Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Road Test: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Hyundai’s Value Midsize Sedan

With consumers attracted to SUVs and crossovers in growing numbers, the family sedan is slowly being surpassed as America’s favorite car of choice. Hyundai is having none of it. It offers the midsize Sonata sedan in seven trim levels (that’s gas only, not counting the more expensive, but also more efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid models). The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco is the smart value choice; it makes a compelling case for why the sedan’s obituary is premature. Clean Fleet Report took a look at the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco, with an eye out for if the word “eco” meant dollar savings or fuel savings. Turns out it is a bit of both.

Drivetrain and Performance

The Sonata Eco is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, producing 178 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque. For the “eco,” as in “economical” tag to be realized, Hyundai chose to drive the front wheels with a seven-speed EcoShift DCT (dual-clutch) automatic transmission. The engine was smooth and the transmission seamless, both in-town and in freeway driving. There are three driver-selectable drive modes of Eco, Comfort and Sport. These are fairly self-explanatory with Eco producing the best fuel economy, Sport altering the transmission shifts, throttle programming and steering response, and Comfort falling somewhere in between the two.

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

An argument to keep the family sedan

EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 city/37 highway/31 combined miles per gallon. In 357 miles of freeway and city driving, we averaged 33.3 mpg, but on a 200-mile open freeway run, using cruise control set to 65 mph, we averaged an impressive 34.6 mpg. This shows that Hyundai had it about right slapping the “eco” badge on this Sonata.

It is important to note that fuel economy reported by Clean Fleet Report is non-scientific and represents the reviewer’s driving experience. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

In a few unscientific acceleration runs, the Sonata Eco traveled zero–to 60 in about 8.67 seconds. The time did not vary much leaving the car in automatic or opting for Shiftronic, where you can manually select gears by pushing forward to upshift and backward to downshift. During lane passes at highway speeds and climbing hills, the seven-speed automatic shifted up-and-down seamlessly and precisely.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Smooth lines; smooth ride

Weighing in at 3,247 lbs., the 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco performed well in all driving situations, which isn’t always the case when a car is shod with 16-inch tires. The suspension was stiff enough to produce good handling while not sacrificing ride comfort. Handling was aided by stability and traction control systems, resulting in little body roll until pushed past its limits when cornering. Stopping was consistent from the four-wheel disc, ABS system with brake assist.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Redesigned for 2018, Hyundai says the Sonata is “all about making an impact…and to deliver an exciting expressive car.” Coming from Hyundai’s California Design Studio, the Sonata, aiming for an “American aesthetic,” features a clean design that will hold-up well over the years. Beginning with what Hyundai calls their front cascading grille, the projector headlights wrap far back onto the fenders. Except for the shark fin antenna set just above the rear solar control glass window, the line from the front fascia to the rear built-in deck spoiler is unobstructed. There are tasteful chrome accents around the tail lights and the logo badge, and on the single chrome exhaust tip.

Driving Experience: Interior

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

A dash that works

Also redesigned for 2018, the Sonata’s interior is an easy place to spend your time. Easy, as in the high mounted touchscreen is easy to read and the wide-spread radio and climate knobs are easy to reach and control. The Eco model has cloth seats with manual adjustments and comes nicely equipped with tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power windows, A/C and a 60/40 split folding rear seat back.

The steering wheel has controls for the cruise control, audio, Bluetooth streaming and hands-free telephone. The 7.0-inch full-color display is home for the AM/FM with MP3, iPod and USB ports, plus Aux-in jacks.

Rear seat head, shoulder and leg room was ample for six-foot passengers, with two being the optimum number of adults for a road trip of any length.

Pricing, Safety and Warranties

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata comes in seven models with three gasoline-only engines. It also comes as a hybrid or a hybrid plug-in. Base prices range from $19,300 to $33,100. Clean Fleet Report’s Sonata Eco, with the optional carpeted floor mats at $125, had a MSRP of $22,775. All prices do not include the $885 freight and handling charge.

Hyundai has equipped the Sonata Eco with active and passive safety features, including nine air bags, driver’s blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert and a rear-view camera. Other features are an energy absorbing steering column, automatic headlights, remote keyless entry, tire pressure monitoring system and a theft-deterrent alarm.

The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco has an overall 5-Star rating by the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), and a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), both of which are their highest rankings for safety.

The Eco comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain                    10 years/100,000 miles
  • New vehicle                  Five years/60,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance    Five years/Unlimited miles
  • Anti-Perforation            Seven years/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

2018 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Eco-nomical Hyundai

Hyundai has a lot riding on the success of the Sonata. With so many trim levels and engine options, the company is making a statement in the midsize sedan market. Even with the shift to SUVs, it remains one of the biggest segments. The Sonata should be taken seriously; Clean Fleet Report takes the Sonata seriously, and you should too.

