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Consumer Reports Suggests Toyota RAV4 Prime As Alternative to the Tesla Model Y

Consumer Reports finds the Toyota RAV4 to be a viable substitute for the Model Y. Here’s why.


Consumer Reports has a new video in which the group's auto testing staff suggests the $40K Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle as an alternative to the $65K Tesla Model Y battery-electric performance crossover.

In its latest “Talking Cars” episode number 287, Consumer Reports (CR) explores the ins and outs of the Tesla Model Y crossover. CR purchased a $62,000 Model Y Long Range AWD with Full Self Driving (FSD). They have owned it for quite a while and heap praise upon the vehicle. Yet, the group does not recommend the Tesla Model Y.

Is the Tesla Model Y Really An SUV?
While they compare the Tesla Model Y to a Porsche Boxster for its driving position, and call it nimble and praise its fantastic handling, CR views the Model Y more of a tall hatchback than an SUV. CR also praises the Model Y for its torque and living electric personality. However, CR has been unimpressed with owner-reported reliability issues. Issues that are not related to just panel gaps and fit and finish. Rather, things that require the vehicle to be out of service while it is repaired. CR’s Director, Auto Testing, Jake Fisher, summed up these problems by saying, “The problem is reliability. You shouldn’t have to put up with that.”

Related: Toyota RAV4 Prime vs. Tesla Model Y Maintenance Cost Analysis - A Surprising Outcome

Consumer Reports Details Shortcomings of the Tesla Model Y

Consumer Reports also noted that the $65,000 Model Y, like the one they own (Tesla has raised the price of FSD since they purchased it) falls down in some surprising areas. The group points out that there is no head-up display, the Blind Spot Monitoring is a failure, and the group finds FSD requires “hypervigilance” on the part of the driver. Even the conventional Autopilot is unimpressive to this group who has tested many systems that are better from other automakers. One Consumer Reports tester also feels that the ride quality of the Model Y is just too stiff. A trade-off for its sports-car-like handling. Finally, the group finds it ridiculous to have to peck through a menu tree in order to enable a wiper sweep of the windshield or to adjust an AC vent.

Related Story: Toyota RAV4 Prime Will Costs Buyers About Half What A Tesla Model Y Will Cost

Consumer Reports Screen Shot Of Video 287Toyota RAV4 Prime As Tesla Model Y Alternative
None of these issues were why CR suggests the Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV) as an alternative. The idea of options was raised by a current Model Y owner with water leaks. It wasn’t the only Tesla owner who asked about alternatives. Another current Model 3 owner named Gary was looking for alternatives to the Model Y since they are unhappy with some aspects of their Model 3 and looking for another option. Jake Fisher happens to be testing the Toyota RAV4 Prime, and he suggests that it is a good alternative. He calls it more practical and points out that in his testing, it has been an electric vehicle since he hasn’t needed to put any gasoline into it. Its all-electric range combined with the ability to easily charge it on his 110-Volt home circuit with no special charger works well for his driving needs. “I haven’t had the engine pop on for a week,” says Fisher. Gabriel Shenhar, Associate Director, Auto Test Program at Consumer Reports, concurs with Fisher’s opinion of the RAV4 Prime, saying, “It rides comfortably. It’s going to be an enjoyable car.”

Are you surprised that Consumer Reports finds a Toyota RAV4 Prime that will cost most consumers under $40K is a viable alternative to a $65,000 Tesla? If you are, check out our story that explains why existing Tesla owners are now also buying the Toyota RAV4 Prime.

We have embedded the full Consumer Reports overview of the Tesla Model Y in this story. Note that the part relating to the Toyota RAV4 Prime begins around time stamp 22:00.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin


Johan L Tessens (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 1:22AM

A hybrid is not an alternative to a electric car.
As long as car builders keep there head in the oil business ass... There will be no progress!

Thinkmore (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 1:47PM

In reply to by Johan L Tessens (not verified)

Most electricity produced from coal, gas as well. So as long as the overall co2 emissions per kilo driven are close between hybrid and pure electric cars. We are doing same good here. No offence to go pure electric here but it seems like people are not looking at big picture here

Earl J. Slick. (not verified)    December 29, 2020 - 6:13PM

In reply to by Johan L Tessens (not verified)

It's an alternative if you live in a rural area with few charging stations and need more range than the electrics provide reliably these days. And also if you need true off road capability.

