In 2016, Toyota began offering its popular RAV4 compact crossover with a hybrid powertrain option. At the time, it was the company’s seventh gas-electric model for the Canadian market and only the second hybrid vehicle in its class, following the Ford Escape Hybrid sold from 2005 through 2012.
At its introduction, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was the most powerful version of this popular and practical vehicle. A 2.5L gas engine and two electric motors combine for 194 hp, nearly 20 hp more than the contemporary gas-powered RAV4. All 2016-2018 RAV4 Hybrid models came standard with AWD, with rear-wheel traction provided by a dedicated electric motor at the rear axle. A second motor is located under the hood, sandwiched between the gas engine and continuously variable transmission.
Fuel consumption estimates
For 2016 RAV4 Hybrid models, fuel consumption estimates were 6.9/7.6 L/100 km (city/highway), and in 2017 and 2018, the highway consumption rating increased to 7.8 L/100 km. Either way, the RAV4 Hybrid was Canada’s most fuel-efficient compact crossover in its first three years on the market.
According to Carfax Canada, used 2016 RAV4 Hybrid values start at $23,204 in XLE trim and $25,436 for a Limited version. Among 2018 models, Carfax says the entry-level LE+ version has held its value best and is worth $31,885 as we write this in October – not even $3,000 less than its MSRP when new – while SE and Limited models are worth $25,453 and $31,068, respectively.
Trim levels and features
Toyota offered the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid in XLE and Limited trim levels. XLE started out with dual-zone A/C, heated front seats with driver’s power adjustments, passive keyless entry, power tailgate, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen. The Limited trim’s additions included a heated steering wheel, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, navigation, auto-dimming mirror, and LED headlights. A Limited tech package added the Toyota Safety Sense suite of collision detection with automatic braking, lane departure alert, radar cruise control, and automatic high beams.
In 2017, Toyota made the Safety Sense suite standard in every RAV4 Hybrid and enhanced the system by adding lane keeping assist. The same year, they renamed the RAV4 Hybrid’s base model LE+. XLE built on it with a sunroof, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The new SE trim came next with LED headlights, navigation, and a multi-angle backup camera. The Limited configuration now included the tech package as standard kit and added a hands-free tailgate.
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was unchanged.
Some owners complain of a vibration when the gas engine comes on while driving
In this discussion, RAV4 Hybrid owners discuss whether it’s normal to feel a pronounced vibration when the drivetrain switches from electric to hybrid modes in highway driving.
Check the infotainment system and see how the stereo sounds
During your test drive, park the RAV4 Hybrid safely and spend some time using the infotainment touchscreen. Watch for any performance issues, like slow responses or a system that freezes and/or reboots itself. This could indicate faulty hardware, which is expensive to replace out of warranty.
Here’s a chat about poor sound quality from the JBL stereo system that was included in the RAV4 Hybrid’s Limited trim level. If you’re keen on high-quality audio, you may actually want to look for a mid-grade RAV4 Hybrid model without the JBL sound system.
Make sure the power tailgate works and check the glove box door
Other useful pre-purchase checks include the power tailgate that came standard in some RAV4 Hybrid trims. Operate it using the buttons on the inside and outside of the door itself and the controls by the steering wheel and on the key fob. The door should open and close smoothly with no untoward sounds. If the tailgate stops suddenly or reverses direction, its electronic control unit may need to be reprogrammed or the latch may need adjusting.
Finally, spend some time poking around the car’s interior, opening and closing the glove box, centre console and covers for other storage cubbies. Here’s a discussion about glove box handles that fall off, leaving no easy way to open the door.
Get a pre-purchase inspection done
Finally, we recommend having a pre-purchase inspection done by a Toyota service technician who is experienced with the RAV4’s hybrid powertrain. Among other things, they can verify the health of the hybrid drive battery and make sure the car has the latest version of Toyota’s powertrain control software.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2016-2018 RAV4 Hybrid a five-star overall safety rating, including a four-star result in frontal crash and rollover tests and a five-star result for side-impact crash safety.
From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2016-2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid got a Top Safety Pick+ endorsement thanks to “good” ratings in most of the IIHS’s crash tests. The only weak point was a “poor” score in the front passenger-side small overlap test, thanks to the passenger door opening during the impact. Toyota had reinforced the RAV4’s driver’s-side structure for better small-overlap crash test performance, but didn’t make the same improvements on the car’s right-hand side.
The IIHS rated the RAV4 Hybrid’s optional LED headlights “acceptable,” while the standard halogens scored “marginal.”
Toyota issued four recalls for the 2016-2018 RAV4 Hybrid. Two addressed dealer-installed engine block heaters that could short-circuit and cause a fire. The first campaign was launched in 2017 and updated in 2021.
The other two recalls were to replace improperly manufactured tires that could fail and aftermarket rear-window glass that wasn’t tempered and could break into large pieces instead of the small pebble-like bits that the tempering process creates.