Review: Redesigned 2013 Toyota RAV4 Defining Its Segment

2013 Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 was one of the first compact crossovers to hit the market back in the ’90s, but this best-selling compact crossover got a redesign for 2013 that proves it’s not content to rest on its laurels. It looks different inside and out and even has a new engine, all of which set it up as a solid compact crossover contender.

One look at the rear of the Toyota RAV4 will tell you if you’ve got the 2013 or an older version of the vehicle. The big tailgate mounted spare tire is no more. It’s now under the cargo space so it looks more like other updated compact crossovers rather than like something that was the rage five years ago.

Inside, the first thing you’ll notice is the missing third row of seats and this is good. The car was just too small to make that third row useful for anyone but Dorothy’s munchkin friends so getting rid of it and embracing its compact size is a good move.


That leaves you ample cargo space in the rear that’s easily accessible through the wide rear hatch. There are also 60/40 split rear seats so you’ve got flexibility carrying larger loads. It’s got more space than a Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue or Kia Sportage but not as much as the Honda CR-V.

The engine might be the one sore spot in the deal as the 2013 Toyota RAV4 gave up its V-6 in favor of a 176 HP four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic. It’s got a smoother, more sedan-like drive and decent power with 172 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm, but hard acceleration at high speeds is not its friend.

Toyota says it does 0-60 MPH in 8.9 seconds which is a quick start and it feels that way behind the wheel, but it rushes to get into overdrive and then just wants to sit there. That might be great for its MPG ratings, but it doesn’t make for an agile or responsive vehicle on the highway.

Steering is on-center and tracks well, but if you’re looking for a stronger, more responsive ride then try flipping it to Sport mode. This will have the engine revving a little higher as well as tightening up the vehicle’s electric power steering. You’re still driving a compact crossover and you know it, but it adds some energy to the drive.

On the flip side, you want to avoid that Eco mode button. It’s supposed to give you a more fuel efficient ride, but what it really does is suck all the life out of an otherwise fun driving experience.

The 2013 Toyota RAV4 will get 24/31 MPG on the front-wheel-drive or 22/29 AWD so you’re getting good MPG even without Eco mode. It’s about the same as the Honda CR-V that has it beaten on space but not as good as what you’ll manage in the Ford Escape. Either way, forget that Eco mode button!


I drove the XLE which had firm but comfortable seats and nicer fabric than what you’ll find on the base LE. I even found it comfortable after a good three hour drive with the suspension evening out bumpier roads and only a moderate amount of wind and road noise. You’ll want to check out the Limited if you’re looking to up the ante further on the interior style with synthetic leather trim.

There’s the usual array of infotainment options as well as a 6.1″ screen, Bluetooth and a rearview camera standard on even the base. The XLE adds in navigation with Entune app connectivity and satellite radio. The Limited gets the same but also a stereo upgrade to a JBL 11 speaker sound system.

Pricing on the 2013 Toyota RAV4 starts at just over $24K for the base and works it’s way up to around $28K for a tricked out Limited. It’s the same engine no matter which you choose so it’s largely a matter of style and your desire for tech that will have you spending more.

Pricing, MPG and interior space are all roughly in the middle of a highly competitive segment. The Subaru Crosstrek is the standout if MPG is your biggest focus with 25/33 but if interior space is where you draw the line then you’ll be looking more toward a Jeep Cherokee.

The Totyota RAV4, though not the star in any one category, rides right in the middle, providing an even balance of affordability, efficiency and functionality in a proven compact crossover.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 Toyota RAV4 a Buy It!

Nicole Wakelin fell in love with cars as a teenager when she got to go for a ride in a Ferrari. It was red and it was fast and that was all that mattered. Game over. She considers things a bit more carefully now, but still has a weakness for fast, beautiful cars. Nicole also writes for NerdApproved and GeekMom.