LOS ANGELES (KABC) --Now in its fourth generation, the Toyota RAV-4 is a sensible choice if you're in the market for a compact SUV. It's not too big or too small, offers all-wheel drive and is available for the first time as a hybrid model.
Toyota is doing something else to attract buyers: showing off a version of the RAV-4 in racing events.
Driver Ryan Millen's modified RAV-4 that competes in the Rally America series actually has a stock engine. It does battle with other production-based rally cars, like the Subaru STI and the Ford Focus, and came in second for the season.
Tearing up a competition circuit is a marketing technique that goes back decades, with the phrase: "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday."
It's not clear how many people have run out to Toyota dealerships to check out a RAV-4 after seeing the rally version, but the fact that there is one out there mixing it up with a pro driver behind the wheel gives some toughness cred to a vehicle in a segment often known as "cute utes."
The RAV-4 has always done well for Toyota. It was one of the first compact crossover SUVs in the 1990s.
The SUV's hybrid model picks up where its now-discontinued pure electric version left off.
Subaru stuck a toe into the hybrid SUV water with a gas-electric version of its small Crosstrek wagon-type SUV, but has discontinued the model for 2017.
Nissan's also giving it a go now with a hybrid version of its Rogue compact SUV.
Toyota flexing its hybrid might is a way to help the already hot-selling RAV-4.
The biggest knock on Toyota is that their cars tend to be a bit boring. But showing one of their vehicles pounding around in racing trim might help erase that a bit.