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Roseville, Calif. – Introduced in Japan and Europe in 1994 and a year later a hit in the American market, the Toyota RAV4 has been a class leader for more than two decades.

Americans love compact crossover sport utility vehicles. These smaller SUVs offer a lot of versatility, typically have an appealing design, and are also somewhat sporty.

Identified as the original crossover SUV, the RAV4 has annually been a big seller for Toyota. However, it no longer lords over the class. There was no competition when the RAV4 debuted, but there are many rivals these days.

In fact, its chief rival – the Honda CRV – is now considered the frontrunner in a large group of compact SUVs that includes the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Rogue, and Mazda CX-5. Women seem especially attracted to the compact SUV, which is deemed both cute and sporty.

Toyota did some tinkering with the 2016 Toyota RAV4. The biggest news is adding a hybrid model to the lineup. Also new was updated styling and some additions to the trim models.

The RAV4 has a reputation for solid versatility because it can haul groceries, carry sports equipment, transport four kids to school, ease into small parking spaces, and also serves as a solid computer vehicle.

One of the RAV4’s greatest qualities is its cargo space. In fact, the cargo area of 38.4 cubic feet is so large that one might think the RAV4 is a midsize SUV. Drop the second row down and the space is now 73.3 cube feet, one of the largest capacities in the class. It can make a hardware store run, and if equipped with all-wheel drive, can handle a trip into snow country.

One area that draws some criticism is the engine. There is no V6 option and the lone engine remains a 2.5-liter, four cylinder that produces 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. It reportedly goes 0-60 mph in 9.2 seconds.

While the RAV4 engine isn’t sluggish, several of its rivals offer better performance, giving its potential buyers a choice of a V6 or a popular turbocharged model that not only adds more power but typically delivers better gas mileage.

2016 Toyota RAV4

  • Performance: 2.5-liter, four cylinder, 176 horsepower; hybrid 2.5.liter, four cylinder, 194 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 22-30 mpg; 31-34 mpg
  • Price estimate: $24,350-$32,910
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 2 years/unlimited; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

The new RAV4 hybrid is a more robust 2.5.liter, four cylinder electric motor with 194 horsepower and 206-pound-feet of torque. The gas mileage (31-34 mpg) is much better than the regular RAV4 (22-30 mpg).

Even with the four-cylinder engine, the RAV4 and its six-speed automatic transmission still possess enviable qualities, It labors a bit on steep grades, but makes up for that lack of specific power with its solid handling, quiet ride and ability to accelerate in freeway passing situations.

The RAV4 has a modern interior design that features many soft-touch surfaces that add to its overall comfort. Seating is spacious for a compact SUV, offering good leg and head room in front and second row. Although there are no complaints with overall quality, some people feel Toyota’s Entune audio system could be more simplified.

Even though it could use a performance option, the RAV4 remains a high quality compact SUV that is strong in many areas. It is comfortable, features an appealing exterior, handles well, is reliable, and also has good resale value.