2022 Toyota RAV4 poised to defend top-selling-crossover crown

2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

By Chuck Giametta

What changes will make the 2022 Toyota RAV4 different?

Little of consequence as Toyota prepares America’s best-selling crossover for a model-year-2023 refresh. Likely limited mostly to cosmetic tweaks, the ’23 refresh won’t fundamentally alter this compact SUV. The next big change is a full redesign, probably for model-year 2025 or ’26.

The 2022 RAV4 will again feature one of the broadest lineups in the segment. It’ll return a choice of gas-only, conventional hybrid, and plug-in-hybrid powertrains, plus an off-road model. The plug-in is badged the Prime and, with 302 horsepower, is the most powerful RAV. It can travel 42 miles on electricity alone before going into hybrid mode. And it comes standard with all-wheel drive (AWD).

Through the first three quarters of 2020, the RAV4 outsold every vehicle in the U.S. except the Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram full-size pickup trucks. And for a time during that period, the Hybrid was the top selling RAV. 

The original “Recreational Activity Vehicle with 4-wheel drive” helped launch the crossover market in 1994, debuting with car-type unibody construction instead of truck-like body-on-frame engineering.

Today’s fifth generation launched for model-year 2019, and the ’22 faces a raft of rivals that are newer or about to be redone, including the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage (due model-year-2023 redesigns), Hyundai Tucson (redesigned for 2022), and Nissan Rogue (redesigned for ’21). Crossover competition from Ford includes the redesigned-for-2020 Escape and the new Bronco Sport.

Should I wait for the 2022 RAV4 or buy a 2021?

2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Buy a ’21. The ’22 isn’t apt to change enough to wait for, but it’ll almost certainly cost a bit more. And getting a ’21 means your RAV’s styling won’t age out as quickly as that of a ‘22, given the expected model-year-2023 facelift.  

Toyota could well introduce a new trim package or revise an existing one for the 2022 RAV4. For model-year ‘21, it expanded the Hybrid lineup by adding an XLE Premium grade. But the ’21 and ’22 model lineups are just as likely to be duplicates.

Expect the gas-only line to return six models: LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, Limited, and TRD Off-Road. The 2022 RAV4 Hybrid should be back in five grades: LE, XLE, XLE Premium, XSE, and Limited. Look for the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid to reprise SE and XSE models. Front-wheel drive would again be standard across much of the line, with AWD standard on the Adventure and TRD Off-Road, the Hybrid, and the Prime.

Will 2022 RAV4 styling be different?

2021 RAV4 Prime

There might be a different color choice or two, perhaps some visual details associated with a possible new trim level. But the RAV4’s overall look won’t change until the model-year-2023 refresh. Even then, expect little more than a tweaked grille and front fascia, maybe new taillamp lenses, altered wheel designs, and updated textures in the cabin. 

The ’22 will carry on the look that came with the 2019 redesign, which spearheaded a new styling direction for Toyota crossovers marked by sharper angles and more SUV attitude.

The boldest-looking ’22 RAV4s will again be the Adventure and TRD Off-Road, the latter named for the Toyota Racing Division. Both will retain blackout trim and a unique split-bar upper grille. The TRD should return with its own gray lower fascia, flared wheel arches, and chunky tires on black TRD wheels. For model-year ’21, Toyota gave it a TRD-stamped stainless steel front skid plate, the first-ever skid plate on a RAV4. Along with the XSE Hybrid and XSE Prime, expect the Adventure and TRD to again offer optional two-tone paint.

Visual differences between the other gas-only RAV4s should again consist mostly of trim-color details. Every model will return with LED headlights. All but the LE will come with foglamps. Vertical LED accent lights will again give the XSEs a distinct look.

2021 RAV4 Prime charge port

The Hybrid and Prime will return with blue Toyota logos and an exclusive lower front fascia and wheels. The Primes also have a second fuel-filler-type door, on the right-rear fender, for the plug-in port.