Starting with the price point, the Sonata line-up has a compelling story to tell. When you consider the design, interior roominess, standard equipment and fuel economy, the most you will pay for a 2018 Sonata is somewhere around $33,000, and this is only if you opt for the plug-in hybrid. But for the top of the line gasoline-powered Sonata 2.0T Limited, the price is about $29,700. With the average sales price of a car hovering right around $35,000, driving home in a fully optioned midsize sedan for less than the average is saying something.

How a sedan fits your lifestyle will be the key question. If your driving pattern is around town or freeway commuting, and then the occasional vacation, then the Sonata would work just fine. For a family of four, your needs would easily be met.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Road Test: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE

Great Versatility and Exceptional Fuel Economy

Gee, Toyota, you introduced that little thing you called RAV4 to the U.S. in 1995. It ushered in what we now call a crossover vehicle — the combining of some of the attributes of a sport-utility vehicle with the underpinnings of a passenger car. Of course, we didn’t know then it was a crossover vehicle, so we just called it a “cute ute.” The three-door version was especially cute.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Hybrid MPG and AWD=Sales

Then, four years later you brought us a not so cute, but very fuel efficient, little car called the Prius. It ushered in the gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain that, by the way, confused a lot of folks at first. Of course, people aren’t confused any more. There were more than 30 hybrid models sold in 90 world markets bearing either the Toyota or Lexus names and sales tallied more than eight million globally before you came to your senses and placed a gasoline-electric powertrain in the RAV4 in 2016.

What’s interesting is, none of those more than eight million hybrid vehicles sold had a RAV4 badge. After all, Ford sold an Escape Hybrid crossover along with its Mercury Mariner Hybrid sibling from 2005 to 2011 with some 200,000 finding driveways.

So Toyota, have you ever wondered how many RAV4 Hybrids you might have sold if you brought it out say 10, or even 5 years ago?

Green Car Buyers Love the RAV4 Hybrid

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve is over. Now in its third year, the RAV4 Hybrid is, gasp, threating to unseat the Prius as Toyota’s best selling hybrid. Through March of this year, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid trails the number of Prius’s sold by less than 700 units.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

The crossover appeal–open up and fill

For 2018, Toyota ushered in a more affordable trim with the introduction of the RAV4 Hybrid LE. At $28,230, including destination charges, the new Hybrid LE is just $1,325 more than an equivalent gas-powered RAV4 LE. That snuffs the argument that hybrids are priced thousands more than standard vehicles and reduces the time it will take to recoop the higher initial costs through fuel savings..

The balance of the lineup includes the XLE ($30.129), SE ($33,284) and the top end Limited ($35,129). All models come standard with all-wheel drive (AWD).

As for fuel economy, the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid receives an EPA rating of 34 mpg city/ 30 highway/32 combined for all models. That’s nearly 25 percent better than the all-wheel drive gas model’s 26 mpg combined rating. And of course, those EPA numbers earn the RAV4 Hybrid a membership in Clean Fleet Report’s All-Wheel Drive 30 mpg Club.

AAA is forecasting that the national gas price average will be as much as $2.70 per gallon this spring and summer. At that price, it will only take most drivers less than a year to make up the $1,325 difference between the RAV4 Hybrid and the gasoline-only RAV4.

Proven, Familiar Hybrid Drivetrain

The 2018 RAV4 Hybrid uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, a system similar to those in the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV, Lexus ES 300 sedan and the Lexus NX 300h small luxury crossover. That means a 150-horsepower, 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gas engine is combined with a 141-horsepower small high-torque, permanent-magnet electric motor through the powersplit transaxle. This combination powers the front wheels.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

More model choices–one engine choice

The rear wheels are powered by a 67-horsepower electric motor that has no mechanical connection to the front wheels. This system is called AWD-i. It allows a great degree of flexibility in the front-to-rear power split. As in most such systems, the RAV4 Hybrid drives its front wheels most of the time.

This provides a pretty good jolt of performance with a combined 194 system horsepower and 206 pounds-feet of torque, which is good for a 0-to-60 mph run in 8.1 seconds—about a second quicker than gas-powered RAV4 models. The system varies power between the gas engine and electric motor, or combines both as needed, all seamlessly.

The hybrid all-wheel-drive system also allows greater regenerative braking. The system captures electrical energy through all four wheels rather than just the two driven ones as in most hybrids and recharges the nickel metal-hydride battery pack.

A 2016 Refresh

Accompanying the arrival of the 2016 RAV4 Hybrid was a refresh for the compact crossover, which carries over to 2018. The front is more angular with a redesigned grille, thinner LED headlamps and restyled bumper. New rocker panels sharpened the sides and tie in the front and rear bumpers for a more flowing profile. Available LED taillights add a nice touch to the backside. 

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

A dash you would expect in a Toyota

The RAV4 Hybrid is a visual departure from a crowded highway of look-alike small crossovers. The sheetmetal forming its wide body dips downward at the side windows, giving it a muscular, ready-for-action look. This is strenghtened by an agressively styled grille and front facia, a sloping hood and kicked-up rear quarter panels. Overall, the RAV4 Hybrid is very much an SUV-looking vehicle.

