED fog lights, a darker front grille, black roof rails, a seven-inch screen in the gauge cluster, a nine-inch infotainment system, heated and ventilated SofTex seats, five USB ports, and an interior with silver door handles and more leather and stitching throughout. The RAV4 tested is a Canadian-market car, and the options packages are a bit different. There aren’t any options packages for the Limited; it comes mostly loaded save for the U.S.-available panoramic roof, which doesn’t seem to be available at all in Canada. By my research, the closest RAV4 you can get to this one in the U.S. (adding the Advanced Tech package, Weather package, and the 11-speaker JBL audio system) would cost $42,095. Per Toyota Canada’s price sheet, this tester costs $45,125 Canadian.

Chris Tsui
Chris Tsui

Direct competitors include the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5 (or the new, more rugged CX-50), Volkswagen Tiguan, and Subaru Forester. Having driven the Honda and the Subaru, the RAV4 is the most engaging to drive and the one I’d pick out of the three—although those who simply don’t care about that sort of thing might prefer the Honda for its seemingly larger interior and doors that open really wide or the Subaru for its greenhouse-like visibility and standard AWD. Those looking for a decidedly swankier interpretation of the compact, lifted family hauler should look into either of Mazda’s offerings. Also worth noting is that Honda will soon be coming out with an all-new 2023 CR-V, so it might be worth waiting to see how that all pans out. 

Sustainability

There’s a button beside the shifter that puts the RAV4 into Eco mode and dulls the throttle, but this car does not feature an automatic stop-start system. According to the EPA, the Limited AWD RAV4 averages 25 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway, and 28 combined. Compared to its competitors from Honda, Nissan, and Subaru, it ranks at the bottom for fuel economy, but the difference isn’t huge, especially considering the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue use smaller 1.5-liter turbo engines. Par for the passenger-car course, regular 87 octane fuel is all that’s required. 

Environmental Protection Agency
Chris Tsui

True green-conscious RAV4 buyers should absolutely opt for either the Hybrid or the plug-in Prime, if possible. The former is rated for 41 mpg in the city, 38 on the highway, and 40 combined while the latter gets 94 MPGe, assuming you can maximize the use of those electric motors. 

Value and Verdict

With the RAV4 starting at a little more than $28,000 and this top Limited AWD going for around $40,000 depending on options, it’s priced comparably to most of its competitors. 

Chris Tsui

The Toyota RAV4 is pretty much the same as it’s always been—safe, solid, agreeable, and reliable—all of the qualities that made it such a popular choice over the years. This current edition exhibits a slightly rugged aesthetic with slightly hefty steering and a slightly jiggly ride to give drivers a small taste of off-roadiness without actually sacrificing anything in the daily driving department. It looks fairly nice and is even (by mainstream crossover standards) relatively enjoyable to drive. One recommendation, though? Get yourself the Hybrid if you can. 

Got a tip or question for the author about the RAV4? You can reach him here: chris.tsui@thedrive.com.