Skip to main content

Why I Want A Toyota Rav4 Hybrid More Than A Prius AWD-e

I finally decided it was time to drive the Rav4 Hybrid and see what all the hype was about. I was blown away, and here is why.

Join us...    

The Toyota Rav4 Hybrid has been one of the hottest selling hybrids since it came on the market just a couple years ago. As a hybrid enthusiast, I was interested in the fuel-sipping SUV but hesitated to drive one for myself. I did not want to be disappointed if it did not hit the same marks as all the Prius' that I have owned.

Yesterday I was finally able to schedule a test drive with my dealer to take one out for a spin. I chose to test drive the Rav4 Hybrid XLE and the Prius AWD-e. I wanted these two options as they are both cars that could suit my personal needs for my family. I will touch more on this later.

I will compare the Prius and Rav4 in a few different areas that I look for when I am considering purchasing a new vehicle. Not everyone will agree with what I choose to compare, but again these are my needs, not yours. If you want to know for yourself, drive one.

Driving The Rav4 Hybrid and The Prius
I chose to drive the Rav4 first. I had not been in one yet, and having so much experience with Prius, I felt this was a good starting point.

My first impression of the little SUV was that it made a bold statement. The body makes it look like a small 4runner. I felt like I could go off-road in this car, which for me, is crucial. I then slid effortlessly in the driver's seat. Rav4 is so easy to get in, and out of it was a seamless transition for me to enter and exit the car, which I did multiple times throughout the test drive.

2020 Rav4 Hybrid Gray

Once settled in, I began to touch all the controls. My goal here was to see what was within my reach and also how accessible everything was. Since this was a test drive, I wanted to track my fuel economy and the distance I drove. It took me a few seconds to find out how to reset the trip odometer, but again, I had never been in this car.

Shifting into drive and silently sneaking off out of the parking lot was rather exhilarating. I drove cautiously by the dealer to get a feel for Rav; then, I headed out to the highway.

I was astounded at how smooth this car was. I then realized that Toyota had had over 20 years to refine its hybrid system, and it shows how good it is in Rav.

I got on the onramp and stepped on it. I was instantly shocked by the load of power that Rav4 laid down. Coming from my 08' Prius, this was a massive increase in power. I wondered if I had accidentally put it in sport mode, I had not, this only impressed me more.

The AWD-e Rav4 has gripped the road, and I never felt the vehicle hesitate or slip. I was quickly up to speed and went to select the cruise control option. It was here I found my first let down. The standard Toyota cruise control knob did not exist in this vehicle. I had to take my eyes off the road off and on to find it. Once I did and was able to get it set up, the radar cruise control kept me at the safest distance from the cars in front of me.

I proceeded to exit the highway, powering through more curves and all the while doing it with a giant grin on my face. By the time I got back to the dealer, I knew Rav4 was a winner for me, but my heart has been with Prius. I had to know if the Prius AWD-e would give me similar satisfaction as the Rav4.

I sat down into a silver 2020 AWD-e Prius and felt like I had entered into a sports car. The Prius sits even lower than previous generations, making me wonder if getting in and out would be tiring, especially for an aging generation. I could still do it, but I did notice it was harder to get in and out.

2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e Silver

Once in and going, Prius felt exactly like I thought it would. I was far noisier than the Rav4, which I noticed instantly. The Prius also did not have the same power as Rav4. It was powerful, do not get me wrong, but it did not exceed my expectations.

Once on the highway, I set the cruise control with the control knob, which I adore, and set sail on a fuel-sipping adventure. Prius was overall smooth but nothing out of the ordinary. I similarly exited the highway as the Rav4 taking curves hard. The AWD-e kept me safe, but the tire screech was much more prominent than in the Rav4. I would have thought a car as low as the Prius would have handled a bit better through the corners. It is no Corvette, but it did okay.

I finished my drive and headed back to the dealer. I parked the cars and started doing my final assessments on them.

Rav4 Hybrid and Prius Comfort Features
The Rav4 was far more comfortable to drive. The ease of getting in and out of it made the most sense to me. Combine that with the rear seats being more at waist height, it would be easier to put car seats and kids inside.

The front of the car for driver and passenger were tasteful. I enjoy how Toyota designs its vehicles, and this felt exactly like home for me. I could easily navigate through all the settings on Rav4 and found it had all the features I wanted, such as Bluetooth, USB charging, and Apple Car Play.

