Introduced overseas in 1994 and domestically in 1996, Toyota’s RAV4 was the first-ever compact crossover SUV — a segment that has since exploded in popularity and come to dominate the marketplace. The 2019 RAV4 is part of the vehicle’s fifth generation which began with last year’s model, but there have already been many significant improvements over last year with regard to performance, features and design.

Performance

The 2019 RAV4 is being offered in five gasoline variants — LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure and Limited — as well as four hybrid variants: LE, XLE, XSE and Limited. The gas Limited model was provided for this test drive.

For the gas variants, the 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder engine is more powerful than last year’s, with a 15-percent increase in horsepower, and incredibly, 25 percent better fuel efficiency. The 8-speed Direct Shift Automatic transmission is commanded by an intuitive up/down sequential shifter.

This RAV4 provides a sturdier ride than in previous years due to a subtly longer and wider stance, in addition to a stronger core and multi-link rear suspension that improves handling. The vehicle provides excellent visibility, comfort and good ride height for a compact crossover. Braking is smooth and responsive.

Three drive modes allow you to dial in driving dynamics to accommodate your trip. “ECO” maximizes fuel efficiency, while “Normal” balances fuel economy with performance, and “Sport” provides more pick up where needed. Conveniently, you can switch between modes without having to a stop the vehicle.

Standard on the Limited model is Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive, which improves responsiveness and stability by alternating the amount of power being distributed to each wheel when increased handling is needed. Also on AWD gas models is Multi-Terrain Select, which allows you to choose “Mud and Sand,” “Rock and Dirt” or “Snow” for improved traction on different surfaces.

Safety

A very appealing selling point is the load of safety features that come standard — features that are options on competing vehicles selling for twice as much. On the model test-driven for this article, the following features were standard (availability varies on other models):

• Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection that detects crossing pedestrians, alerts the driver to take action, and then automatically applies the brakes to help mitigate impact or avoid a collision if the driver doesn’t take action.

• Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist that, when driving at speeds over 32 mph, detects visible lane markings or the road’s edge to issue an alert if an inadvertent lane departure is detected, and if the driver fails to correct, provides gentle corrective steering to keep the vehicle in its lane.

• Automatic High Beams controlled by a camera that detects the headlights of oncoming vehicles and taillights of preceding vehicles, to automatically toggle between high and low beams.

• Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that detects other vehicles’ proximity and, without deactivating cruise control, automatically slows the RAV4 if a driver ahead is traveling more slowly, and resumes to the preset speed when the slower vehicle is gone.

Tech

The infotainment center is controlled with an 8-inch touch screen that provides app-based GPS navigation, and connectivity for Apple Carplay and Amazon Alexa. You can connect your smartphone to get directions, make calls, send/receive messages and listen to music.

Toyota Remote Connect is a useful available feature that allows you to lock or unlock the doors, start the engine remotely, grant access to other drivers and even locate your vehicle in a parking lot — all with your smartphone or smartwatch.

Standard on the Limited model is Toyota’s first camera-based rearview mirror, allowing the driver to toggle between a traditional rearview and a live video feed with the flip of a switch. With its camera mounted inside the rear window (much better placement than outside where weather can affect visibility) you actually get a wider field of vision that’s unobstructed by passengers or cargo in the back.

Design

With a more powerful stance, flared fenders and sharp creases, an aggressive grille, dual chrome exhaust tips, a rear spoiler and LED taillights, the new RAV4 has an image that is much more dynamic and sporty.

The vehicle is also competitive with regard to interior space, having 41 inches of legroom in the front and 37.8 inches in the rear, and headroom measuring 37.7 inches in the front and 39.5 inches in the rear. The rear hatch provides 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space, and the 60/40 rear seats fold flat to allow even more space.

Toyotas have a legacy of dependability, with their vehicles exiting the factory designed to run 500,000 miles. Beyond being the top-selling vehicle in its class, the RAV4 has historically also been one of the most popular vehicles in North America. The 2019 models present a persuasive value proposition for families who need space and features at an affordable price that will likely continue the vehicle’s longstanding popularity.

For more information or to take a test drive, contact: Larry H. Miller Toyota, 15 E. Motor Way, 719-471-3100, toyotaofcoloradosprings.com, or Larry H. Miller Liberty Toyota, 5115 New Car Drive, 719-598-2222, libertytoyotacoloradosprings.com.