Thursday, July 29, 2021
Should-you-buy Should You Buy a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime?

Should You Buy a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime?

Another great addition in the RAV4's lineup

  • It starts at $44,990 in Canada and $38,100 in the United States.

  • This is Toyota’s first plug-in SUV.

  • With 302 hp, it is faster than a Supra 2.0.


The all-new 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime thrilled many at its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2019. With 302 hp, a 0-96 km/h gone in 5.8 seconds and a 2.6 Le/100 km fuel consumption, it became the most powerful and quickest RAV4 ever and one of the most fuel-efficient. In short, it was an instant hit.

This was reinforced when it made its Canadian premiere at the Montreal International Auto Show a few months later, alongside the brand-new Toyota Highlander Hybrid, where it became one of the main attractions at the Auto Show.

Since then, people have put their money where their mouths are as the order book is on fire in Canada. Earlier this year, we reported some surprising delays for RAV4 Prime deliveries. Some dealerships have a waiting period of up to three years!

We get it, though; the PHEV SUV segment is pretty narrow in Canada for now. Add to that the RAV4’s popularity, one of the best-selling SUVs in Canada, and you get this perfect storm.

After a week with this SUV, I can say that the hype is indeed genuine. Now let’s see whether you should buy a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime or not.

Why you should buy a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime:

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

  • The powertrain. Even though it’s pretty much the same one as the RAV4 Hybrid, the Prime’s tuned 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle gas engine allows not only better fuel economy but also more performance.
  • Speaking of fuel economy, thanks to its battery system, the RAV4 Prime can drive about 60 kilometres in pure EV mode on a single charge. Coupled with the gas engine, the driving range can be pushed north of 900 km. In a real-world scenario, I took the Prime on a small road trip of about 350 km and after a quick charge during lunchtime. I came back home with the Distance to Empty showing 450 km. My week ended with an average of 5.1L/100 km.
  • Smooth ride. Toyota says it has a “sport-tuned suspension,” but I found the RAV4 Prime to be rather comfy and predictable. Whether it was on the highway, on my way to get my kids at school or even during a brief stint downtown Montreal, the ride wasn’t harsh at all.
  • The green licence plate. Is this a reason you should buy a 2021 RAV4 Prime vs., let’s say, a RAV4 Hybrid? Well, I think so. The green licence plate gives you a few perks in certain provinces like Ontario and Quebec. Ongoing access to High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, no-cost access to some toll roads/lanes, etc.… Depending on your commute, this could be a good incentive.

Why you should not buy a 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime:

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

  • The limited availability is the RAV4 Prime’s Achilles heel. Like previously said, some dealerships have a 3-year waitlist for Toyota’s first plug-in SUV. That’s a significant dealbreaker in a fast-evolving market. What’s impressive now in terms of range and technology might be eclipsed in the next couple of years, so who knows what the offering will be in three years.

The 2021 RAV4 Prime is one of the only AWD PHEV in its segment, along with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Although the Ford Escape has a PHEV version, it is only available as an FWD. That being said, with a base price a tad higher than its only competitor and a nameplate that inspires confidence and, probably, a better resale value, the new plug-in SUV from Toyota has everything to be a safe bet.

With incentives of up to $13,000 in Quebec, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime’s price almost matches that of the RAV4 Hybrid. With better fuel economy, 60 km of 100% EV range and 83 more horsepower, it’s hard to say no to the Prime.

If Toyota can resolve the availability issue in the near future, I have no trouble believing that we’ll often come across this new SUV on our roads. If I didn’t need a bigger vehicle, you need lots of space with three kids, the 2021 RAV4 Prime would be high on my list. The only thing I’d like to see changed, and I’m being picky here, is the colour options. The RAV4 Prime SE gives you the choice of only three colours while the XSE adds another two.

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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