Inside changes for 2018 were minimal: revised cupholders allow for mugs with larger handles, lower center console LED lights, a new sunglass holder and a 12-volt outlet for rear passengers. A hybrid specific display within the 4.2-inch TFT gauge-cluster screen shows fuel consumption and the status of the hybrid powertrain.

The cabin is typical Toyota, with comfortable contoured front seats, well-located controls and gauges and a three-spoke sterring wheel. All-around visibility is quite good, thanks to the sloping hood, tall driving position and generously sized windows. A low step-in height makes it easy to get in and out. In real-world usage, the RAV4 Hybrid is a bit tighter in the back seat than several of its competitors, but luggage volume is decent at 36 cubic feet behind the back row and 71 cubic feet with it folded. That’s only about three cubic feet less than the non-hybrid model. And the lift over height in the rear cargo area is impressively low.

Standard in-cabin tech includes a 4.2-inch instrument panel display and an Entune Audio Plus infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touch screen. Audio is provided by a six-speaker audio system with CD/AM/FM/satellite radio, a USB port with iPod controls, an aux-in jack and Bluetooth. You will notice that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing. Also standard is the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assists that includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

Stepping up through the lineup you will find standard, depending on trim levels, a moonroof, a backup camera, HD radio with traffic and weather info, Siri Eyes Free voice recognition and a navigation system. There’s also blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic LED headlights, a height-adjustable power lift gate, an eight-way power driver seat and heated front seats. A $2,785 Advanced Technology Package option includes a surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, and an 11-speaker 576-watt JBL Audio system and a slightly larger touch screen.

Not “Fun-To-Drive,” But Competent

Our Ruby Flare Pearl RAV4 Hybrid had a sticker price of $32,185. Add the Advanced Technology Package, a $90 tonneau cover, $95 for the special paint color and a $995 destination chargeand the price tag was $38,450.

2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

More pep than the gas-only version, but far from fun-to-drive

Around town it was easy to see why small crosovers have become a huge chunk of the U.S. vehicle market. The RAV4 Hybrid sprinted easily through urban traffic disregarding rough road surfaces and small pot holes with ease. Parking, whether parallel or angle, was as easy as it gets.

The little SUV accelerated quickly from a stop using battery power. Like any hybrid, accelerating to 35 mph using the gas engine, and then lifting slightly, brings electric power into play. I found it easy to run around on battery juice with the gas engine helping out when confronting a hill. The transition between battery power and gasoline power was almost always seamless.

The RAV4 Hybrid accelerated to highway speeds with reasonable enthusiasm. The engine felt peppy and would happily cruise at 80 mph. For a crossover that weighs nearly 4,000 pounds, the RAV4 handled decently around curves at highway speeds, but tight corners reveled ample body roll and a lack of grip from the green-minded tires. Otherwise, the RAV4 Hybrid is comfortable and capable, albeit not at all sporting.

The different drive modes, which include Sport, Eco, and EV, all functioned as advertised. Sport mode livened the Hybrid up and changed the shift logic, making it more eager to drop a few “gears” and make the most of the hybrid powertrain. Eco, which I used in town and cruising on the highway, slowed the throttle response from the normal mode and adjusted the air-conditioning settings, all in the name of improving efficiency. EV mode functions below 25 mph and was most useful in parking garages.

I give a big applause to the engineers who worked on the RAV4 Hybrid’s brakes. The transition between regenerative and mechanical braking was imperceptible. As I have noted many times in my reviews, the EPA rating system needs upgrading. We drove the RAV4 Hybrid fairly hard for 311 miles and ended up with a combined fuel economy of 35.2 mpg, two mpgs better than the EPA’s estimate.

Final Word

The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is comfortable for car-pooling, commuting, collecting groceries and dropping kids off for soccer practice. It is also ideal for light off-road action in the backcountry, While there are plenty of competitors—Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape to name a few—none can match the RAV4 Hybrid’s fuel economy except for the Nissan Rogue Hybrid. And as mentioned, gasoline prices are heading upwards. In other words, that makes the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid’s value proposition a little more enticing.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road test: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

Road test: 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A Toe in the EV Water

The Countryman is the largest of the four Mini models and is also the brand’s only all-wheel drive offering. Now, it’s also Mini’s first electrified model sold to consumers. It received major changes for its second generation, which was introduced in stages last year.

While Mini’s EV excitement is focused on the upcoming all-electric small hatchback, the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid offers a taste of electrification to urban folks. They’ll find what plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are known for—electric commuting during the week and unlimited travel on the weekends. That’s better than a regular hybrid, which has no plug, and combines a gasoline engine and electric motor to improve fuel mileage ratings.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

PHEVs offer varying amounts of battery power. The Countryman’s 7.6-kWh lithium-ion battery, which hides under the rear seat, provides an EPA-rated 12 miles of all-electric range. That’s low on the list, as most other PHEVs offer EV ranges from the teens and twenties to as much as 53 miles in the Chevrolet Volt. That makes a difference on how much pure electric driving you can do.

