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Hybrid tech makes Toyota RAV4 Hybrid a fuel economy king (pictures)

With fuel economy averaging above 30 mpg, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid beats all other small SUVs, and comes standard with all-wheel-drive.

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Wayne Cunningham

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Toyota's venerable RAV4 small SUV, on the market since 1994, gains a hybrid gasoline-electric drivetrain for the 2016 model year.

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Hybrid drivetrains capture kinetic energy from braking, storing it in a battery and using it to drive the wheels, eliminating an area of energy waste in typical gasoline drivetrains.

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Toyota has long experience with hybrid drivetrains, most notably with its Prius model. However, Toyota has extended its hybrid technology to four of its other sedan and SUV models.

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The new RAV4 Hybrid can also be had with energy-saving LED headlights.

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The RAV4 Hybrid follows this new generation of RAV4, which shows off a lifted nose.

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Cabin styling is more functional than aesthetic, and pretty typical for a small SUV.

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The RAV4 Hybrid carries five passengers and offers 35.6 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats up, and 70.6 cubic feet with the rear seats down.

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With its comfortable suspension tuning, the RAV4 Hybrid works as a daily driver.

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Cargo and passenger capacity make the RAV4 Hybrid a good weekend recreation vehicle.

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Impressively, all-wheel drive comes standard in the RAV4 Hybrid.

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While the gasoline engine and an electric motor combine power to drive the front wheels, a single electric motor adds push from the rear wheels.

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With its hybrid drivetrain, the RAV4 Hybrid earns EPA fuel economy of 34 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

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Driver assistance features include adaptive cruise control and a not-very-aggressive lane keeping assist.

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A blind-spot monitor system looks for cars to either side of the RAV4 Hybrid, warning when it is unsafe to change lanes.

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Currently, the RAV4 Hybrid sits alone in the small SUV segment as the only one with a full hybrid drivetrain.

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