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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.