Almost All the Way to Work

My Melting Silver Metallic test car, for example, got me about two-thirds of the way to/from work before the petrol began to flow. I dutifully plugged in at each end, and fully charged the small battery overnight on 120-volt current at home or by lunchtime on the 240-volt Level 2 ChargePoint chargers at work.

The Countryman cleverly delivers all-wheel drive by placing a 134-horsepower 1.5-liter gas engine up front, driving the front axles, and an 87-horsepower electric motor in back, driving the rear ones. The total system horsepower is 221, and 284 pounds-feet of torque, enough to send the Countryman from 0-60 in a satisfying 6.8 seconds. The system switches back and

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

The big center display

forth based on road conditions to provide extra traction when needed.

Naturally, how you drive determines how long your battery power will last. You can also use three different settings to configure how it’s used. In AUTO eDRIVE, you get pure electric driving up to 55 mph, and the gas engine kicks in when needed (or when the battery is depleted). In MAX eDRIVE, you can drive in pure electric mode up to 78 mph (illegally), with the engine dropping in only if you exceed that. The SAVE BATTERY mode uses the engine only, keeping the battery charged above 90 percent for use later, for example, in town after a long freeway trip, where the EV mode is most effective.

Like most PHEVs, the 2018 Mini Countryman’s instrument panel provides some feedback on energy use and regeneration. A gauge on the left has a Power section, when the energy is flowing out of the battery, and a Charge section below it for when coasting or braking is generating power. The eBoost area of the dial shows when the motor is working with the engine for maximum performance.

The Numbers Are Good

The EPA gives the 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid ALL4 ratings of 65 MPGe for Electricity + Gasoline, and 27 mpg for when it’s using gas only. I averaged 35.5 mpg during my test week.

The Countryman is just slightly bigger than the new Clubman, making it the largest Mini ever (a Maxi?) The main differences between the two big Minis are the Countryman’s all-wheel-drive capability, and its 4.6-inch taller stance.

2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

A wide-track Mini

The new Countryman is also larger than its predecessor. It’s 8.1 inches longer on a 2.9-inch longer wheelbase, which translates into substantially increased rear legroom. It’s 1.3 inches wider, which adds up to two inches of shoulder room. Despite these increases, the car is still relatively compact, although the efficient space utilization makes it technically a midsize car per the EPA.

Since the brand re-emerged in the US in 2002 with its all-new Cooper hardtop (hatchback), it has appealed to people looking for motoring joy with a side of quirkiness. The large central dash display now holds audio and other information rather than the speedometer, but it has colors that react to settings changes. It still features toggle switches for windows and even the ignition.

The Final Numbers

The Countryman is assembled in Born, Netherlands, and contains half German parts (thanks to its BMW parent company), including its engine. The six-speed automatic transmission is Japanese.

My test car, with several options, including the $500 paint color, came to an even $40,000, including destination charges. The base price is $36,800.

The 2018 Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid will surely win over its traditional audience—stylish urban folks who want a slightly taller and roomier crossover vehicle with the Mini charms—and a small nod towards environmentalism. The EPA assigns the car just a 3 for Smog, but a commendable 8 for Greenhouse Gas. If you have a 10-mile commute, you could be driving the Mini as an EV all week.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Premium

Road Test: 2018 Subaru Crosstrek Premium

Adventurous Spirit Packed With Value

By Lynne Hall and Larry E. Hall

Subaru has long stood by the horizontally opposed engine to power its cars. While proven to be reliable, it had a reputation for just so-so fuel economy. That changed a few years back, and the all-new 2018 Crosstrek continues in Clean Fleet Report’s All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club – with 33-mpg highway/27 city/29 combined when equipped with a continuous variable transmission (CVT). (Choose the manual shifter and fuel economy drops to 29 highway/23 city/25 combined.)

Introduced as a 2014 model, the Crosstrek is the result of a successful formula Subaru has used before: Take a core vehicle, alter the bones, jack up the suspension, add some body cladding and, viola, a new model. In this case, the donor car is the Impreza hatchback, which was the first Subaru model built on the company’s Global Platform, also a member of the 30 MPG AWD Club.

Impreza DNA

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

The Crosstrek is ready to go anywhere

Impreza’s DNA is apparent in the Crosstrek’s profile, but from there the car takes off in a different direction. No other Subaru has the same grille or bumpers. The front A pillars are moved forward by 7.9 inches compared with the

Impreza. This not only improves cabin space, it adds athleticism to the look.

The 2018 Crosstrek rides on a 104.9-in. wheelbase, up 1.2-in. over the first-generation Crosstrek; it’s 0.6-inches longer than the previous model and 0.9-inches wider. Of course, like (almost) all Subarus, all-wheel drive is standard.

