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2016 Toyota RAV4
The 2016 Toyota RAV4 gets revised styling, updated interior, new economical hybrid and new sporty SE version.

Prices: $24,350-$33,610

The Toyota RAV4 has been sold for several decades and is one of the original compact crossover vehicles.

The 2016 four-door five-passenger RAV4 continues to grab many couples, singles and small families because it's economical and has attractive styling updates, good room for people and cargo and a solid reputation. Also, there's a new sporty SE model and a fuel-stingy gas/electric hybrid.

The RAV4 can be had with front-wheel-drive with a special traction helper called Automatic Limited Slip Differential or a sophisticated electronic on-demand all-wheel-drive (AWD) system.

Regular non-hybrid models range from the entry $24,350 LE front-drive model to $32,910 for the AWD LTD version. All have a responsive six-speed automatic transmission.

List prices for the hybrid are $28,370 for the AWD XLE and $33,610 for the AWD LTD. Both have CVT (continuously variable) automatic transmissions.

I tested the new, sporty $30,665 SE. Alas, it has no horsepower increase or manual transmission, but still is the most fun-to-drive RAV4.

The equipment-loaded (power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, backup camera, etc.) SE has a special suspension with sport-tuned shock absorbers and coils for enhanced sporty driving. It also has 18-inch alloy wheels with wide tires and paddle shifters for super-quick operation of the automatic, LED headlights and taillights and an exclusive bumper and lower grille design.

Toyota says the SE's most distinctive exterior feature is the S-Code paint design that combines one of three available upper colors ("Super White," "Black Sand Pearl" and "Electric Storm Blue") over "ClassicSilver Metallic" on the vehicle's lower trim.

Continuing the sporty upscale theme in the SE's generally quiet interior are Softex trimmed seats featuring a power driver's seat and attractive contrast stitching. The SE instrument panel features twin dials with red illumination and red pointers. While attractive,  they're hard to read in bright sunlight. However, the standard 4.2-inch color TFT multi-information display can be quickly read.

The Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and small high-torque electric motor for a combined 194 horsepower. Toyota says it does 0-60 mph in 8.1 seconds, or one second quicker than its gas counterparts. It delivers an estimated  34 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways.

The regular RAV4 has a 2.5-liter direct-injection four-cylinder with 176 horsepower. Its estimated fuel economy is 24 city and 31 highway. With AWD, EPA estimates are 22 and 29.

The new RAV4 has a bolder-looking front fascia, and new rocker panels sharpen the sides and tie in restyled front and rear bumpers for a more flowing profile. A premium touch is added by available LED taillights.

There also are new front and rear silver skid plate garnishes for most models, new wheel designs and a standard shark fin antenna on all models. The revised gauge cluster on some models has an available 4.2-inch TFT multi-information display and a 7-inch touch-sensitive display audio touch screen.

The RAV4 feels solid, thanks to a body structure that uses much high-strength steel for a robust and stiff, yet light, platform and is the foundation for the RAV4's compliant and well-controlled ride, handling agility and interior quietness.

Front and rear shock absorbers and coils have been retuned in all RAV4 models to help enhance stability and increase comfort.

However, some may feel that the precise electric power steering is overly light. The brake pedal has a linear feel, and brakes have electronic brake force distribution for surer stops.

Step-in calls for extra effort, and rear door openings are rather narrow. Also, shorter rear occupants may feel they are sitting too low.

But the cargo floor is low and wide for easy loading, and the entire reclining rear seat folds forward to provide an impressively spacious  cargo area.

The attractive, functional interior of my test car had supportive front seats, but the generally quiet cabin had some wind noise. There are a decent number of cabin storage areas, but one of the front console cupholders is set too far forward for those with a short reach.

As for safety, my test car had stability and traction control and an option package that included front and rear parking sonar and four cameras that are on the front, side mirrors and rear of the vehicle to project a "Bird's Eye" panoramic view of the surroundings on the center seven-in touch display.

The system debuts a Toyota-first feature called Perimeter Scan, which provides a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle, helping a driver see potential obstacles.

Other items in the package include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detector, dynamic radar cruise control, navigation system and a premium JBL audio system.

To keep weight and cost down, Toyota gives the RAV4 a prop rod, instead of a hydraulic strut, to hold the extremely heavy hood open.

Actually, this Toyota has such a reputation for being reliable that a RAV4 owner can let a Toyota service department do most of the hood lifting during regular scheduled maintenance.