The SE trim arrived with the Prime for model-year 2020. It gets its own lattice grille insert and a unique front spoiler. Toyota could well expand the SE look to other models for 2022. It could also extend availability of the Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS), which automatically levels the headlamps and partially aims the beams into turns as the driver steers. AFS has been an exclusive option for the Hybrid Limited and Prime XSE models.

All ’22 RAVs will again come with wheels that differ slightly in design and size. Expect 17-inch shteel wheels with plastic wheel covers for the LE, 17-inch alloys for the gas and Hybrid XLE. The TRD, Prime SE, Hybrid XSE, and Limited should return with 18-inch alloys. The Adventure, the gas-only XLE Premium and Limited, and the Prime XSE should reprise 19-inch alloys.

2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Cabin materials in all models will remain a praiseworthy combination of solid-feeling grained plastic panels and soft-touch surfaces. Gas-only and Hybrid LE and XLE models should return with fabric upholstery. The Hybrid XLE Premium and the Prime XSE should retain Toyota’s SofTex faux leather with fabric inserts. All other ’22 RAV4s should return with full SofTex.

The 2022 Adventure should retain orange interior accents. The TRD gets a black-themed cabin with TRD logos, red accents and red stitching on dash, doors, and seats. The ’22 Prime SE will reprise red stitching, the Hybrid XSE blue stitching. Expect the Limited models to again be distinguished by upscale-looking dark brown decor.

The 2022 RAV4 Adventure, TRD, and the Limited models should again have digital instrumentation versus the other models’ analog gauges. And all Hybrid and Prime RAV4s will again include range and battery-level readouts. On any model, the orderly dashboard presents clearly marked, easy-to-reach controls. The knobs for audio volume, station selection, and climate adjustment are distinguished by their scored rubber wraps.

2021 RAV4 with imbedded navigation

Every ’22 RAV4 will return with a tablet-like central-dashboard infotainment touchscreen. Expect all LE and XLE models (and the gas-only XLE Premium) to have a 7-inch display. Look for the XSE Prime, essentially the RAV4 flagship, to return with a 9-inch display. An 8-inch screen should return as part of an audio-upgrade option for all XLE models and as standard on the remaining RAV4s.

All models will again come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For real-time mapping in the absence of a cell signal you’ll need the imbedded navigation system. Expect it to again be standard on all Limited grades and optional on all but the LE.

Toyota could be planning to grant more models the larger 8- and 9-inch screens as standard, although that’s unlikely before the 2023 refresh. Also probably delayed until then is an upgraded version of the automaker’s Entune infotainment software. Some of our testers find today’s aging Entune slow to respond. All agree crisper graphics with more contrast are needed.

2021 RAV4 rear seat

Passenger comfort will remain a 2022 RAV4 selling point. The tall roofline contributes to excellent headroom and good outward visibility. A feature rare in this class is the available digital rearview mirror. It uses a rear-mounted camera to expand the view aft and allows the driver to “see through” otherwise obstructive passenger heads or cargo. It’s been standard on the Limited models and on the Hybrid XSE and optional on the XLE Premium grades, the Adventure, the TRD, and the Prime XSE.

The front seats should continue to furnish effective lateral support without confining those of wide girth. Adult-friendly front legroom should again run with the compact-crossover pack. On paper, rear legroom is tighter than in such rivals as the CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan. The RAV4’s back seat is by no means cramped, although entry and exit are harder than for rivals with larger door openings.

2021 RAV4

A relatively high rear cargo floor demands a little extra muscle to load heavy objects. At 37.6 cubic feet, cargo volume behind the rear seat should again be above class average. The 69.8 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded is a little below par for the segment but still plenty of space. Tip your cap to Toyota for packaging the battery pack of both the Hybrid and the Prime to give them the same cargo space – and the same 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks – as gas-only RAV4s.

Toyota could expand availability of the power liftgate for model-year ’22 – and we’re certain owners would appreciate faster opening and closing. The power liftgate has

been unavailable on the LE, optional on the Adventure and XLE models, and standard otherwise. Hands-free operation has been optional on the Limited models and on the Prime XSE.

Any 2022 RAV4 mechanical changes?

RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Expect no mechanical changes before the model-year 2025 or ‘26 redesign. Gas-only RAV4 will retain a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine likely to continue at 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving.) Gas-only RAVs will again use an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Though few rivals have standard engines with more power, expect gas-only 2022 RAV4s to continue to feel a little lackadaisical. Blame a transmission that defaults to higher gears to save fuel.

All RAV4s will again give the driver a console controller to access Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. even in Sport, gas-only models are lethargic away from a stop and can’t pass confidently at highway speeds unless you floor the throttle. Doing so exposes this engine’s loud, coarse nature — though it does settle down at cruising speed. We’d suggest Toyota tweak the transmission to tap available torque more quickly. More sound-deadening material would be nice, too.

2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Slim supplies of gas-only models during the Covid-19 crisis contributed to a late-2020 spike in Hybrid sales. Historically, about 20 percent of RAV4 buyers choose the Hybrid. That still makes it Toyota’s most-popular hybrid, outselling even the automaker’s iconic Prius.

The ’22 RAV4 Hybrid will again use a version of the 2.5-liter engine combined with electric-motor assist for a net 219 horsepower (Toyota doesn’t specific a torque rating). It has a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which performs the role of a conventional automatic transmission but without stepped gear ratios.

Balancing acceleration and fuel economy, sensors determine the optimal combination of gas and electric power. With the electric motor providing an instant injection of torque, the Hybrid is noticeably quicker off the line than gas-only RAV4s. Toyota quotes 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds, about a second quicker than gas-only RAVs. The Hybrid also responds with more gusto to high-speed passing and merging — although the engine here is no less coarse under throttle.

2021 RAV4 Prime

For the quickest 2022 RAV4 look again to the Prime. Indeed, at about 5.7 seconds 0-60 mph, it’s faster than any Toyota except the Supra sports car, which takes just 3.8 seconds. The plug-in supplements the 2.5-liter gas engine with electric-motor power for a net 302 horsepower (again, no torque figure is supplied). It has more powerful motor-generators than the Hybrid and employs a Lithium-Ion battery with more capacity than the Hybrid’s nickel-metal-hydride battery. It also uses a CVT.

Around town, the Prime feels about the same as the RAV4 Hybrid, with linear throttle response and satisfying pickup. Press it, though, and it accelerates with more authority and merges and passes with less strain. It still can’t escape that unseemly gas-engine grittiness, however.

The other key difference between the RAV4 Hybrid and the Prime is their electric-only range. Recharged solely by recapturing energy otherwise lost during braking and coasting, the Hybrid can travel only a mile or two on battery power alone. By contrast, the Prime can plug into a commercial or residential outlet for enough initial battery charge to travel an EPA-rated 42 miles on electric power alone. That’s among the best electric-only range of any plug-in-hybrid SUV or crossover on the market.

When not running exclusively on battery power, the Prime operates like the RAV4 Hybrid. Sensors automatically choose engine power or battery assist to optimize performance or fuel economy, and the battery is recharged by regenerative braking and coasting. The XSE Prime has paddle shifters that enable “downshifting” on demand, using the gas engine’s brake torque to ramp up energy regeneration. Both Primes get a button that allows the driver to choose when to employ electric-only propulsion (incidentally, in this pure EV mode, Toyota estimates a 0-60 mph time of 9.2 seconds).

2021 RAV4 Prime

Gas-only ’22 RAV4s will continue with a conventional AWD system that normally runs in front-wheel drive.  When sensors detect tire slip, it can automatically shuffle up to 50 percent of engine power to the rear wheels. When AWD isn’t needed, it automatically disconnects the rear driveline to save fuel. The system adds a measure of traction in snow and in light-duty off-pavement excursions. And Adventure and TRD Off-Road models get automatic side-to-side rear torque vectoring.

To achieve AWD, the 2022 RAV4 Hybrid and the RAV4 Prime will again employ two electric motors. The first assists with acceleration and, battery-charge permitting, enables electric-only driving. The second provides all-wheel drive by automatically powering the rear wheels if the front tires slip.