Jp (not verified)    December 31, 2020 - 3:02PM

In reply to by Johan L Tessens (not verified)

As long as tesla keeps making the least reliable cars on the road there will be no progress. Cmon i mean tesla is forcing half the planet to never buy their products who besides a rich spoiled brat or apple fan want to buy a car that for 14 years straight is the least reliable and uses half sweat shop parts . Perhaps using 40 percent mexico and china parts for important stuff isnt working tesla. Walmart sells mexico and china stuff their also known for low quality not a accident. So we have you can be a slave to big oil or drive a child abuse tesla that breaks more than any other brand there is . No wonder 98 percent of people will never drive one. Yes all ev in the world make up 2 percent of the auto industry and this wont ever change unless tesla stops with the child abuse parts and starts making a qaulity product

Kurt (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 8:16AM

The problem is that the rav4 prime that sells for under 40k doesn’t actually exist in the real world. It’s a compliance vehicle only. A friend has been in the waiting list since November 2019.

John Goreham    December 28, 2020 - 9:04AM

In reply to by Kurt (not verified)

The RAV4 Prime went on sale in July of 2020 and its launch pace of delivered vehicles was among the fastest in EV history. Popular EVs are in short supply. The present delivery date for the Model Y is as long as 12 weeks according to Tesla's website, and those with Tesla vehicles on order are reporting wait times of up to 22 weeks on Tesla Facebook clubs. It's great to see your friend is so enthusiastic about getting one. Based on our testing, the RAV4 Prime is well worth the wait.

Kurt (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 2:28PM

In reply to by John Goreham

Thanks for that context, John. The problem was that they announced both SE and XSE models, but are reserving 97% of production for the more expensive XSE. But I guess this is pretty standard for the industry as Tesla did the same for their model 3 rollout.

Mark (not verified)    December 28, 2020 - 6:11PM

Why does the press choose unfair cost comparisons? A better comparison would be the Long range AWD at $49k not $65k! They are doing this with the Mach E, comparing the standard Mach E at $42k with the $49k long range AWD model Y. The Mach E with comparable specs is $55k.

John Goreham    December 29, 2020 - 11:19AM

In reply to by Mark (not verified)

Unfair comparisons are a pet peeve of mine too, Mark, In this story, I used the most expensive RAV4 Prime, the XSE Premium. $48,060 was the price of the test vehicle CR has (I believe I had the same one they are now testing), and the cost of the Model Y they currently own if purchased today. So, in this case, I used the prices of the two vehicles that CR is actually comparing. The RAV4 Prime qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax benefit. My state also throws buyers of RAV4 Primes $1,500 in the form of a rebate. CT, the state where CR is headquartered, also has a PHEV rebate, but I'm not sure that this exact RAV4 Prime would qualify. As stated in the story, the RAV4 Prime"..will cost most consumers under $40K." Thanks for keeping us honest. I post quite a few comments under stories that fail to include destination fees and pretend that base trims are "mostly the same as" top trims. Cheers,

Maneesh (not verified)    July 29, 2021 - 12:24PM

FuelTank Issue — RAV4 Prime XSE 2021. I recently bought a 2021 RAV4 Prime XSE. Within 30 days I took a long road-trip. I realized through the journey that the vehicle would only fill 8-9 gallons (even if showing full tank) and drive about 350 miles before showing it came close to zero on the dashboard — so well after the fuel light came on. I had to fill gas 3 times for a to and fro journey that involved driving 1000miles or so. Naturally I was puzzled why only 350 miles vs what I read on websites about range of 500+ miles. On researching sites like this I became aware of this fuel tank issue in some RAV4Hybrid models. I scheduled appointment with dealer — DCH Toyota. First the service rep mentioned that this is normal and because of how I am driving the car. He tried to convince me that the car retains 4-5 gallons out of 14.5 gallons in reserve. He was unwilling to even reason why the dashboard would show 0left miles to go after running vehicle on full and after just running 350 miles. Finally spoke to GM of dealership. While acknowledging some awareness about 2020 Customer Support program, she mentioned that there is no recall or customer support program associated with the 2021 RAV4 Prime XSE. Seems like there needs to be significant reporting of this issue before Toyota is likely to take any action. If there are any Toyota RAV4 Prime buyers, I would advise you to check this issue on a longer distance drive. Given the use of EV mode for most local driving, I can see why this issue may not become apparent soon.