2010 Toyota Rav4 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011


  • Fine passenger room, excellent cargo space
  • V-6 versions make rivals eat dust
  • Toyota reliability and resale value


  • Cargo door swings open rather than lifts
  • Some will find the driving position awkward and the rear seat flat
  • No USB interface for iPods

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2010 Toyota Rav4 Buying Advice

The 2010 Toyota RAV4 is the best crossover for you if a sensible SUV still makes sense in your world.

The RAV4 is a compact SUV that doesn’t squander a square inch of passenger room or cargo space. It has surprising amounts of both in a body that’s got presence on the road without occupying too much of it. In addition to Toyota-brand quality and resale value, you get above-the-traffic ride height, available seating for seven, and just enough off-road capability to keep you out of trouble -- or get you into it.

Should you buy a 2010 Toyota RAV4 or wait for the 2011 Toyota RAV4? The 2010 RAV4 is the smarter choice. It benefits from appearance alterations and powertrain updates that came on line for model-year 2009. And it’ll have a longer shelf life than the 2011 Toyota RAV4, which will be the final edition before this compact SUV is all new for model-year 2012.

2010 Toyota Rav4 Changes back to top

Styling: Status quo for the 2010 Toyota RAV4 in the wake of 2009’s mid-cycle freshening. The current-generation RAV4 was introduced as a 2006 model, and the 2009 tweaks sustain it until 2012. Base, Sport, and Limited models continue. Each received a subtly reshaped grille and revised tail light lenses for 2009. Base and Limited got new alloy wheels. The Limited gained some chrome accents and turn-signal side mirrors and for 2010, adds chrome trim to its parking brake and dashboard vents. The Sport now has a spoiler above its tailgate glass and is available with an Appearance Package that, among other things, eliminates the outside-mount spare tire in favor of run-flat rubber. Without the package, RAV4 wears its spare tire affixed to a rear cargo door that swings open to the side rather than lifts from the bottom. The RAV4 doesn’t quite stretch into the midsize-SUV category; within Toyota’s lineup, that’s the domain of the rugged 4Runner SUV and the Highlander and Venza crossovers. But the RAV4 is among the largest compact-class SUVs. Compared with the only two rivals that top it in sales, the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, the RAV4 is longer by 4 inches and 7 inches, respectively. In wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – its only 1.6 inches longer than the CR-V and Escape, but that’s just enough for Toyota to squeeze in a tiny third-row bench, making the RAV4 one of only two compact SUVs available with seating for seven. The Mitsubishi Outlander is the other. RAV4 base models with the four-cylinder engine come with 16-inch tires on steel wheels. V-6 Base models have 17s on steel wheels. Limiteds and Sports have alloy wheels in 17- and 18-inch diameters, respectively.

Mechanical: The 2010 Toyota RAV4 reprises a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines. More than 70 percent of RAV4 buyers choose the four, so the 2009 arrival of an improved version was welcome. Out went the serviceable but sometimes over-burdened 166-horsepower 2.4-liter in favor of a 2.5-liter with 179 horsepower and, more significantly, a dollop more torque, 172 pound-feet versus 165. Torque translates to pulling power and thanks to more of it the 2.5-liter engine doesn’t have to work quite as hard as the 2.4-liter -- as evidenced by its slightly better fuel economy. Too bad Toyota didn’t also match most of RAV4’s rivals by exchanging the four-cylinder’s four-speed automatic transmission for a more-efficient five-speed automatic. No complaints about Toyota’s strong 269-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, which is available in all three RAV4 models and links with a five-speed automatic. The RAV4 qualifies as a crossover because it’s built on a car-type unibody structure for light weight but blends in obvious SUV elements, such as 7.5 inches of ground clearance and available all-wheel drive (AWD). Still, some 75 percent of RAV4 buyers opt for front-wheel drive. They’re apparently content with the inherent traction advantages of engine weight over the drive wheels. Toyota bolsters their case with a standard limited-slip differential and traction control, both designed to better harness power when moving away from a stop. Unlike the 4Runner, the RAV4 isn’t intended for hard-core off-roading. Its AWD system is a light-duty setup that defaults to front-wheel drive in the absence of tire slip. When sensors detect slippage, the system automatically apportions power rearward until traction is restored. In severe low-grip conditions, the RAV4 has the edge on many competitors because its driver can press a dashboard button and maximize power distribution to the rear wheels up to 25 mph. Four-cylinder RAV4s can tow 1,500 pounds. A tow-package option for V-6 Sport and Limited models increases their trailer capacity to 3,500 pounds, from 2,000. 

