City & Country Driving With The RAV4 Hybrid

RAV4 Hybrid Toyota Canada

Last week, I got to do something out of the ordinary. Jenny, our naturopathic contributor (and my sister-in-law) and I, shared in test driving the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid Limited from Toyota Canada. Since I’m currently driving around in a 13-year-old SUV, the time is rapidly approaching to consider an upgrade to a new vehicle so I was excited to see for myself how a hybrid compact SUV drives, especially as it’s Earth Month.

RAV4Hybrid Toyota Canada

Jenny experienced highway and city driving and I experienced rural driving with my family. Then we compared notes. And of course, being Ontario in the spring, we got to drive it in both mud and snow. The weather changed quite literally overnight. Good thing we were driving the All-Wheel Drive (AWD) edition with all-season tires.

RAV4 Hybrid 2016 Canada

On driving in the country:

After living in the city all of my life, driving in the country is much different. Where my family and I live in the Haliburton Highlands there are lots of curves and hills. The Lane Departure Assist, part of the technology package upgrade, helps manage the turns safely as long as there is a line painted. This is especially helpful at night as there are no lights on most country highway roads. The last thing I want it is to drive outside of the lane where we could end up in a ditch!

Unlike, the city where there are road signs every few blocks or landmarks, everything can look the same in the country. Green, green, and more green. It’s easy to lose my bearings; the 7″ inch display screen with audio navigation helped to keep from getting lost as we spent the weekend exploring some of Haliburton’s best tourist sites like the sculpture forest.

On most of our outings, we come across deer in the middle of the road. One lesson I’ve learned about rural driving: where there’s one deer, there’s another close by.

RAV4 Hybrid Country Driving

We’ve never been able to get as close to deer as we did in the RAV4 Hybrid. It turns out when you’re stopped or idling in the hybrid, the already quiet vehicle switches to the electric motor and barely makes a sound. This deer and her doe didn’t seem very bothered by us watching. You can see more over on my Instagram. My husband and I must have asked each other if the car was even on a dozen times over the weekend. It’s that quiet.

On the kids:

We were able to fit two Clek booster seats in the back seat. My boys had lots of leg room without my husband or myself felt squished in the front row. Oftentimes, whoever is in the passenger seat feels like their knees are squished up against the dashboard but not in this car. The kids were excited as we were about discovering all the features and were big fans of the Electric Storm Blue colour.

Kids loving the RAV4 Hybrid

Strange things about rural living:

If you’ve ever lived in the country, you know that there are only a few music stations; it’s rare to be able to tune into the popular city stations. For some reason, I’ve never really gotten into making my own playlists which is why I love listening to the radio so much. Even better that in the RAV4 Hybrid, I could channel surf all the Integrated SiriusXM Satellite Radio options from a button on the steering wheel. I would definitely continue to subscribe to the satellite radio service once my three-month free trial expires.

Did you know you that you don’t need to do emissions testing in the countryside? Since rural communities have smaller populations and less congestion than cities, the air quality isn’t as affected by car pollution. But as drivers, we all have a shared responsibility for the health of our planet since. I like the idea that the wherever I live, the hybrid has less impact on our environment with its ability to switch between the gas-powered engine and electric motors depending on the driving conditions.

A few of our favourite features:

In this video, Jenny and I discuss some of the features of the RAV4 Hybrid that stood out to us right away. Pay close attention…I bet it will be hard for you even to tell when the engine turns on, which we do with the push of a button! So neat!

Jenny on driving in the city:

City driving is really where the RAV4 Hybrid Limited with the technology package really shows off. I’ve passed up the perfect spot on the street or in a tight underground lot many times because I wasn’t sure I would fit. With the front and rear parking assist sonar and the birds-eye view monitor, parking was the easiest it’s ever been. It feels like the car is practically parking for you.

RAV4 Hybrid Technology Package

Of course, I can’t talk about city driving without mentioning the stop and go traffic. Not only is it stressful but all the congestion is terrible for the environment. I felt like a bit of an eco-queen while commuting downtown since the electric motor is mainly used for driving under 40 km/hr and while idling. Unlike my usual experience in city gridlock, the ride was smooth since the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) means no jerky gear shifts during acceleration.