Standard on the Adventure and TRD Off-Road and optional on the gas-only AWD Limited is a console-mounted multi-terrain selector that lets the driver optimize the powertrain for mud and sand, rock and dirt, and snow.

2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road

However, only the TRD Off-Road approaches the severe-environment capability of the competitive set’s best go-anywhere crossovers, the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, the Bronco Sport, and the Subaru Forester. Toyota gives the TRD an off-road-optimized suspension; lighter, extra-rigid wheels; and tires with fairly aggressive all-terrain and deep-snow tread. Like the RAV4 Adventure, the TRD has a slightly above-class-average 8.6 inches of ground clearance. Other gas-only RAV4s will return with 8.4 inches, the Hybrid and Prime with 8.1.

RAVs with the 17- and 18-inch wheels and tires arguably provide the most absorbent ride in the segment. They negotiate bumps and ruts without with the impact harshness transmitted to the cabin by the 19s. On road, though, expect all ’22 RAV4s to again favor ride comfort over sporty road manners. It’s a tradeoff a legion of buyers obviously accepts and while no RAV matches the athletic balance of the CR-V or Mazda CX-5, none will betray your confidence, either.

Toyota will continue to tune the SE and XSE suspensions for sharper handling than other RAVs; they do change direction a bit more responsively and porpoise less on wavy pavement. Low placement of the battery pack in the Hybrid and Prime helps reduce their center of gravity for an enhanced sense of stability in corners. The TRD’s knobby tire tread generates a slight squirm in the steering – and an unseemly hum – on smooth pavement.

Will 2022 RAV4 fuel economy improve?

2021 RAV4 Hybrid and Prime

Not likely. Expect the 2022 RAV4 lineup to remain among the more fuel-efficient in the segment, with the Hybrid and, most particularly, the Prime candidates for best-in-class economy.

Look for the EPA to again rate the gas-only 2022 RAV4 LE at 27/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 27/34/30 with AWD. Among other gas-only trims, expect the XLE and XLE Premium to rate 28/35/30 mpg with front drive and 27/33/29 with AWD, the Limited to rate 27/358/30 and 25/33/28, respectively.

With AWD standard, the ’22 Adventure should rate 28/33/28 mpg, the TRD Off-Road 25/32/27.

Also with AWD standard, expect the ’22 RAV4 Hybrid to again rate 41/38/40 mpg city/highway/combined. 

In addition to its EPA-graded 42-mile range, the 2022 RAV4 Prime should again rate 94 mpg-e on electricity alone. Mpg-e is the EPA’s calculation of an electric vehicle’s miles-per-gallon-of-gasoline equivalent. Running as a conventional hybrid, it should again rate 40/36/38 mpg city/highway/combined. Total range is about 600 miles.

RAV4 Prime charging times are about 12 hours on a 120-volt household outlet and 4.5 hours with a 240-volt charger. XSE Prime models with the Premium Package get enhanced charging capability that cuts 240-volt charging time to 2.5 hours.

Some RAV4 Prime buyers may qualify for electric-vehicle tax credits. And in some states, the plug-in crossover qualifies for the high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane, even with just the driver aboard.

Toyota will continue to tune all 2022 RAV4 models to run on regular-grade 87 octane gas.

Will there be new 2022 RAV4 features?

2021 RAV4 reaview camera mirror

Toyota could bundle features from carryover models and existing options packages, ladle on some appearance flourishes, and create yet another trim level. But adding new features to the 2022 RAV4 isn’t apt to be in the playbook as it prepares for the refreshed 2023 model.

Laudably, every ’22 RAV4 will again come standard with the array of driver assists included in Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0). It comprises autonomous emergency braking designed to stop the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle, object, or pedestrian. Also included is lane-departure warning, adaptive radar cruise control that can maintain a set following distance from traffic ahead, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Another vital safety feature — blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection – has been optional on the LE gas and LE Hybrid models and standard on all other RAV4s. We’d advocate that it become standard on all ‘22 RAVS.