Features: The 2010 RAV4 features roster accounts for the only changes of note compared to 2009. The Sport Appearance Package that eliminates the outside spare tire is now available on all four-cylinder Sport models. It had been exclusive only to Sport models with the V-6 engine and AWD. Also for 2010, the base-model RAV4 is available with the rearview camera and monitor integrated into the inside mirror. This feature had been exclusive to Sport and Limited models. Finally, the Sport joins the Limited for 2010 with an available JBL audio system that includes steering wheel audio controls and hands-free Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity. However, USB interface for iPods remains unavailable on the RAV4; all models make due with a mini-jack outlet. Every 2010 RAV4 comes with Toyota’s STAR Safety System, which includes the aforementioned traction control plus antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist. This automatically applies full stopping power in emergencies even if the driver doesn’t completely depress the brake pedal. STAR also encompasses an antiskid system that activates individual brakes and retards engine power to combat sideways skids. RAV4s equipped with the V-6 engine or the third-row seat add hill ascent/descent control. This staunches backsliding on upgrades and limits speed to a crawl on downgrades. RAV4s come with torso-protecting front side airbags as well as head-protecting curtain side airbags. The latter cover only the first two seating rows but are designed to deploy in side collisions and when sensors detect an impending rollover. A tilt/telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat, remote keyless entry, and power mirrors, windows and locks are included in the base price. Leather upholstery with heated front seats and rear-seat DVD entertainment are extra-cost items exclusive to the top-line Limited model. Sport and Limited are available with a power sunroof and a DVD-based navigation system.

2010 Toyota Rav4 Test Drive back to top

From behind the wheel:  Satisfied with perfectly acceptable power in low-demand driving conditions? Willing to put the gas pedal on the carpet to merge onto freeways or overtake slower traffic? The four-cylinder is your RAV4 engine. If, however, you’re thrilled by near-sport-sedan acceleration, favor stress-free on-ramp romps, and dig right-now passing-lane performance, go for the V-6. That’s particularly true you regularly carry four or more people and their assorted belongings. In fact, the V-6 is so frisky it’s best paired with AWD, which quells torque steer. Torque steer is the annoying tendency for a powerful front-wheel drive vehicle to wriggle and wander during rapid acceleration from low speeds.           

First-time RAV4 drivers are apt to find the electronic power steering system gives unexpectedly quick response. An initial turn of the wheel seems answered by a slightly exaggerated change of direction. Acclimate and you’ll discover RAV4 to be among the very few Toyotas that doesn’t suffer numb, lazy steering response. The long-term benefit is well worth the period of adjustment.

Go for the Sport model if you want rewardingly sharp cornering response with well-controlled body lean. With their softer suspension settings and modest tires, RAV4 base and Limited models exhibit some noseplow and drift in fast turns. Still, these are stable, confident crossovers well suited to city work, suburban slogging, or Interstate cruising. 

Dashboard and controls:  RAV4’s dashboard design seems inspired by cliff dwellings. A broad upper ridge holds the instruments as well as the audio and navigation controls. It overhangs a stratum that houses the climate controls and glove compartments (there are two, an upper and a lower). The dashboard’s center section morphs nicely into a roomy console bin. Follow the console down and you’ll encounter the shift lever and, further back, the big, tall armrest/storage box that separates the front bucket seats.

A handsome three-spoke steering wheel and generously sized gauges add a sporty focus. Main controls are easy to reach, plainly marked, and pleasant to activate. The creative approach to dashboard design is complemented on the doors by sculpted coves that anchor the hand pulls and power window switches. A mix of buttons and touch-screen inputs manages the navigation system. Programming is intuitive, though the system soaks up too many audio adjustments and its screen is mounted a little too low to be easily read in traffic. Same for the automatic-climate display, which shows on a small screen tucked beneath the dashboard overhang.

Quality of cabin materials and assembly is a mixed bag. Most panels feel solid and are richly grained; we particularly like the fabric weave in the door coves. And the silver finish on the center stack is a fine imitation of brushed aluminum. Not everyone will think the flocking on the headliner is up to snuff, however. And the occasional creak or squeak from a seat mount or plastic panel is at odds with this crossover’s otherwise solid bearing.

Room, comfort, and utility:  The airy RAV4 cabin furnishes head room aplenty in the first and second seating rows. The second row seat slides fore and aft a few inches to create generous knee clearance. And the front buckets have travel enough to accommodate the long of leg. Kids sit comfortably enough in the third row, but there really isn’t grown-up leg room or foot space on this two-person perch.

All these seats have firm padding that promises to hold its shape over the long haul. Still, some drivers may fiddle and adjust and never quite reach a cordial relationship with the steering wheel and pedals. Second-row riders are apt to be disappointed by a rather flat cushion and by a center armrest that’s too low to actually support an elbow. 

