Image of Toyota RAV4 Prime courtesy of Kate S.
John Goreham's picture

Toyota RAV4 Prime Owner 1-Year Review - Brilliant and No Regrets

Here is why one Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle owner still loves her vehicle after a full year of ownership. Read what she says about using it as a farm vehicle.
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We interviewed Kate S. when she had first purchased her new Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle (PHEV). That story, titled, Why One Toyota RAV4 Prime Owner Passed On The Tesla Model Y and Honda CR-V Hybrid, explained why this green car advocate opted for the RAV4 Prime in the first place. You may recognize Kate S.'s name also because she has generously provided Torque News with quite a few great images of the RAV4 Prime in the wild. We checked in with Kate S. to see if she still enjoys her RAV4 Prime and what insights she might offer to those who are considering an electrified crossover utility vehicle. Here's what she told us in Q&A format.

Image of Toyota RAV4 Prime in snow courtesy of Kate S.

Q: Kate, can you please remind our readers about the vehicle you purchased and how you use it?
Well, it’s been a year, goodness that went fast. My silver XSE premium package Prime I aptly named Shadow and I are now one. I know what every switch setting and mode does, I have tamed the beast, mastered my workhorse, and can conclude without a shadow of a doubt, we were meant for each other.

Image of Toyota RAV4 Prime charging in winter courtesy of Kate S.

Q: The RAV4 Prime is a PHEV. Can you tell us a bit about your EV range and how often you get gasoline for it?
The biggest expectation I had with this vehicle was efficiency and there I was certainly not disappointed. The EV mile range is rated at 42 but based on my driving style, which is very conservative as my goal is always to try and “beat the score” in how many miles I can fit into one charge, 42 is the low-end number I received and that’s in the winter with the heat on. 50 miles per charge was more consistently attained and I could have done even better had I used the engine for my highway driving vs electricity. At one point I was able to squeeze out 2000mi on one tank! Color me impressed and very happy.

Related Story: Truth Unplugged - Data Helps Disprove Critics’ Main Complaint About Plug-In Hybrids

Q: The RAV4 Prime offers multiple ways to operate its powertrain. How do you most often use the EV, HEV, and other settings?
The way the modes are designed you could either let the car decide for you on how best to drive it, less efficient, or if you prefer to do it yourself and understand the most efficient way to operate it, you can do that too. With a mixture of EV/HV, proper application of the air conditioning system, and use of paddle shifters I was able to take this car beyond its ratings in every way. One must like to be hands-on to get this level of efficiency else it will be less efficient but less work to drive it as well. I, however, prefer to be in full control which is an option with this car.

Image of Toyota RAV4 Prime towing courtesy of Kate S.

Q: The RAV4 prime is called a "Crossover Utility Vehicle" by most. Do you ever test its "utility?"
My car is not a show horse, it’s a farm car and needs to be able to perform, and that it does with ease. Hook a trailer on and the car can tow effortlessly. It is rated at 2500 lbs of towing weight and though I don’t weigh what I throw in the trailer, the car tows whatever is there without complaint even in rough terrain. (See Our Story on why PHEVs top BEVS for towing) Off-roading is a function of what tires it has and as I don’t have anything fancy on it I haven’t tried anything too crazy, but the few mountain roads we tried - well let’s just say I was smiling all the way!

Image of Toyota RAV4 Prime charging in winter courtesy of Kate S.

Q: What technology features have proven useful to you?
The digital rearview mirror is a must for anyone utilizing every inch of space in the trunk. It also makes for a very nice extended-range view of what’s behind you. The head-up display (HUD) that comes with this trim only is a wonderful thing, not sure I can live without one now. The free for the first four years navigation system integrates with the HUD and gives you turn by turn instructions right in your line of sight making getting to a destination that much more accurate and assured. Speaking of getting spoiled, the 360 view you get during backing up is spoiling me rotten. It is awkward at first but once you get the hang of it there is no more looking out of the car really, where has this been all my life?!

Image of Toyota RAV4 Prime in winter courtesy of Kate S.

Q: The RAV4 Prime is one of the quickest crossovers in its price segment. Is performance something you value?
Yes! The power that comes from the 302 horses is exhilarating. Though I’m a conservative driver, I do like to make sure that all these horses get their exercise once in a while. It’s such a powerful car with a near-instant push of that power that doing it from a standstill can burn some rubber. But get a small roll going before punching it and listen to your passengers squeal with delight! I still giggle myself every time.

