In 1994, Toyota launched the RAV4 SUV in Europe and Japan after spending about five years in conceptual purgatory. Two years later, it arrived on American shores with a 120-hp 2.0L four-cylinder engine mated to either a four-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual transmission. Toyota has sold more than 300,000 RAV4s worldwide in the first three years, and that number will increase to more than 10 million by 2021.
Additionally, the RAV4 was the world’s best-selling SUV in 2019, followed by the Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson.
Toyota offers the RAV4 in six (non-hybrid) trim levels, including LE, XLE, XLE Premium, Adventure, TRD Off-Road, and Limited. These range from a starting MSRP of $26,250 to $55,980, with the LE being the value option and the TRD Off-Road topping the list.
Although the base 2.5L four-cylinder engine has more power than its competitors, it is also the only engine available. If you have a heavy foot or need to tow more than 3,500 pounds, the RAV4 may not be for you.
2021 Toyota Verso
The Venza arrived on the North American market for the 2009 model year with only one trim level available. While nearly 55,000 units were sold in the first year, that falling number continued (even after a mid-cycle refresh in 2012) and was finally discontinued in 2015. To the surprise of many, in 2021 Toyota brought back the Venza. But this time, it’s a two-row hybrid crossover between the RAV4 and the Highlander.
The Venza is now available in one of three trim levels: LE, XLE and Limited. For its most tentative, Toyota has equipped the Venza with a series of features, including 18 options in alliage, an electric seat with huit directions, an infotainment system with huit pouces with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a surveillance system from angles of death, and even more.
For nearly $7,500 more, the Limited trim adds features like heated and cooled front seats, a Star Gazeroof, a bird’s-eye view camera, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen (to name a few).
The latest version of the Venza enjoys an impressive 40 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway, making it the second most fuel-efficient SUV in Toyota’s lineup, just behind the RAV4 Hybrid. Plus, it does this while also having four-wheel drive. If you find the RAV4’s handling and styling lacking in refinement, the Venza is the perfect alternative with its modern, upscale interior and nearly unmatched efficiency.
Toyota C-HR: Subcompact with full-size personality
The C-HR launched in 2018, sporting much of what was already loved about the RAV4, but wrapped in smaller packaging and aimed at a younger audience. Toyota ended 2018 selling just under 50,000 units, which is much less than the 430,000 RAV4 sold but still admirable for a newer model.
One of the biggest problems with the C-HR is that only one engine was offered: a 2.0L four-cylinder engine making 144 hp paired with a CVT. While capable of decent fuel economy (27 city/31 highway), the 0-60 time of 11 seconds is just too slow for many.
The other thing you’ll see owners mention is that the C-HR’s interior is small and cramped and has a blind spot problem. Fortunately for the latter, the C-HR comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, which adds features like lane departure warning (with power steering) and dynamic radar cruise control to increase visibility on the road.
If you’ve opted for a Toyota SUV but want to stretch your budget, the C-HR is a great option. Not only is it nearly $5,000 less than the next model (RAV4), but it comes standard with many of the same features.
Toyota 4Runner: Rugged Mid-Size Off-Road
The beloved 4Runner was originally launched in 1984 as a successor to the Toyota Walker compact SUV. Early sales figures were weak, with fewer than 6,500 units sold in the first year.
However, this improved to around 20,000 units per year within five years. Today, Highlander sales are consistently above 200,000 units—that’s about half of what the smaller RAV4 makes each year.
Toyota offers the 2021 4Runner in nine trim packages. These are the SR5, Trail Special Edition, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Venture Special Edition, Limited, Nightshade Special Edition and TRD Pro models. Base prices range from $37,765 to $50,745, with a lots of different convenience, safety and off-road features that make up the range.
If your goal is to use a 4Runner as intended, as an off-road warrior, we suggest the TRD Off-Road version at a minimum for its locking rear differential.
If you’re comparing a 4Runner to a similarly sized Highlander, think of the former as its rugged outdoor counterpart, and the latter more of a commuter/daily driver.
Either way, we’ve received thousands of positive reviews from 4Runner owners in the last five years alone. Although a redesign is long overdue, it’s still one of the best off-road SUVs you can get from Toyota without increasing the Land Cruiser’s $85,565 base price.
Toyota Sequoia: space for the whole family
While the Toyota Sequoia hasn’t seen a huge number of sales since its launch in 2001, peaking at just under 46,000 in 2005, it has earned a reputation for reliability, even reaching number two. Automatic week‘s”Vehicle Most Likely to Reach 200,000 The 2006 Sequoia also won our “Owner’s Choice” award, which we only give to the top 20 models in its class.
The 2021 Sequoia is available in six trim variants, including SR5, TRD Sport, Limited, Nightshade Special Edition, TRD Pro and Platinum. One thing to remember about the latest Sequoia is that it hasn’t changed much since its second generation launched in 2008, so the platform itself is dated.
However, Toyota has updated it heavily, including many of the same standard safety features found on other models in its lineup. Some of them include Toyota Safety Sense P, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and the flagship safety system.
We love the Sequoia, but with the second-highest starting price in Toyota’s SUV lineup ($50,200), the platform is just too dated to be the “best” of the bunch. The same goes for the only engine offered, a 5.7-liter V8 that develops 381 horsepower. Although there’s really no problem other than its poor fuel economy (14 city/20 highway), a more efficient engine option would have been nice. The good news is that the next-generation Sequoia 2023 is not too far away.
Toyota Land Cruiser: unstoppable road warrior
The Land Cruiser was a product of the Korean War amid increased demand for all-terrain vehicles. Used by Japan’s National Police Reserve Force, the Land Cruiser was first baptized as the Jeep BJ before a trademark dispute with Willys-Overland Motors forced a name change for the Land Cruiser. From the beginning, the Land Cruiser gained international recognition for its climb near Mount Fiji by Ichiro Taira, a daring test pilot.
Today, the 2021 Toyota Land Cruiser is a respectable workhorse in the large luxury SUV segment. It has a 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 engine with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
However, it comes in late with fuel economy compared to other vehicles in the segment, producing a modest 13 mpg in the city and 17 on the highway. We also wish there were more than two versions available, consisting of the base model and the Heritage edition.
However, like the Toyota Sequoia, the platform is quite dated. Aside from the 2020 version of the Heritage Edition, no major changes have been made since 2016. We like the Heritage and its capabilities, but not the $85,565 starting price. unless You are an off-road enthusiast.
Best Overall Toyota SUV: RAV4
The 2020/2021 RAV4 wins our pick for the best Toyota SUV for its unmatched versatility. Do you spend a lot of time in traffic jams? The RAV4 Hybrid delivers an impressive 41 mpg in the city thanks to features like the Stop and Start Engine system, making it Toyota’s most efficient SUV. Looking to drive off-road? The TRD Off-Road Group adds dynamic all-wheel drive (AWD) vectoring, TRD front and rear suspension, and 18-inch six-spoke alloy wheels.
The 2020 RAV4 currently has an Owner Satisfaction Rating of 4.41/five stars from 136 reviews, and an Expert Review of 4.8/5 from Vehicle history (2021 data to come). Although it can’t seat more than five people like the Highlander or Sequoia, Really It seats five, comfortably, something you’ll rarely hear from Venza or C-HR owners. The price range is also one of the lowest on this list, starting at just $26,250 for the LE, all the way up to $37,330 for the Limited Hybrid.