RAV4s have relatively firm suspensions. You feel sharp-edged crevices and boney creases, but only the Sport model reacts abruptly to them. Softer suspension settings and tires with taller sidewalls make the Base and Limited models more absorbent and hence more comfortable. Both engines become vocal during rapid acceleration, and the four-cylinder drones some at cruise – a fifth gear would likely calm it down -- but neither sounds unpleasant. Sport models generate tire roar, but the RAV4 otherwise isolates well enough from unwanted road, wind, and mechanical ruckus.

Toyota’s decision to go with a big cargo door that opens from the right rather than swings up means you won’t fight gravity to access RAV4’s rear compartment. You will require a good deal of clearance to open it fully if a car or obstruction is close behind. And you’ll likely be standing on the traffic side of a street-parked RAV4 while doing so. You won’t be protected from rain, either.

Luckily, the door is a portal to a tall, wide cargo hold with a long, flat floor. The 60/40-split second-row seatback sections drop in one easy motion without need to remove their headrests. Eschewing the third-row seat frees up an under-floor tub for additional storage. Small-item space is good, with useful console bins, the twin-compartment glove box, and front and rear door pockets shaped to hold beverages. 

2010 Toyota Rav4 Prices back to top

The 2010 Toyota RAV4 prices are unchanged from model-year 2009, though the bottom-line price on the window sticker climbs slightly thanks to an increase in Toyota’s mandatory destination fee. Toyota’s light trucks carry an $800 destination fee for model-year 2010, up from $745. (All base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee. Note that Toyotas in some Gulf and Southeastern states are delivered by independent suppliers and may carry different destination fees.)

Against its top rivals in sales, the 2010 RAV4 is priced slightly higher than comparable versions of the Ford Escape. And RAV4’s four-cylinder models start just slightly above similarly outfitted Honda CR-Vs. As you ascend the CR-V’s model line into the upper-$20,000s, however, you’ll find similar money buys a like-equipped RAV4 with a V-6 engine, which the Honda can’t match.   

The 2010 Toyota RAV4 base model with the four-cylinder engine is priced from $22,300 with front-wheel drive and from $23,700 with AWD. The 2010 RAV4 base model with the V-6 is priced from $24,335 with front-wheel drive and from $25,735 with AWD.

To the Base model, the 2010 Toyota RAV4 Sport adds a sport suspension, fog lamps, rear privacy glass, and the 18-inch tires with alloy wheels. The 2010 Toyota RAV4 Sport with the four-cylinder engine is priced from $24,000 with front-wheel drive and from $25,200 with AWD. The 2010 RAV4 Sport with the V-6 is priced from $25,930 with front-wheel drive and from $27,330 with AWD.

The 2010 RAV4 Limited models come with dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and keyless ignition with pushbutton start, plus other features. The 2010 Toyota RAV4 Limited with the four-cylinder engine is priced from $25,290 with front-wheel drive and from $26,690 with AWD. The 2010 RAV4 Limited with the V-6 is priced from $27,210 with front-wheel drive and from $28,610 with AWD.

Among options, the navigation system costs roughly $1,240-$1,550, depending on model. To a Sport or Limited, leather upholstery adds about $1,930 and a sunroof about $900. The third-row seat costs from $840-$940, depending on model. The RAV4 also offers option packages that group many of these features at a lower cost than if ordered separately.

2010 Toyota Rav4 Fuel Economy back to top

Despite working with just four gears, the RAV4’s four-cylinder returns equal or better gas mileage than many four-cylinder rivals with five-speed automatics. The four-cylinder 2010 Toyota RAV4 is rated at 22/28 mpg (city/highway) with front-wheel drive and 21/27 with all-wheel drive.

With 269 horsepower, the V-6 RAV4 is the most powerful compact crossover SUV in its competitive set. Yet it’s also among the most fuel-efficient. EPA ratings are 19/27 with front-wheel drive, 19/26 with all-wheel drive. Both RAV4 engines use 87-octane gas.

2010 Toyota Rav4 Safety and Reliability back to top

The 2010 Toyota RAV4 does fairly in government crash tests that award a maximum of five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side collisions (www.safecar.gov). RAV4 scores five stars for driver protection in both frontal and side impacts. It also scores five stars for side-collision protection of the rear side-passenger. The only crash test in which the RAV4 does not score five stars is in front-passenger protection, where it earns four stars. A majority of compact SUVs tested by the government scored similar results. 

The government also issues five-star ratings to gauge the likelihood of a rollover resulting from a skid or crash. SUVs and other vehicles with a comparatively high center of gravity, such as pickup trucks, are more prone than cars to rollovers. Deaths in rollovers are a leading cause of fatalities in SUV and pickup-truck crashes. Both front- and all-wheel-drive versions of the RAV4 scored four of five stars in rollover tests. About half the compact SUVs tested earned fewer than four stars in these tests, and none was awarded five stars. 

