2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Gets Rugged Looks with More Green Cred
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is an all-new update to the very popular outgoing model that was the #4 best-selling vehicle in the USA, behind the full-size Chevy, Ford and Dodge pickup trucks. Gone is the cute, stylish exterior that is so common in the compact utility market. Thankfully, rather than go with the “gaping maw” design of other Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the RAV4 instead has a take on the off-road capable 4WD 4Runner. Though the emphasis with the RAV4 Hybrid is fuel economy rather than off-road prowess, it still looks more rugged than before, especially in the exclusive XSE trim with blue accents along with a black roof, trim and wheels.
In terms of crash avoidance, the RAV4 has all the essentials standard. Toyota has been the leader including systems like automatic emergency braking on even the lowest trim levels of almost every model. Some other brands still only include these features on top trim levels and then make you buy a pricey technology package on top of that, making them expensive if you can even find them on dealer’s lots. Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are optional on the base LE trim, but standard on other trims. Have a problem on the road? Toyota’s Entune 3.0 includes a 3-year subscription to Safety Connect on all trims, allowing for calls for emergencies, roadside assistance and automatic crash notification in case of airbag deployment.
As for crashworthiness, the RAV4 AWD did quite well. It aced every crash test from the IIHS, with “Good” overall and Good sub-category results in each one, including the newer passenger-side small overlap crash test. Its forward collision warning and autobrake system earned the top “Superior” rating. The only blemish is a “Marginal” headlight rating, mainly due to inadequate illumination in gradual curves. Unfortunately, this kept it from receiving a “Top Safety Pick” award, which is a shame given its excellent performance in all the actual crash tests and front crash avoidance system evaluation. RAV4 Hybrid received a 5-star overall rating in the NHTSA safety evaluation. The 4-star frontal crash test driver-side rating was the only blemish there.
In terms of carseats, the second row is a big improvement from the previous RAV4. There is now minimal “crossover” of seatbelts that often prevented the middle and outboard seats from being used simultaneously for adjacent or “3-across” car seats. The middle seat is still relatively narrow, but just wide enough to fit a narrow car seat like a Britax Emblem, Clek Fllo, BubbleBum or Harmony Youth Booster. The seatbelt anchor for the center seat is just behind the buckle stalk of the passenger side seat, so it is technically possible to install adjacent seats if you can find two that will fit properly next to each other.
Getting three carseats in the back will be possible, but also challenging compared to a midsize or larger vehicle. The LATCH anchors are readily accessible, and Toyota does allow “borrowing” in this vehicle of the innermost anchors from the outboard seats to install a child safety seat in the narrow middle seat, but only if permitted by the child seat manufacturer. Rigid LATCH carseats are not allowed to use LATCH in the middle seat in this manner. In the RAV4, seatbelt installation is still preferred for the center seat, however, because using the LATCH anchors for the middle seat may conflict with having a car seat or passenger on either side.
The seatbelt buckle stalks are relatively short/flexible, and the head restraints are all removable in all three rear seats, so there are no major obstacles to good carseat installation in most situations. The seat cushion bolsters and center seat “bump” are not so pronounced to cause issues for most carseats. Toyota does require that the vehicle seat backs for both sides must be reclined to the same setting when installing a car seat in the middle seat. The only real challenge will be finding carseats that fit the narrow middle seating position to allow for installation of adjacent or three-across carseats. For example, a narrow booster can be used in the center, like a BubbleBum shown below between a Graco Nautilus SnugLock and Britax Emblem. While it fits, the narrow middle seat may make it difficult for a younger booster rider to buckle themselves.