On driving a RAV4 Hybrid:

There’s a strong possibility we’ll return to the city in a year or two and like many urban families, we’d visit the country frequently for holidays. The RAV4 Hybrid Limited with an MSRP  of$41, 190 (no taxes, fees, freight included) is a vehicle that could handle wherever life takes our family.

Want to know more about what it’s like to drive a hybrid? Stay tuned as Emma, shares her experiences with the Prius next.

Update: The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid was named Canada’s green utility vehicle of the year. From our experiences with last year’s model, we can understand why!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Toyota Canada. The opinions are completely our own based on our experience.


  • Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma says:

    Love the way you’ve laid out the features. Sounds like a great option as we are in the midst of researching to upgrade our 13 yo Nissan XTrail SUV.

    • Sara Vartanian says:

      Thanks, Puneeta! I hear you, our Lexus SUV, is nearing the end of it’s time, too. I would recommend checking out a hybrid especially if you are in the city with lots of commuting! PS. I had never driven one before and wasn’t sure how it would be but it’s now my first choice.

  • Joan @ mADDworld says:

    Living 5 minutes outside the city, we need both city and country driving so I loved this review! May have to take one for a text drive!

  • Tiffany Washko says:

    I love the color! I always love the wild colors like electric blue, yellow, orange. 🙂

    • Sara Vartanian says:

      I’m usually the opposite for cars but I really dig this electric storm colour. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Tamara says:

    Oooohhh… I love tha it’s so quiet that the deer didn’t even hear you. The parking assist looks awesome too – I’m about to get a minivan and I’m already dreading the parking lots!

    • Sara Vartanian says:

      The parking lots would worry me, too! You’ll get used to it though! Any option for parking assist on your new vehicle?

  • Anna@GreenTalk says:

    How did it feel on the road? When I drove this car years ago, it felt like a jeep rather than a car. I have a mini van so I am used to a very smooth ride.

    • Sara Vartanian says:

      I found it very smooth, especially with the quiet! I already drive a SUV and noticed it was much smoother than mine.

  • Brenna says:

    Great review! I’d love to get a hybrid for our next car. It’s likely a long ways off, but love hearing all the details.

  • paigewolf says:

    I desperately need a bigger car than my little hybrid with two kids for long trips! This car seems great when we can finally get a new one!

  • D McPherson says:

    I’ve looked at hybrids in the past & opted out because I live in the country. The electrics cut in/out at 40 kph & the speed limits on the roads I drive are mostly 80 with some 60 (on dirt) & the numbers didn’t make sense -very little urban stop/go driving. (i.e. high acquisition & maintenance cost but no real difference in efficiency between this & an efficient gas engine) So my questions are: Has anything changed? (That was 5 years ago & tech changes rapidly!) What sort of efficiency did you find in the rural setting? How is hybrid tech useful in a rural setting other than looking at deer (which, although neat, to be honest I can see from my home window)? Thanks.

  • dianehoffmaster says:

    I drive a 16 year old pickup truck and always have my eyes out for a new car just in case! I have driven a few hybrids and LOVE how quiet they are!

  • ginabad says:

    Looks wonderful! My husband saw an ad for that lane departure assist and thought we should consider it for our next vehicle purchase. This is because I’m terrified at changing lanes, and still don’t highway drive, 10 years after getting my license. (As a former New Yorker, I never thought I’d have needed one!) I love that backup mirror too. I’m always terrified one of my neighbor’s little ones will jump out of nowhere when I’m back up. I’m super cautious and always look before getting in the car, but you never know. I’m also impressed with how quiet it is. I find the sound of a car can be utterly distracting when I drive.

  • mindfulmicaela says:

    I really want our next car to be a hybrid. We already drive a Toyota Highlander so might just make sense to move to this one!

  • I’d love to get a larger car now that we are parenting again. I’m currently driving a diesel SmartCar. It’s so small and stripped of technology that a full tank costs me $16 and runs over 300 km. They’ve also gone to electric. I’m still on the fence about hybrids.I think some provinces are still burning coal when electricity consumption is peaking. If you are in a province with great hydro I can definitely see using an electric or hybrid vehicle. I’d love comparisons with similar vehicles made in North America!