For most of its life, the Toyota RAV4 has been competent in all the key areas that buyers of compact crossover SUVs appreciate but didn't stand out in any particular one. That changed with the 2016 launch of the RAV4 Hybrid model. It offers top EPA fuel consumption estimates, along with better performance, thanks to a pair of electric motors supplementing the 2.5-liter gasoline engine's output. The fuel savings and the boost in performance are enough to make up for the typical price bump it has over the regular RAV4. That's not to say we don't recommend the standard RAV4. Its strengths all remain: It's spacious, comfortable, refined, and decently equipped, with a nice range of trim levels at competitive prices. And for 2017, the RAV4 gains a host of standard driver-assist features, including lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
The lineup starts with the LE, but we'd opt for the next step up, the XLE, because it adds desirable features like alloy wheels, better seats, and dual-zone climate control. The SE gains sport tuning, but its handling isn't much different, and the Limited above it adds larger alloy wheels, which do little to improve the ride quality. The new-for-2017 Platinum tops the lineup, adding distinctive trim inside and out as well as a few more luxury features. The Hybrid is offered in XLE, SE, and Limited trims, and equipment slightly varies. All RAVs except the Hybrid are standard with front-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic, but all-wheel drive is available if you need the extra traction. With the Hybrid model giving the entire range a bit of a boost, there's a lot to like about the RAV4 as a compact crossover SUV.