Toyota RAV4 Hybrid review
|Hybrid||49.2-51.2mpg||102-105g/km||8.1 - 8.4s|
The Toyota RAV4 started life back in the 90s as a funky, distinctively styled SUV aimed at trendy young urbanites. Over the years and several generations, it has morphed into a conventional family SUV, taking on the likes of the Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Kodiaq, Hyundai Tucson, and Peugeot 3008.
Its latest incarnation (the fifth generation) is offered in the UK in what Toyota calls "self-charging" hybrid form only. With this technology, the hybrid battery is charged by the engine and regenerative braking, and the electric motor can then provide limited emissions-free electric driving for short distances at low speeds. The RAV4 can't be plugged in to charge, however; plug-in hybrids offer longer electric driving range as a result.
The first thing most people are likely to notice about the latest RAV4 are its looks. Compared to the somewhat anonymous second-, third- and fourth-generation cars, the current offering boasts sharp edges, chunky square wheelarches and distinctive light designs front and rear. The smaller Toyota C-HR is no longer the only eye-catching SUV from the Japanese brand, then.
Power comes from a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, plus the aforementioned electric motor. Horsepower, fuel economy, CO2 emissions and acceleration figures differ very slightly between the front- and four-wheel drive versions, while a CVT automatic gearbox is the only transmission available.
Toyota's latest mechanical platform (which is already used by the C-HR, Prius and new Corolla) underpins the RAV4, while it's offered in the UK in four different trim levels: Icon, Design, Excel and Dynamic (with Icon only being available in front-wheel-drive form). The 'Safety Sense 2' technology package is standard across the range, and while the latest RAV4 hasn't yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, we have no concerns about it standing up well in an impact (as well as helping you to avoid one in the first place).
The latest RAV4 is both comfortable and reasonably engaging from behind the wheel, but not class-leading in terms of driving fun. This is more down to the limitations of the hybrid drivetrain and CVT gearbox rather than any handling deficiencies, however. In four-wheel-drive form, the RAV4 exhibits considerable rough-surface capability. Not enough to worry a Jeep or a Land Rover, certainly, but better than many of its rivals, some of which don't even offer four-wheel drive as an option.
Inside, there's a decent amount of passenger and luggage room, combined with a high level of interior trim quality, although the RAV4 can't be said to be at the cutting edge of style or luxury, even compared to some rivals. Plus, the infotainment system is a let-down: a pretty small eight-inch screen and no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capability means the Toyota is well off the pace of rivals in this area.
The RAV4's hybrid-only status means it has a far higher starting price than petrol- or diesel-engined rivals, but that same hybrid powertrain gives it the low CO2 emissions that translate to affordable Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax for company-car users. As an example, savings of about £120 a month compared to a petrol or diesel Volkswagen Tiguan are possible.
Overall, the latest Toyota RAV4 is a pretty impressive package, with those low company-car costs among its strongest attributes. But it's doesn't trouble the class leaders for luggage capacity, driving enjoyment and in particular in-car technology, so it's one to think carefully about before signing on the dotted line.
For a more detailed look at the Toyota RAV4, read the rest of our in-depth review.