The most notable, visual difference between the two cars is ground clearance, which has been cranked up three inches to 8.7 inches. Throw in muscular fender flares, along with dramatic 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Crosstrek becomes an open invitation to travel farther once the highway ends.

Lynne says…

In our northwest corner of the country, motorists embraced Subarus back when quirky wasn’t hip. We, along with buyers in New England and Rocky Mountain states, knew for years that Subaru’s all-wheel-drive cars and wagons offered superior traction–not just on snowy roads, but on any slippery or uneven surface.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

Versatile space comes standard

And that decision in 1994 to morph the Legacy wagon into the “world’s first sport utility wagon” and call it Outback? Brilliant, as consumers in all three markets flocked to dealers.

Since then, Subaru has perfected the recipe for creating a new model from an existing one—and I think the Crosstrek is its best yet.

As much as I liked the Outback, I thought the lower body cladding was a little over the top, almost garish. Conversely, Crosstrek stylists used restraint and added just the right amount of muscularity with the fender flares. Also, the wider track, added length and longer wheelbase result in balanced proportions.

Compared with the small crossover SUV sales leaders–and Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V—the Crosstrek has the look of a sport utility that wants to get out of town. It says, “Hey, throw a couple mountain bikes or camping gear in the back and let’s get a little dirty, maybe even muddy.”

It backs up that invitation with a ground clearance of 8.7 inches that’s more generous than the Jeep Grand Cherokee. While we couldn’t find time to do some semi-serious off roading, previous Subaru test drives have shown their ability to go just about anywhere short of rock crawling.

The Inside Story

Crosstreck’s well-laid-out interior follows Impeza. The cabin is minimal, but not spartan, with durable soft-touch materials covering upper surfaces for comfort, and plastic on lower panels for easy cleaning. Switchgear arranged on the center stack and surrounding the steering column has a sturdy feel.

Seats, front and rear, fall into the comfortable category. We found the space suitable for four adults (cramped with five), even if rear passengers were squeezed a bit for foot room. In case your passengers tend to be toddlers rather than adults, it’s easy to comfortably fit two front-facing car seats in the rear.

The 20.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat was more than adequate for a week’s worth of grocery shopping, and a standard waterproof cargo tray is a thoughtful feature. Rear seats are 60/40 split and fold completely flat, providing 55.3 cubic feet of space. That’s enough room for two mountain bikes. Or, with standard roof rails, heft the bikes onto the roof.

On the Road

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

The Crosstrek interior is upscale, but not in luxury territory

In town behavior was standard Subaru—easy-to-drive, easy-to-park and easy to get in and out of. The Crosstrek doesn’t miss a beat on the pavement, either. Agile and racy are not in its dictionary, but predictable, smooth and comfortable describe its on-road behavior.

Granted, 152 horsepower doesn’t sound like much these days–and it’s not–but it is adequate to the task of motivating the 3,302-pound Crosstrek for 0-to-60 mph in a little more than nine seconds. Whenever editor/husband Larry expressed a want for a turbocharger, I gently reminded him that this little Subie was about fuel economy, not speed.

Our Premium model’s engine was hooked up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which for 2018 now incorporates seven stepped, predetermined ratios (controllable via paddle shifters) to mimic traditional gear shifting and mitigate the rubber-band sensation. Looking at my notes, I had checked hill hold as my favorite feature—take your foot off the brake when stopped on a hill, and the Crosstrek won’t roll backwards. I’m perplexed as to why more carmakers don’t have this feature.

Larry Says…

In 2005, Subaru made a move to present its automotive assets with style and content that would attract a broader audience. The company’s goal was to elevate its image to a “premium niche brand”—not a luxury brand, but one consumers were willing to pay a higher price (for perceived quality and features like standard all-wheel drive).

The second generation 2018 Crosstrek takes a simpler approach and isn’t quite as animated as the rest of the lineup. The upside to this is the Crosstrek offers a very good value proposition.

Consider: the base 2.0i Crosstrek starts at $22,795 plus a $915 destination charge. This least-expensive Crosstrek includes all-wheel drive with active torque vectoring, cruise control, 17-inch wheels and a rearview camera. Also standard is Subaru’s Starlink multimedia system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM stereo, USB port with iPod control, Bluetooth audio streaming and an auxiliary jack.

Our Premium test drive model had sticker price of $23,595 including the $1,000 CVT. It added heated front seats, fog lights, a windshield wiper de-icer and heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a six-speaker audio system.

The top-line Crosstrek Limited starts at $28,450 and can top $30,000 with options. It includes leather interior, a CVT automatic transmission as standard, power driver’s seat, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system with AM/FM/HD Radio, CD player, dual USB inputs and voice-activated controls. A moonroof is optional on Premium and Limited trims, as is the EyeSight driver-assist and active-safety system with adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane-departure warning, and lane-keep assist package. Limited trims can also add a Harman/Kardon premium audio system, navigation, and reverse automatic braking.