2020 Rav4 Hybrid Front Seating and Infotainment

The seats were right for my weight (165 pounds). They were firm yet comfortable, and through the entire drive in the Rav4 I was at ease, I never had to think about getting situated. It felt very natural to drive it.

Prius was everything I expected it to be. It was lower to the ground, the interior was very similar to Rav4, and everything was easy to navigate. The fact that Prius is closer to the ground makes me think Prius is more designed for a college student that is younger and does not have children. The seats were okay, but not Rav4 comfort level.

2020 Prius AWD-e Front Seating Area

Overall, the Rav4 was more impressive in the features and comfort for me, but I also have kids and am not 21 anymore.

Fuel Economy Numbers Real World
One of the things that held me back from wanting Rav4 is that I expected it to have okay gas mileage. The early Camry and Highlander Hybrids were not that great with EPA ratings hitting into the high mid to high 30's. Hybrids should have a fantastic fuel economy rating in my mind, so driving a bigger hybrid like the Rav4 I was not expecting much. How wrong I was.

A longer test drive would have yielded better results, I am sure, but for the driving that I was doing, I was impressed. Between EV mode and power mode throughout 15 miles, I still ended up averaging about 47 miles to the gallon.
Think about this for a second. A small SUV getting 47 miles to the gallon? That is unheard of for a small SUV. Needless to say, I was impressed with the fuel economy on this vehicle.

With Prius, I was a little disappointed. Over the same road tests, I still did great, but only averaged 50.3 mpg. Again, a more extended test would have given me different results, but I feel that a substantial test like this gave me a great idea of what I could expect from the car.

I love my Prius. It is an excellent run around car for me with all the errands that I do and where I live. It is a reliable car, and I will keep it for as long as I can, but it does not suit the needs of my family.

A rav4 Hybrid is a phenomenal machine. It is sporty, good looking, sturdy, thrilling, and it suits my needs. I was very impressed with how well built Rav4. It has all the comfort I want and room for car seats with kids. I felt secure in Rav4 more than Prius being higher up off the ground. Even with both models having AWD-e I felt for where I live, the Rav4 would be the better option.

If I were looking for a commuter, Uber, or Door Dash car, the Prius would win hands down. It is a beautiful car; it is merely not anything different than what it has been all along.

Thank you all for reading, have a great weekend, and stay safe. I look forward to seeing you in the next story. What You Need To Know About The Rav4 Hybrid Fuel Tank Lawsuit.

Watch this Toyota Prius truck with a nice little bed and click to subscribe to Torque News Youtube for daily automotive news analysis.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter is also an Instructor of Automotive Technology at Columbia Basin College. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter's stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.

Join us...    


Steve (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 3:21AM

I've got a 2019 hybrid Camry LE that also uses the large 2.5 L Atkinson 'Dynamic Force' engine used in the RAV4, but which weighs less than the Rav4 (and has much lower wind resistance as well). It has excellent top-end acceleration with that engine (which almost seems over-spec'd for that vehicle) and still returns a solid 55 mpg in mixed driving. So far, so good !

Jim Persinger (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 8:59AM

You should mention in your review that while you report good mileage for these models, Toyota is saying that some can expect as a “normal operating characteristic” to get as low as 26mpg. That’s what my RAV4 hybrid gets on the highway, far short of the 40 mpg promised, which makes it one of the poorest performers in its class. Further, with the fuel tank issue effecting more than 92,500 of the 2019-20 vehicles and counting, it doesn’t have a 14.5 capacity listed in the specifications. Virtually all are shorted 1-2 gallons, and in some cases such as mine, the tank capacity is 3 gallons. Toyota is keeping this from consumers, has no fix, and refuses to buy the vehicles back once the consumers realize they’ve been duped. So in my case, my new RAV4 has a 100 mile range, making it inoperable for a typical Kansas commute. Buyer beware!

Gerry Bezzina (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 9:47AM

Loved the article. I own a 2014 Prius V and my has a 2020 RAV4 Hybrid. I've driven both quite a bit and agree with your assessment (I loved my Prius too but the Rav4 has stolen my heart). My only criticism with the RAV4 is the display. I find that there is too much wasted 'real estate' and some items like speed are duplicated. I love Prius display much more. It's more intuitive. The RAV4s display is not as 'friendly'.