Image of Toyota RAV4 Prime charging with Tesla and Leaf courtesy of Kate S.

Q: How would you sum up your satisfaction with the Toyota RAV4 Prime after one year of ownership?
This car is absolutely brilliant, a big bravo to the Toyota engineers. There is so much to like about this car. I could go on and on about the qualities and merits of this car. Though it’s not perfect, the flaws are so minor to me I don’t think twice about them especially compared to the wonderful things it provides. The car is everything that was advertised and more. Its efficiency, workhorse quality performance, amenities that meet every need, and frankly, the fun of driving make the Prime an ultimate vehicle in my book.

Our thanks to Kate S. for sharing her story with us twice and for her outstanding images used to head so many of our RAV4 Prime story posts.

Images of Toyota RAV4 Prime courtesy of Kate S.

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John's interest in EVs goes back to 1990 when he designed the thermal control system for an EV battery as part of an academic team. After earning his mechanical engineering degree, John completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers, in the semiconductor industry, and in biotech. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American news outlets and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on TikTok @ToknCars, on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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Comments

It will be one year in April that I've owned my XSE Premium Package Prime. It is a great vehicle. I've put on way more miles than I would normally do on any other vehicle just because I can hop in, drive wherever I want to go within 40-50 miles and not worry about gasoline. I'd like to hear more about how using the paddle shifters for better efficiency. I had them on my previous vehicle and only used them a couple times and the novelty wore off so I don't bother with them.
The paddle shifters are not designed for efficiency and on the R4Prime they ‘simulate’ shifting gears of a ICE-only transmission. The paddle shifters are there to make your ride FEEL sportier with RPM noise and fast accelerating. There are no set gears in the e-cvt to switch between, so it ‘simulates’ gears by setting ICE RPM and uses the same brake system as brake-pedal. The paddle shifters just brake more aggressively than normal, but regen the same amount of energy as if you used brake-pedal and slowed the same vehicle over the same distance, just not aggressive braking. Lastly, using paddle shifters or cruise control can (occasionally) unexpectedly start the ICE when they regen energy that the system is not ready to handle, and it starts the ICE to make it work better/right. Absolutely love the review. It hits many of my high points of my +1yr ownership of my R4Prime w Premium Package named Ravi.
I have been disappointed with my 2021 Prime XSE. The combustion engine will run frequently when in EV mode without explanation, the Bluetooth interface is slow and outdated compared to other manufacturers, CarPlay only works when wired, and my customer service experience with Toyota has been absolutely horrendous.
Hello, My Rav4 prime plug-in premium XSE is a year old. I live in the Chicago area. Everything works well, I get 56 to 58EV miles per charge in the summer. This winter I am getting 46EV on very cold days. I have a question on the defrost fan. Does any one ever notice a loud honking noise when the defrost fan starts up? I took my car into the Toyota dealer, of they could not reproduce the noise. After keeping it for one day. I get it back , boom, there is the noise again. When I start the car, my fan is always on 70 degrees. Looking for a suggestion, what to check next. Norma Potempa
First how do you get 56to 58 ev in the summer and 46 in the winter and I am in buffalo ny. I get 42 in both . I also get loud noises in defrost mode but the dealer says it is normal and the heat pump
The noise is due to the car heater when it engages when the car is in cold climate and starts cold. I have the same problem. I took my RAV4 PRIME to the dealer and was told that Toyota is aware of this issue and is working on a TSB that hasn't been issued yet. The noise won't come up if the car is warm or if it starts in warm weather. It won't affect performance and it won't cause any damage.
Great to see Toyota backing this PHEV with marketing and solid engineering. I drive a Honda Clarity, also a brilliant PHEV vehicle that can replace 80-90% of gasoline use for most people, but was sadly discontinued after being saddled with poor marketing, being a sedan, and some interesting styling. Too bad Tesla and EV hype may have killed the PHEV before anyone could realize how right they are for most drivers.
Good comment Lex. I think we all need to face up to the fact that Honda sold all the Clarities it ever planned to build. Such a shame it is being phased out. Owners are among the most passionate in the green vehicle segment. Let's hope the PHEV technology perfected in the Clarity finds its way to the CR-V. And that Honda puts the spare back!