Traction Options

While all-wheel drive is standard, the system differs depending on the choice of transmission. Without going into technical details, CVT models split torque 60/40 front-to-rear as the default, while the manual transmission system distributes torque 50/50. Both can direct torque to the wheels that slip to ensure traction.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

The only engine option

Regardless of the model, the Crosstrek is available with one engine, a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed (“boxer”) four-cylinder engine. The boxer nickname comes from the way the pistons look when the engine is running—like a boxer throwing punches. The punches this boxer throws are 152 horsepower and 145 pounds-feet of torque. As for my wanting a turbocharger under the hood, that little more than nine second 0-to-60 edges on Prius territory, not what I prefer when merging into fast traffic.

Once up to speed, the 2018 Crosstrek felt solid and capable. Inside, wind noise was nearly nonexistent, and only on particularly rough concrete roads did we hear any commotion from below. Ride quality was very good, muting most small bumps, and reducing big ones to minor hiccups in the cabin.

Yes, Lynne, the Crosstrek is about fuel economy—and we did pretty good. Well, actually you did pretty good, since you were behind the wheel for most of the 215 miles during our week test drive. With about half of the miles driven on city streets, we managed to beat the EPA rating with 30.5 mpg combined.

Bottom Line

People buy Subarus for qualities other than glitz. The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek’s modest base price fetches the utility of a small wagon with a roomy cabin and cargo area that offers practicality and easy drivability. It will meet the needs of those who prioritize fuel economy over performance, contributing a small roll in saving the planet while exploring it.

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

Road Test: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid)

Road Test: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid)

Cadillac’s Stealth Electrified Full-size Sedan

Waaaay back in 2014 Cadillac offered the short-lived, but very cool looking ELR PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle). Based on the Chevrolet Volt platform and technology, the ELR coupe was ahead of its time for the traditional Cadillac buyer, which was too bad. Fast forward to 2018, the CT6 PHEV is the electrified version of Cadillac’s full-size flagship sedan, delivering the expected Cadillac comfort and luxury, but also quick acceleration and impressive fuel economy.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Cadillac’s big move–big car, big MPG

When Clean Fleet Report reviewed the 2014 ELR we noted that Cadillac had created a car unto itself, as there were no other luxury, two-door, plug-in electric hybrids on the market. This time around Cadillac has put its formidable PHEV technology into a full-size sedan, which places it against some of the most recognizable big luxury cars from around the World. The challenge for Cadillac is how to create awareness and interest in an electrified car that happens to be a sedan. With sedan sales in the US declining over the past few years, and SUV and crossover models becoming the vehicles of choice, Cadillac as well as all other auto manufacturers are grappling with how to stabilize or reverse this trend.

Powerplant and Performance

The rear wheel drive 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine and twin 100-horsepower (hp) electric motors mated to an electric variable transmission (EVT). Total system power numbers are impressive at 335 hp and 432 pounds-feet of torque. Clean Fleet Report was able to get consistent zero-to-60 runs at 5.2 seconds. The twin-motor EVT is a wonderful technology as it provides smooth acceleration and seamless ready-when-needed power at any speed.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Smooth power and ride along with a battery boost

The suspension is on the firm side, which is not a bad thing as Cadillacs of years past could get floaty or too soft. The ride, with 18-inch ultra-bright machined aluminum spoked wheels and all-season tires, is oh-so Cadillac smooth, with handling that borders on surprisingly agile. As a full-size sedan, it cannot and should not be compared with midsize sports sedans. Cadillac doesn’t do it, so set your expectations of it being a large sedan that has little body roll or motion, with good feel for the road through the electric-variable steering.

The size and weight of the CT6 PHEV is never a distraction as the car is well-balanced. Cadillac’s iBooster and electronic stability control system, with four-wheel ABS and disc brakes, are parts of the regenerative braking system. Other stopping aides include front pedestrian braking and forward and reverse automatic braking.

How Far and How Efficient

Combined fuel economy for the electric and gasoline propulsion system, which includes being able to drive 31 miles only on electricity, is rated at 62 MPGe. MPGe is a measurement of how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as is contained in one gallon of gasoline. Once the electric power has been depleted and operating in hybrid mode, the fuel economy is rated at 25 mpg. In 249 miles of 85-percent highway/15-percent city driving, we averaged 41.8 mpg. An impressive number for a car weighing in at 5,511 pounds.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The driver can control the battery regen and use

The 18.4 kWh lithium-ion (li-ion) battery is charged by plugging into a 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) outlet and through regenerative braking. To replenish the li-ion battery’s 31-mile driving range, estimate eight hours for the former and 4.5 hours for the latter. The CT6 PHEV does not come with a 480V (Level 3) option.