The Toyota brand is ranked above average in overall quality by J.D. Power and Associates, the leading automotive consumer-survey firm (www.jdpower.com). Toyota RAV4 owners surveyed by J.D. Power rate their SUV among the best in overall initial quality during the first 90 days of ownership. They award it highest possible marks for mechanical, body, and interior quality. The only area in which they rank below average is for the design of some features and accessories.

For dependability, the Toyota brand is among the industry leaders. It’s one of just five brands to earn the highest-possible marks in the most-recent J.D. Power polls tracking problems reported during the first three years of ownership. (Buick, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercury were the others.) The RAV4 was rated “better than most” for overall dependability in J.D. Power surveys that polled owners of three-year-old vehicles. Its lowest rating, “about average,” was for dependability of features and accessories

2010 Toyota Rav4 Release Date back to top

The 2010 Toyota RAV4 went on sale in July 2009. By the way, Toyota says RAV4 stands for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive.

What's next for the 2010 Toyota Rav4 back to top

Making its debut as a 2006 design, the 2010 Toyota RAV4 represents the third generation of this popular crossover. The lineage dates to model-year 1996, and today’s version is the largest and most-powerful RAV4 ever. The fourth-generation, set for a model-year 2012 introduction, is likely to follow its lead.

Expect styling to continue walking a tricky visual line between non-threatening crossover and muscle-toned SUV. Just as critical are dimensions. The RAV4 must remain small enough to steer clear of the midsize-class, yet roomy enough to serve as a young family’s primary vehicle. The 2006-2011 RAV4 hits that sweet spot and Toyota won’t tempt fate by shrinking or enlarging the next-generation model by more than a fraction here or there.     

The four-cylinder/V-6 tandem has proved a winning combination, as well. It’ll be back for 2012, likely fortified with new transmissions, perhaps a five-speed automatic for the four and a six-speed auto for the V-6. Significantly altered power ratings are unlikely. However, do look for added features, such as USB connectivity. And expect improved handling, maybe even hardware or software to make the RAV4 more off-road capable.

Toyota is on record promising a gas-electric hybrid version of each of its model lines by the early 2020s.That increases chances for a hybrid version of the fourth-generation RAV4 but doesn’t guarantee it. RAV4 buyers would seem best served by a hybrid model positioned as a gas-saving alternative at a competitive price. However, Toyota and its premium Lexus division have traditionally treated hybrid versions of their SUVs as premium models tuned more for performance than fuel economy.

2010 Toyota Rav4 Competition back to top

2010 Honda CR-V: Panic at the pumps helped propel this shapely wagon to the top of America’s SUV sales charts, where it continues to reign on the strength of great road manners, solid build quality, and Honda’s gold-standard brand reputation. The CR-V seats five, four in real comfort. You need to fold down the rear seat to match the usable cargo volume of the RAV4. Its only engine is a 180-horsepower four-cylinder, and its AWD system can’t lock in maximum traction. But fuel economy is an impressive 21/28 with front-wheel drive, 21/27 with AWD. Base prices range from around $22,300-$30,500. Today’s CR-V bowed for model-year 2007 and the next-generation version will likely come for model-year 2013.

2010 Subaru Forester: Redesigned for 2009, this REI-crowd favorite finally gained enough size to graduate from compact-car cozy to compact-crossover roomy. In fact, terrific road manners and a   rock-solid bearing make this five-seat compact SUV a strong contender for best-in-class. It’s still not a true off-roader, but very capable AWD technology is standard. And Forester is quite lively when ordered with the 224-horsepower turbo alternative to its 170-horsepower four-cylinder. Fuel economy is 20/27 on the base model, which starts around $21,000, and 19/24 for the 2.5 XT turbo model, which begins around $27,000. This Subaru won’t be redesigned again before model-year 2014.

2010 Volkswagen Tiguan: A blend of “Tiger” and “Iguana,” the name is bonkers but this SUV is far from bland. A refreshing European take on the genre, the Tiguan excels for refined road manners and cabin comfort. It’s sneaky-fast, too, courtesy of a 200-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder hooked to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Front- and all-wheel-drive is available. A comprehensive list of comfort and convenience features is standard. Fuel economy is 19/26 with manual transmission, 18/24 with automatic. VW’s reputation for reliability pales before that of Toyota and Honda, and trails Subaru, too. Tiguan base prices start around $24,000 and stretch to $34,000, so you’ll need to look in the lower half of the model lineup to stay near RAV4 money.  But compact-crossover shoppers with a taste for something different owe themselves a Tiguan test drive.