Mark Gibson (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 9:51AM

I drive a 2102 Prius c to work about 75 miles round trip and love it’s fuel efficiency and dependability. Recently traded in my wife’s ‘15 Forester for ‘20 RAV4 lxe hybrid. It drives so much smoother tan the Subaru and gets great mileage. We love it. Enjoyed your review of RAV4 hybrid.

Martina McLaughlin (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 10:33AM

There are two problems with the RAv4 hybrids.
1. You can’t get more that 8-9 gallons of gas in the advertised 14.5 gallon tank. Toyota says they are “investigating the known problem”. The redesign gas tank is flawed. It’s been under investigation for over a year. Thee is a class action law suit but what’s most wanted is that Toyota fix the flawed design. I own 2019 Rav 4 hybrid.
2. In warm weather the hybrid gets Hugh 30’s to mid 40’ mpg but in cold weather it drops to low 30’s. I contacted Toyota Corporate and they said it’s because of the additive in the fuel for winter months but this is not true because I’ve had it happen on the same tank of gas when we had unseasonably warmer weather days. When I share this information with Toyota Corp, they quickly backed off the idea that it is from the winter additives and gasoline. It’s very strange I don’t understand why this happens but it absolutely changes the miles per gallon based on the weather temperature.

Dan Murphy (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 11:18AM

Good article. Was waiting for crv hybrid until I found out it’s not a plug-in. Big mistake on Honda’s thinking-it will sell but not like rav4 prime-waiting (and in need of) for rav4prime!

Linda (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 11:59AM

Do 2020 RAV4s have fuel tank issue as my 2019 does? What a pain and disappointment that Toyota not fixing. Very inconvenient to have to fill up more frequently.

karl (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 1:34PM

I have never driven a Prius because I can't get into it. I refuse to hit my head on a doorframe. I am not a 'freak' I'm 6ft.,2 in.. I drive a 18 year old 2 door Echo and curse Toyota every day.

Jerry (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 4:24PM

I can't stomach the snobby authoritarian attitude reflected by the author of this article. Why not ask people who own one or both the prius sedan, and or the prius V their opinion of their driving experience regarding these two excellent Toyota products? J.R. A satisfied customer.

GT (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 7:01PM

Don't be fooled by the RAV4 gas milage. It always starts high and steadily grinds down to the mid 30's. I've been very disappointed with the gas milage in mine. Plus the front bumper is super flimsy. Ours was backed into in a parking lot during the first week we had it. Just a little back up bump, not a wreck, and the whole front end had to be replaced. The plastic crumpled. With supposedly 5 listed paint colors Maaco was unable to match the color and the whole vehicle now looks like crap. Avoid the RAV4.

Vlad (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 8:10PM

I am at loos here. Why do you even compare this two totally different vehicles? Except for both being hybrids , this two a completely in different class cars.

Ray in Tallahassee (not verified)    May 17, 2020 - 9:03PM

We bought our 2020 RAV4 XLE on 3/31/2020, we have 1858 miles on the odometer. The onboard computer reports 55.5 mpg for the 1858 miles. Our full tank to fulll tank calculations are 60+ mpg for town & country driving. We were going to try to buy a 2021 RAV4 Prime, but due to COVID-19 and the unknown details of the RAV4 Prime we purchased our XLE and are VERY HAPPY with it.

Pao Aqui (not verified)    May 18, 2020 - 10:51AM

Hello Peter, I'm currently driving a 2018 Rav4 SE AWD with mpg of 22-24 tops. I'm considering to trade it in with a Rav4 Hybrid but I'm not sure if that would be a good idea. What are your thoughts? Can you give some guidelines regarding possible cost repair, trade in cost, etc.

Thank you so much!

Ralph Schwartz (not verified)    May 19, 2020 - 8:22AM

We bought a Rav4 Hybrid in August, 2019. We get around 41mpg around town. On the interstates, about 36mpg @75mph. The gas pump will cut off at about 2-3 gallons shy of being full, however if you're patient, you can milk in another 2+ gallons.

CATHY K FREECHACK (not verified)    July 25, 2022 - 11:26AM

I have a 2021 Rav4 Hybrid and I love it-but I'm not getting predicted mileage. I haven't been able to find info on the differences between the Rav4 hybrid and Prius hybrid-the way the gas/electric systems function. (We had a 2005 Prius which we LOVED but one of our children has it-still running.) It seems like there's no electric only at start-up like the Prius, and I can't seem to keep it in ECO mode consistently. Am I missing something? Waiting for the Rav4 Prime to be available to more than one customer per state.