The regenerative charging system converts kinetic energy into electric energy when applying the brakes or coasting and stores it in the battery. This process can be viewed on a dash gauge where you can watch the power flow into and out of the battery and engine. The CT6 PHEV has Regen On Demand technology that is activated by pulling on the paddle shifters located on the backside of the steering wheel. Pulling on the paddle shifters applies the brakes and allows for one-pedal driving. Once you get the hang of it, this will be your go-to method of driving.

It is important to note that fuel economy numbers reported by Clean Fleet Report are non-scientific, representing the reviewer’s driving experience in our reviewer’s city. If you live in cold weather, high in the mountains or spend time in the city or stuck in rush hour traffic, then your numbers may differ.

The CT6 PHEV has three drive modes—Tour, Sport and Hold. Tour is for everyday driving, Sport advances the throttle and tightens-up the steering, and Hold forces the car to not use any of the battery charge, therefore saving it for around town where it can deliver the most efficient driving. The transition between battery-only power and when the gasoline engine engages is seamless and only minimally noticeable.

Cadillac Style: Exterior

The exterior styling on the 2018 CT6 PHEV is clean and sophisticated. The evolution from the sharp angles of a few years back to a softer look immediately draws attention among large, luxury sedan aficionados. From the front grille with distinctive cross hatching and the proud Cadillac emblem, and the sharp-looking LED head lamps to the LED tail lamps that extend vertically over the fenders, the look is simple and pure Cadillac.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

Large eco-luxury is here

Cadillac Style: Interior

Cadillac says the CT6 can seat five passengers, which technically is true. But anyone sitting in the center rear seat will be grumbling they pulled the short straw. Let’s just agree that the large, roomy and high-quality interior of the CT6 is better suited for four adults.

The interior materials complement each other with soft and supple leather seats and chrome, wood and carbon fiber trim pieces. About that carbon fiber trim: it really does not match well in the side-by-side placement with the wood trim.

The long list of standard equipment on the 2018 CT6 is what is to be expected on a car of this quality and price. Our CT6 had heated and ventilated driver and passenger seats. Both had 16-way power seats and 4-way power lumbar adjustments. The leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel, with power tilt and telescopic adjustments, made finding a comfortable seating position quite easy.

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The backseat view will be more common in China

The driver’s seat has a surprise for you if you have not been forewarned: it vibrates as part of the lane departure warning system. If you did not use the turn signal when crossing into an adjoining lane on the highway, the driver’s seat will vibrate to let you know about your lane drift. I found myself changing lanes sans blinker on purpose just for the momentary rush, but after a while it became annoying, but effective, in reminding me to stay in my lane. The true safety impact of this feature is, if the driver is dozing off, the vibration, small as it may be, would wake the driver and hopefully prevent an accident.

The rear leather seats, separated by an armrest with cup holders, are best suited for two adults. On a long driving trip, luggage for four adults might be a stretch for the CT6 PHEV as the battery reduces trunk storage capacity. The power rear sunshade and manual rear side window shades are a nice touch as is heating in the outbound seats. Also worth noting are the 10-inch, pop-up color monitors located in the front seat backs. These come with wireless headphones and remotes.

The CT6 is well-equipped with true convenience features, including a panoramic power sunroof and shade, power rear deck lid, wireless phone charging, remote keyless entry with remote start, power door locks, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless push button on-and-off and three years of OnStar.

A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly General Motors representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and, after the three-year service plan expires, it is well worth renewing.

The CT6 incorporates an open cockpit design with the center stack separating the front seats. Everything is nicely laid-out and within easy reach. The infotainment system on the CT6 starts with the CUE System, for information and media control, and a 10-inch full-color touchscreen display for the Bose Premium surround sound audio system with 10 speakers. Included are AM/FM HD radio with SiriusXM (90-day trial), Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio with multiple USB ports, 12V charge stations, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In our opinion, the CT6 PHEV interior is nicer than a Tesla Model S. The CT6 PHEV is luxury, while the Tesla is premium. Go see for yourself.

Safety

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

30+ EV miles per charge, but gas to take you as far as you need to go

The CT6 PHEV comes standard with a tire pressure monitoring system, eight airbags, rear vision camera, surround view camera, forward collision alert and lane departure warning (with the previiously mentioned vibrating driver’s seat), pedestrian safety signal (useful when at a crosswalk and someone walks in front of the car), automatic vehicle hold (nice when stopped on a hill), front and rear park assist, and blind zone alert.

Pricing and Warranties

The 2018 CT6 PHEV comes in one trim level with an MSRP of $75,095, plus the $995 destination charge. The CT6 PHEV qualifies for federal and (many) state tax credits that could reduce the final purchase price. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a CT6 PHEV. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.

Also worth noting is that in California the CT6 PHEV qualifies for the coveted car pool lane stickers allowing solo driving in the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State.

