Toyota RAV4 2013-2018: problems, fuel economy, engine, photos

March 02, 2019

When the first RAV4 was launched in the early 90's, it was one of the first car-based crossover SUVs. The name RAV4 stands for 'Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel-drive'. Since then, the RAV4 became Toyota's best-selling SUV in America. The 2013-2018 RAV4 is a roomy 5-seater compact SUV.

Toyota RAV4 interior
2013 Toyota RAV4 (XA40) interior.

The third-row seat is no longer offered. It comes with a 4-cylinder engine and is available as a front- or all-wheel drive.

The RAV4 Hybrid, introduced for 2016 is rare, so in this review we will focus only on a conventional gasoline-powered model. The RAV4 holds its value better than many other vehicles. It's also one of the few SUVs that offers a proven conventional 6-speed automatic transmission. Is the RAV4 good on gas? How is the engine and AWD system? What are the pros and cons reported problems?

Problems: Several owners mentioned that the navigation/rear view camera screen is difficult to see in day light because of the glare. We found aftermarket screen shades sold on Amazon, but reviews are mixed. There is also a number of complaints about the infotainment system failing in the 2014 model. The replacement cost is over $1,000 if out of warranty. Many suggested installing an aftermarket audio unit instead ($220-$500).

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We checked reviews on Amazon, several RAV4 owners reported that the aftermarket unit ($229-$260) worked fine, but in a few cases, some of the functionality of the steering wheel buttons was lost. Another option is to visit a local auto electronics shop.

There are a few reports about a leaking water pump. Symptoms include drops of pink fluid on the parking spot, low coolant level and pinkish splashes around the belt area in the engine compartment, on your left when looking under the hood.

2013 Toyota RAV4
2013 Toyota RAV4.

Replacing a water pump may cost $70-$150 part plus $200-$350 labor plus extra coolant.
At higher mileage, delayed or harsh engagement of the 6-speed automatic transmission (U760E/U760F) when shifted into reverse may be caused by a worn-out valve and sleeve located in the valve body of the transmission. The part is not very expensive. A reputable transmission shop will have the bulletin describing the problem and can repair the issue at a reasonable cost.
Toyota issued the warranty extension ZH1 to address problems with torque converter shudder at light acceleration. Read more at this forum.
Despite these problems, the overall number of complaints is much smaller than for many other SUVs.

Engine choices: The North American RAV4 comes with only one engine: the 176-hp 2.5L 2AR-FE inline-4. It's a lightweight double-overhead cam (DOHC) engine with an aluminum cylinder block and two small balance shafts.

Toyota RAV4 2.5L 2AR-FE engine
Toyota RAV4 2.5L 2AR-FE engine

It has four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing (VVT-i) on both intake and exhaust camshafts. This motor uses an old-school sequential multiport fuel injection, which is simpler and more reliable than direct fuel injection used in many modern vehicles. It's also a naturally aspirated (non-turbo) engine, which means it won't have many problems that turbo engines have.
One of the interesting features of this engine is that a timing chain tensioner can be replaced without removing the front cover; this improves serviceability.
Overall, the 2AR-FE is one of the most dependable 4-cylinder engines; it has been used successfully in many other Toyota vehicles. For this engine, Toyota recommends using SAE 0W-20 oil. The oil capacity is specified at 4.6 US qt. or 4.4 liters (oil change with the filter). Spark plugs need to be replaced at 120,000 miles.

Timing belt or chain: The 2AR-FE engine comes with a timing chain. A timing chain doesn't require replacement in regular intervals.

Mechanical: The 2013-2018 non-hybrid RAV4 comes with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission (U760E or U760F). The front suspension uses MacPherson struts. The rear suspension is an independent multi-link layout. The steering is electrically assisted. Rear brakes are discs. The optional all-wheel drive system is fully automatic, but is not intended for serious off-roading. The all-wheel drive system is built around front wheel drive.

2013 RAV4 rear seats folded 2013 Toyota RAV4 interior and dashboard 2013 Toyota RAV4 infotainment screen

The front wheels are always powered. A compact transfer case directs the torque from the transaxle, through the rear driveshaft to the rear differential. The electromagnetic coupling in the rear differential engages the rear axle when needed. This simple and lightweight setup allows for better gas mileage, because the rear axle is only engaged when needed.

Is the 2013-2018 Toyota RAV4 good on gas?: There are several comparable non-hybrid SUVs that offer better gas mileage, such as Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, however, the RAV4 is more fuel efficient than most other SUVs of the same size. The 2013-2018 all-wheel-drive RAV4 is rated at 25 mpg combined (22/28 mpg city/highway). On a full tank of gas, the all-wheel drive RAV4 can travel for up to 429 miles (690 km) on a long highway trip. The front-wheel drive RAV4 is more economical: the EPA rates it at 23/30 mpg (10.2/7.8 L/100km), which means that you can drive for up to 461 miles (742 km) miles on one tank. Of course, the RAV4 Hybrid is the most fuel efficient among close competitors. The 2016 AWD Toyota RAV4 Hybrid gets 34 MPG city and 30 MPG highway, according to the EPA.

Interior: The interior is not luxurious, but spacious and practical. The rear 60/40 split seat reclines and folds down flat. With rear seats folded, the RAV4 offers 73.4 cu. ft. of cargo capacity.

Similar cars:

Safety: In the crash tests administered by NHTSA, the 2013, 2014 and 2015-early release RAV4 got the 4-star overall safety ratings. The improved 2015-late release, 2016, 2017 and 2018 RAV4 received 5 stars overall.


Pros: Reliability, conventional six-speed automatic transmission, proven simple non-turbo engine, holds its value well, fuel economy, standard rearview camera, right size, rear seats fold flat.

Cons: Interior materials could be better, paint chips easily, ride quality over rough road is not as smooth, liftgate glass doesn't open separately.

Is a used Toyota RAV4 a good car?: Yes, the RAV4 is a simple, practical and easy to maintain. It's also one of the most reliable compact SUVs, and it will hold its value well. Consumer Report rates the RAV4 well above average. Using a proven simple 2.5L engine and a 6-speed automatic instead of a CVT should help cut down repair costs at higher mileage. We spoke to an owner of the 2018 RAV4, who was very happy with the vehicle said there have been zero problems with it.

How many miles can a Toyota RAV4 last? With proper care, the RAV4 should last for over 200,000 miles. There are YouTube videos where an older RAV4 lasted for over 300,000 miles. The key is the timely maintenance. Read: Car maintenance checklist with photos.

Is Toyota RAV4 expensive to maintain? The RAV4 will cost more to maintain than a comparable car, like Toyota Camry, because of larger tires and all-wheel drive parts. At the same time, the RAV4 is cheaper to maintain than many other SUVs because it's reliable and less likely to have expensive engine or transmission problems.

The top competitors include Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Rogue. The Rogue is roomier and offers some interesting features, but it only comes with a CVT transmission. Mazda CX-5 is sportier and better on gas. Honda CR-V offers a bit more interior comfort and cargo space. If you are looking for a more capable AWD system, check out Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.

Used car buyers should watch out for any issues with a transmission during a test drive and check all the functions of the infotainment system. A clunking noise coming from the steering when driving slow on a rough road also indicates a problem. Read more: How to inspect a used car - illustrated guide. A front-wheel drive model will be less expensive to own in a long run. By Staff