Rental Car Review: The Top Of The Class?

The sales leadership the Toyota RAV4 blazed above any SUV or passenger car sold in this country is a story worth telling. 

Based on my original review of this current generation of this popular compact SUV a year ago, I found it to be the “top of its class.” It certainly made some huge steps in terms of engineering, design, technology, and efficiency. Toyota is not complaining about this current generation of the RAV4 a bit. 

Which brings me to this Rental Car Review. Because I had a lot of errands to run this past weekend, I had to grab a vehicle. My long-standing Preferred status with Avis offers an automatic upgrade to whatever they want to put me in. In this case, it was a 2020 Toyota RAV4 LE with all-wheel-drive in a very unassuming silver paint job. 

This vehicle evoked a couple of storylines I covered over the years. One, the idea that the sales reports usually combine with retail and fleet/commercial sales numbers. One reason that the RAV4 has been at the top of the sales charts for anything that is not a full-sized pickup truck is that they are the darling of rental car fleets. Hertz, AvisBudget, and Enterprise – along with their other brands – cannot get enough of the Toyota RAV4. So do business, leisure, and essential travelers alike. 

The other storyline has to do with some consumer advice. When I examined the Volkswagen Tiguan S just recently, I concluded that no one should be ashamed of buying a “base” model if it is well-equipped and offers a high value for the money. 

This ideal came up with this 2020 RAV4 LE, the lowest trim level available on this model. Yet, instead of focusing on what’s missing in the RAV4 LE, we should focus on what it has to offer.

First off, Toyota is pouring on the features into its lowest priced RAV4. How often do you see Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control on a base model SUV? How about Road Sign Assist? Or, a full color graphical information screen? All of these add to a vehicle that goes beyond just being “useful” and “practical.” 

This RAV4 LE is also quite comfortable. Its cloth seats could offer a bit more support to lock in my body. Then again, I’m probably asking for a TRD Off Road model for that to happen. Still five people can enjoy a comfortable existence inside this RAV4.

The one small complaint I have for the interior is the lack of length of the cargo hold behind the rear seat. I put two pieces of cargo in the RAV4 – two conga drums. Both are 30 inches long. One is in a box, the other in the gig bag. The bad news is that they could not fit length-wise. I had to put down the rear seats in order for them to fit with the liftgate closed. 

Power from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is very good. On the RAV4, it seems that the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts better than a similar unit on the Camry I driven on the Mid-Continent Road Trip. To think that similar drivelines can behave differently…

One welcomed surprise was that I averaged 30.2 MPG in this RAV4 LE with all-wheel-drive. Come to think of it, this would have been an equally good driver for that road trip. 

The RAV4 offered great road manners for a vehicle in its class. Although, you do feel a softer ride and handling overall. The RAV4 corners quite well and can do passing maneuvers with ease. The steering system offers tight turns and good feedback. That, along with a great on-center feel. Of course, the brakes are very good, offering good stopping power in normal and panic situations. Pedal feel is also very good. 

These are the attributes I expect in a vehicle in its class. Yet, I did not have any expectations when I first picked up the RAV4 LE from the rental car place. Which is why I rather quite enjoyed it. 

That is probably the best approach to a vehicle. Come in with no expectations. You just have to experience it. You might even like it. 

If you were to buy a 2020 Toyota RAV4 LE AWD, the base price of this particular model is $27,350. Keep in mind that you also have a wide selection of trim levels, including Hybrid and the new Prime plug-in hybrid models. You have twelve different RAV4 models to choose from. 

To say that the RAV4 is the top of the class may prompt one to look at its competition. Don’t get me wrong – Toyota makes a really good compact SUV. Although each of us have a particular taste that would be a better fit for another vehicle. Which makes is tough to do a comparison between the RAV4 LE and the Tiguan S. These are as different as night and day. However, both are really good at what they do it makes it difficult to choose one of the other. 

Perhaps the best conclusion is to say that the Toyota RAV4 is a good choice for those looking at a mainstream, compact SUV. It is also a great vehicle to rent for business or pleasure. 

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle was rented by Victory & Reseda

All photos by Randy Stern

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