Toyota RAV4 a reliable car
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Is the Toyota RAV4 a reliable car?

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As America’s best-selling SUV, you can’t get any more bread-and-butter than the Toyota RAV4. Toyota sold more than 448,000 copies in the U.S. last year, far surpassing sales of the Honda CR-V and other rivals. We knew it wouldn’t be the most exciting vehicle to grace the MotorTrend Garage, but we had high expectations for our year with Toyota’s small SUV. Will its competency match its popularity? It won’t be an easy feat.

It showed up on our doorstep with an enigmatic Lunar Rock paint color. Is it blue, green, or gray? We’ll never be quite sure. While other small crossovers have comically rounded features, the RAV4 has a chiseled front face and a boxier body that harkens back to the era of traditional body-on-frame SUVs.

Step inside, and you’ll find a simple yet stylish interior. We immediately noticed the fun geometric pattern on the seats, storage cubbies, and other areas. Initially, we thought the slanted door handles were edgy but not very practical. It didn’t take long to get used to them, though. It was a little harder adjusting to the doors not opening as wide as we’d like. This design made it a little inconvenient to load and unload cargo into the back seat. Perhaps of bigger significance is the SUV’s comfortable upholstery, which held up well over a year hauling friends, family, and weekend gear. Even now, the seats look mostly new.

Our Toyota RAV4 came with all the things we needed. It’s an XLE, the volume model. One step up from the base LE trim, it’s nothing fancy. The bread-and-butter of the bread-and-butter gets standard features including a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, six speakers, a power moonroof, keyless entry and ignition, and dual-zone automatic climate control. We felt safe with the RAV4’s generous list of standard safety features. Our model also has the XLE Convenience package, bringing heated front seats, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, and an adjustable power tailgate.

Notably missing from the list of goodies is Android Auto. In fact, this feature is not available on any 2019 RAV4. Toyota remedied this on later models, but it was a huge inconvenience during our time with the SUV. Not being able to select our favorite playlists from the central touchscreen made it difficult to settle in for long drives. It’s particularly frustrating because other cars I drove throughout the year have the capability.

Now we’ll switch gears from the biggest inconvenience to what was by far our biggest joy during our time with the RAV4. Over the course of a year and 17,969 miles, we didn’t spend a dime on maintenance.

While the RAV4 wins major points for its low costs and reliability, it isn’t our favorite small SUV to drive. As we’ve said in the past, the ride isn’t as controlled as it is on rivals like the CR-V. This became obvious during multiple trips down the unforgiving roads of the downtown L.A. area. Discerning drivers may also complain it thrashes and groans a bit too much during acceleration, unlike the smoother-operating RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime.

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