Trucks and SUVs

2021 Best 2-Row SUV: Toyota RAV4

The two-row crossover segment is a key one in the Canadian automotive market, and that means the competition is fierce and new competitors are always near. But new doesn’t always mean better, and a big segment doesn’t mean a vehicle can’t stand out. And a standout vehicle that we feel confident recommending to Canadians is one that our jury of more than 20 automotive experts from all over the country selected after considering every single two-row crossover available. This year, our jury voted the Toyota RAV4 as the Best 2-Row SUV in the 2021 Awards.

In this popular and well-contested segment, our jury is looking for tech, innovation, performance, value, safety, and the overall ability to be a great vehicle for Canadians. We voted on our top five SUVs in the whole segment to narrow the field to five finalists: the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback, and Hyundai Santa Fe. Four of those also made the list of finalists last year, with the Santa Fe making the final cut this year and not last. When it comes to picking the best, safety and value for your dollar are key, but ergonomics, comfort, and practicality are crucial to pushing one of these smaller crossovers to the top of the list.

After multiple rounds of voting, the Toyota RAV4 lineup, which includes a hybrid and a new plug-in hybrid, came out ahead.

Though it made the finals last year, it didn’t quite take the top spot. Still, as Road Test Editor Dan Ilika says, the RAV4 “isn’t just a key vehicle in this country’s auto market, it may very well be the quintessential Canadian crossover,” and since Toyota understands that, it was important to make sure the SUV hit hard, a difficult task when there are so many strong competitors out there. The segment hasn’t changed too drastically since last year, so it might be strange to see a vehicle take the crown in 2021 after not winning last year, but there’s a new addition to the lineup that has both green motorists and enthusiast drivers intrigued, giving the RAV4 an edge over its competition.

The RAV4 Prime, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV), joins the gas and standard hybrid versions and offers more horsepower than any RAV4 ever along with the benefit of 68 km of EV range. The fact that it qualifies for up to $13,000 in incentives, which makes the PHEV more affordable than the hybrid version in Quebec, certainly doesn’t hurt the appeal.

Of course, it’s not just that one model that makes the RAV4 our top two-row SUV. The RAV4 lineup as a whole offers an impressive array of features buyers want. Every RAV4 gets lane-tracing assist, lane-departure alert with steering assist and road edge detection, automatic high-beams, active cruise control, and pre-collision assistance with pedestrian and bicycle detection, even the base front-wheel-drive $28,250 LE. It also offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on either the base 8.0- or upgraded 9.0-inch screen. Heated front seats are standard, ventilated seats are available, and the wonderful little details like one-touch up/down on all four windows come standard across the board. It’s the little things that make a model really special in our books.

Want more and the sky is nearly the limit for variations of the RAV4. XLE and Limited luxury models offer faux-leather seating materials, upgraded audio systems, and moonroofs, while the Trail model adds off-road looks with a higher towing capacity for adventurers, and the RAV4 TRD Off-Road gives buyers the look of a mini 4Runner along with TRD trail-ready springs, shocks, and tires. The RAV4’s 16 different models give a level of choice unseen in our market in decades.

Powertrains start with the base 2.5L 203-hp four-cylinder that returns an estimated 7.9 L/100 km (LE AWD). Next up are the Hybrids, with a 2.5L four-cylinder and electric motors that get 219 hp and an estimated 6.0 L/100 km combined, and the PHEV Prime that has 302 hp, 68 km of electric range, and is rated at 2.5 Le/100 km. All deliver a smooth experience, but Toyota’s strong suit is hybrids and those models really do showcase the best the RAV4 has to offer, including a quieter experience and stellar fuel economy.

This is the fifth-generation of the RAV4, and that means the brand’s fifth attempt at the model that helped create the segment where it currently rules the sales charts. This time, in a segment where styling can often be quite bland, Toyota decided that making a crossover look tougher and more rugged is a great way to stand out. That tough off-road styling transfers into the cabin that offers clever bits like a rubber tire-tread volume knob as well as more cubbies than you probably have stuff to store, though we’re sure you’ll find some way to fill them.

The Toyota RAV4 lineup is an impressive two-row SUV that stands out in a very competitive segment. Its wide variety of powertrains and trims mean there’s one for every type of driver, and this popular SUV is one that our jury feels confident recommending to Canadians.