I am not very pleased with my RAV4 Prime SE with weather package and moon-roof. During the summer months, I was getting excellent mileage (above Toyota Rating) for both EV and gasoline and on city traffic and on highways. However, during the winter at high speeds of 80 mph (highway's speed limit), the mileage has dropped to 24-27 mpg (Minnesota, Illinois, and Midwest region winter). I have even driven the car to Dallas, Texas where it was 72-75 deg and the mileage was around 32 mpg. I have visited multiple service centers and no one wants to take a look at it mentioning that this was manufactured in Japan and Toyota has a lot of sensors in the exhaust system and it is not recommended to change the setting till the car reaches 120,000 miles. Anyway, I have to wait till summer again to see if I can get 36 mpg or above. Probably that won't be the case if I drive at 75 mph or above. This is a city car and probably should not be bought if someone plans to use it on the high-speed highways in the colder regions. The EV mileage is not that significantly affected during the winter (10-15% drop). In comparison, I have a Toyota Camry 2017 model and I get 32-33 mpg in summers and 30 mpg in winters on the same highway conditions (speed in excess of 75 mph).
We're glad you added this counterpoint, Arita. You describe a perfect example of situations where electrified cars are only marginally more energy efficient than they would otherwise be. Long highway journeys with little opportunity for regeneration and the highest legal high speeds found in America which reduce the efficiency of all vehicles. Coupled with cold temps that reduce traction battery capacity compared to warner temps. Tell us which AWD crossover with a consumer cost around $35K you think would have performed better in these scenarios you have outlined.
Although I share your appreciation for the RAV4 Prime, where are you seeing them selling for anything near $35K? Around here they are going for $50K on average, before subsidies.
He's likely suggesting an SE after the $7500 tax rebate.
There are two excellent R4P Facebook clubs with great data on pricing and availability of the vehicle. In fact, someone ran a poll today (not me) asking owners how much they paid relative to MSRP. Most sales were at MSRP, some below, and many had dealer markups of a few grand or so. For sure there are some horror stories about $20K markups, and the members name the dealers and show images of the price sheets. Subjectively, most of those seem to be in states with the most EV incentives like CA. But not all. NA, the admin for one of the groups is a secret shopper who loves to "out" dealers with greedy markups. Check out the two clubs. They are really well run.
I'm glad that you found and posted Kate's positive experience of her RAV4 Prime. I think that it was a solid engineering effort from Toyota. But I do think that they should lower the price difference between the Prime model and the RAV4 Hybrid. As lower pricing would increase sales and recognition of the RAV4 Prime's capabilities. Maybe when Toyota releases their BEV crossover.
I think the EV incentive the Prime receives is one reason its sticker price is so much higher than its sibling. If that did not exist, or if both were granted equal incentives the price delta would be a bit tighter.
Yeah, that combined with the RAV4 Prime's popularity. I think that the price of the Rav4 Prime (after subsidies) over the RAV4 Hybrid, should be the same delta as the Prius Prime (after subsidies) over the regular Prius. If that makes sense.
I've owned my 2021 SE model for about 6 months now and I absolutely love it. It tows my motorcycles no problem. Get's great MPG anywhere from 35mpg to 50mpg depending on condtios and the same for ev range. It does pretty good offroad and it has AWD standard. I took it to Death Valley and it pretty good on the trails. I wish it was a little bigger because this is coming from a minivan a Previa. I wish the electronics in the car were more modern Toyota is just doesn't seem to have gotten very far from my 2006 Prius, consdering you see this tech from Tesla and other brands. But I can live with it. Another conplaint is the onboard charger is 3kwh charger. It would have been nice to get the option or upgrade to the 6kwh charger the XSE with premium package. I don't want to go up to XSE and get an upgrade on top of that just to get faster charging, it's like 15k more its rediculous. I've been using it as a delivery vehicles andnit excels very well at that, it just doesn't have much room for large packages. If you can keep it charged you never have to put gas in it! I do kinda wish it would get something lile 60 miles range I think that would be enough to do most of the driving I do daily. But very happy with it and it's safett features it practically drives itself.