Otherwise, expect returning trim levels to again share most equipment, regardless of powertrain type. Depending on grade, available options and packages should again include features such as steering-linked headlights, programmable power rear liftgate, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging pad, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and surround-view camera.

In addition to features already covered, all 2022 RAV4 LEs should return with LED headlights, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and built-in WiFi hotspot among their standard equipment.

The ’22 RAV4 XLE and XLE Premium models would again build on the LEs with such amenities as dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver’s seat, keyless access with pushbutton engine start, fog lights, a cargo cover, and four additional USB power points, including two for rear-seat occupants.

The XLE Premium would also add a power tilt/slide moonroof. Expect return of the XLE Weather Package option with heated front seats, a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a windshield wiper de-icer.

2021 RAV4 panoramic moonroof

The ‘22 RAV4 Adventure should again come with a standard leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and the available Convenience Package, which includes the power liftgate and power moonroof.

Expect Limited models to continue with the aforementioned imbedded navigation plus an 800-watt audio upgrade with 11 JBL speakers. The audio upgrade should remain optional for the ’22 XLE Premium, TRD Off-Road, and XSE Hybrid.

Note that ’22 Prime SE equipment should remain largely commensurate with that of the  XLE grades. Both come with heated front seats and should again be available with Weather & Moonroof Package ($1,665 for model-year 2021) that includes a heated steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats and rain-sensing windshield wipers with de-icer function.

A power tilt/slid moonroof or a Panoramic glass roof with front power tilt/slide moonroof will again be available, though neither is likely to be offered on an LE model. The regular moonroof should again be optional on the Adventure and the XLEs and on both Primes; it should remain standard on the other gas and hybrid models. Expect the panoramic roof to remain optional on all XSE and Limited trims.

Will 2022 RAV4 prices be different?

2021 RAV4 Adventure

It’s a good bet they’ll increase, but perhaps very little. Indeed. Toyota raised base prices just $100 on most versions of the gas-only 2021 RAV4 (the TRD increased $500, the Adventure just $10). It raised Hybrid base prices $150. The Prime was introduced as a 2021 model.

Still, the ‘22 RAV4 lineup will likely remain among the priciest in the class. Given its sales leadership, that speaks well of the value-for-money buyers associate with the Toyota brand, and with the RAV4 in particular.

Estimated base prices here include Toyota’s destination fee, which was $1,175 for model-year ’21.

Among gas-only models, expect base prices for front-wheel-drive versions of $27,400 for the LE, $28,700 for the XLE, $31,400 for the XLE Premium, and $35,900 for the Limited. To these base prices expect to again add about $1,400 for AWD.

For ’22 gas-only RAV4s with AWD standard, estimated base prices are $34,500 for the Adventure and $37,200 for the TRD Off-Road.

Estimated base prices for the ’22 RAV4 Hybrid, which comes standard with AWD, are $29,800 for the LE, $31,500 for the XLE, $34,000 for the XLE Premium, $35,850 for the XSE, and $38,300 for the Limited. The ’22 RAV4 Hybrid should remain a particularly attractive buy, given the relatively modest increase over a comparable gas-only trim with AWD. Calculating EPA fuel-economy ratings and an estimated 15,000 miles driven per year, an owner could recoup the added cost of a RAV4 Hybrid in about three years.

For the 2022 RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid, also with AWD standard, projected base prices are $39,500 for the SE and $43,000 for the XSE.

Note that Toyota warranties Hybrid and Prime hybrid-related components for defects in materials or workmanship at 8 years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first. The battery packs get 10/150,000 coverage that’s transferrable across ownership.

When does the 2022 RAV4 come out?

2021 RAV4 TRD Off-Road

Expect a 2022 Toyota RAV4 release date in the third quarter of 2021.

Best 2022 RAV4 competitors

Chevrolet Equinox; Ford Escape and Bronco Sport; GMC Terrain; Honda CR-V; Hyundai Tucson; Jeep Cherokee; Kia Sportage; Mazda CX-5; Nissan Rogue; Subaru Forester; Volkswagen Tiguan

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About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]