Toyota RAV4 continues to move up in class with 2016 model

The 2016 RAV4 is in the midst of a mid-cyle refreshing of its fourth generation. It has matured in styling and functionality since its “cute-ute” days of the 1990s.

2016 Toyota RAV4

Rating:Star4 Star Star Star Star

Chances are if you’re in the market for a compact crossover/SUV, at some time or another you’re going to want to check out the Toyota RAV4.

It’s the best-seller among the offerings from the Japanese automaker in the segment with more units sold than any other two Toyota crossover/SUVs combined, and though it’s not the oldest such vehicle in the Toyota family, it still has been around for over two decades. So it needs no real introduction at this point.

The RAV4 (it’s an acronym for Recreational Activity Vehicle with 4-wheel drive, though it is also availability with just front-wheel drive) moved into its fourth generation with the the 2013 model and for 2016 gets a mid-cycle refreshing in the form of tweaks to the exterior, new wheel design, and the company’s new Toyota Safety Sense system that includes pre-collision braking..

It also gets a new SE model to go with the base LE, XLE, and Limited versions. A new RAV4 with a hybrid drivetrain, first revealed at the New York Auto Show a little over a year ago, also is available for 2016. For the record, it’s the eighth vehicle with the gas-electric technology in the Toyota family.

Our test vehicle, however, came with the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine mated with a six-speed automatic transmission. It is rated at 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, which is enough power for the kind of driving you’ll likely be doing in this type of vehicle.

Fuel mileage is slightly better than average for its class with figures of 24 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway, 26 combined for FWD versions and 22/29/25 for those with the optional AWD.

Typical of vehicles from Toyota, the RAV4 provides a compliant, composed ride that gets you where you want to go in comfort but doesn’t offer much in the way of dynamic driving characteristics. We’re not talking attributes suitable for drag racing here, but just a little more in the way of throttle response and oomph for passing would be nice. Even if you never use it, it’s good to know that extra punch is there.

This is a much different vehicle from first RAV4 that hit the streets in 1996. Both inside and outside it has a much more sophisticated appearance than the original “cute-ute.” The spare tire holder than once hung off the back is long gone. It’s also much bigger and apparently is still growing. The 2016 model is over an inch longer than the 2015.

It also offers a much wider range of technological features, including four different versions of Toyota’s Entune suite of infotainment systems that operate off a touchscreen. The system is very intuitive when it comes to operation, and the voice recognition function is very responsive. And accurate. You’re not going to get directions to the nearest Chinese restaurant when you ask for a different satellite channel.

Even the base LE model gets a backup camera, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, remote keyless entry system, and Eco and Sport drive modes among standard features.

As with all Toyota vehicles, the RAV4 also gets the company’s Star Safety System that includes enhanced vehicle stability control with traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist and Smart Stop technology.

What’s good about the 2016 Toyota RAV4: The RAV4 fulfills nearly every need that comes with the segment in the way of people and cargo hauling. The styling is much more modern and appealing than previous RAV4s, and it’s pretty good on fuel mileage as well. As with most Toyotas, it may not be the boldest choice but it is a safe one.

What’s not-so-good about the 2016 Toyota RAV4: No manual transmission is offered. You’ll have to make do with the six-speed automatic.

Pricing for the 2016 RAV4 starts at $25,185 for the 2WD LE base model (including destination and delivery) and continues to $33,745 for the AWD Limited. For a look and more details on the RAV4 XLE check out the accompanying slide show.

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