The 2018 CT6 PHEV comes with these warranties:

Bumper-to-Bumper                    Four years/50,000 miles

Scheduled Maintenance             Three years/36,000 miles

Battery                                           Eight years/100,000 miles

Powertrain                                    Six years/70,000 miles

Roadside Assistance                    Six years/70,000 miles

Courtesy Transportation            Six years/70,000 miles   

Observations: 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV

The badge is discreet

The 2018 Cadillac CT6 PHEV is the real deal for luxury, performance and fuel economy. Plus it stacks-up well with standard features, better fuel economy and lower price in an apple-to-apple competition with BMW, Audi and Jaguar.

Here’s the catch. The CTS PHEV probably won’t be a big seller in the United States, which Cadillac most likely isn’t fretting over. Where big sales numbers for the CTS PHEV are vital, and important, are in China, where strict restrictions on air pollution are being implemented. Built in Shanghai China, the CTS PHEV is a prime candidate for the Asian market, where executive cars that are easy on the environment are popular.

It is a shame that more people may not consider the CTS PHEV over a SUV or crossover. This is a very nice car in many ways and it really needs to be promoted as such.

Clean Fleet Report suggests calling ahead to make an appointment with a Cadillac factory-trained hybrid expert. This is important as sometimes the general sales person can get the hybrid technology story wrong. Take the time to learn about and experience this fine car, and it just may end-up in your garage.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

News: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Enters New York—New Looks, More Power

News: 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Enters New York—New Looks, More Power

Compact SUV Styling No Longer Boring

Toyota used the New York Auto show for the world introduction of its best-selling vehicle, the 2019 RAV4 crossover SUV. Hard to believe, the RAV4 became the company’s single best-selling model in the U.S. last year, surging past its long-time champion, the Camry midsize sedan. The automaker delivered more than 400,000 of the now-six-year-old RAV4, and more than 50,000 of those included our favorite, the hybrid model.

Company Listened To Its President

2019 Toyota RAV4

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 announces its arrival in style

One look at the all-new 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid confirms the company took it to heart when president Akio Toyoda gave a mandate against making boring cars. The redesigned compact crossover gets a more domineering stance, standing lower and wider with a longer wheelbase. The scrappy SUV has more-sculpted edges, shorter front and rear overhangs, with a nose that has similarities to the hefty front end of the Toyota Tacoma pickup. It also gets chunky plastic cladding and fender flares. The wheel arches are trapezoidal and angular creases abound.

For 2019, the hybrid edition also gets a new trim, the XSE Hybrid. Following a new trend in styling, the XSE comes with a two-tone paint job featuring black on the top. Setting the stage for XSE Hybrid’s sporty appeal are piano-black accents across the front end, mirror caps, fender arches, and lower rockers. Unique to RAV4 Hybrids, projector-beam LED headlamps flank each side of the grille for a brighter, sharper and ideally angled light source.

The RAV4 Hybrid XSE isn’t just about cosmetic upgrades, it has a sport-tuned suspension.

New Hybrid Powertrain

2019 Toyota RAV4

More aggressive styling, more tech and more details to come

Defying the image of hybrids as mild performers, Toyota says: “The quickest RAV4 is the hybrid.” Replacing the previous hybrid powertrain is the two-motor Toyota Hybrid System II that uses a brand-new electric motor drive, which Toyota claims uses the battery power more effectively. It’s paired with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s adapted to run on the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle. A continuously-variable transmission (CVT) directs power to the wheels.

As before, all 2019 RAV4 Hybrids are all-wheel drive, using what Toyota calls All-Wheel Drive with Intelligence (AWD-i). The system eliminates the driveshaft to the rear wheels and substitutes an electric motor mounted transversely between the rear wheels to provide on-demand traction in back. For 2019, the system increases available rear-wheel torque by 30 percent more than the previous-gen AWD-i. An electronically-controlled, automated system determines how much torque to feed to the rear wheels on the RAV4 Hybrid according to driving conditions.

Modern Interior

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid catches up with competitors inside with a modern-looking interior. The touchscreen can be either seven or eight inches and features Toyota’s EnTune 3.0, which includes Wi-Fi Connect, Amazon Alexa hands-free access, and, at last, Apple CarPlay compatibility. Two USB ports are standard and up to five can be had in total, depending on package options. Qi wireless charging is also available.

2019 Toyota RAV4

A new interior ups the ante for the already popular RAV4

The center console’s volume has been increased for more storage and technology capability, adding side-by-side cupholders (versus tandem in the previous generation) and more space on the open tray for small item storage. Both legroom and shoulder room are improved in the rear seating and 60/40 split-fold rear seats remain standard in the RAV4.

An all-new JBL audio system is available for the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, adding 11 audio speakers on eight channels with 800 watts of power. Other options available are heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and a hands-free tailgate.

Standard is Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 package. It includes a pre-collision system that can detect pedestrians, dynamic cruise control, automatic high beams and a system aimed at keeping the car on the road even if it can’t detect lane markings. It also can read some road signs and alert the driver.

Toyota provided no pricing information, fuel economy estimates or specific power output for the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid. We expect that info closer to the on-sale date in early 2019, following the gas-powered RAV4’s availability sometime this winter.

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