In-depth reviews

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid review

The latest Toyota RAV4 is a striking-looking and efficient hybrid family SUV, but there are more versatile seven-seat alternatives for similar money

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5

Pros

  • Efficient around town
  • Practical inside
  • Low BiK tax

Cons

  • Mediocre motorway MPG
  • No seven-seat option
  • Poor infotainment
Car typeFuel economyCO2 emissions0-62mph
Hybrid49-50mpg126-133g/km8.1-8.4s

The Toyota RAV4 has been around for decades now, and the latest version is the best yet. The car started out as a funky small crossover, then morphed into a very plain rival for conventional SUVs such as the Nissan QashqaiHonda CR-V and Peugeot 3008. This the fifth-generation car and it's now only available as a hybrid, bringing low running costs and lots of passenger space.

Toyota calls its set-up 'self-charging', as the hybrid battery is charged by the engine and regenerative braking rather than using a plug. The battery is small and only provides about a mile of driving without the engine on. Plug-in hybrid SUVs such as the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV offer longer electric driving range and lower company car tax, but the Toyota's set-up delivers strong fuel economy without having to change your lifestyle. If you want a plug-in but love the RAV4, you're in luck, as there's now a plug-in hybrid version that gets a long electric range and low company-car tax costs.

The latest model's sharp edges, chunky square wheelarches and distinctive light designs mean it's more distinctive than previous models, aside from perhaps the funky-looking first-generation car. The Japanese brand also happens to offer the similarly bold Toyota C-HR with a similar powertrain set-up, but it's not quite as practical as the RAV4.

There's a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine here, plus the electric motor and small battery. 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. It's offered in the UK in five different trim levels: Icon, Design, Excel, Dynamic and Black Edition (with Icon only being available in front-wheel-drive form).

The latest RAV4 is both comfortable and reasonably engaging from behind the wheel. The only thing that's likely to bother you is the coarse petrol engine, which is quite noisy under even moderate acceleration – as much due to the CVT automatic gearbox as to the engine itself.

In four-wheel-drive form, the RAV4 exhibits considerable rough-surface capability, so don't discount it if you've got a grassy lane or muddy yard to drive over regularly. Having said that, a Jeep or a Land Rover will be far better off-road, and the Toyota's maximum towing capacity of 1,650kg is well below the circa 2,000-2,500kg offered by plenty of rivals.

Inside, there's a decent amount of passenger and luggage room, combined with high 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, it looks smart and has some great common-sense touches including rubberised grips on the inside of the door handles.

It's a good balance of honest utility and straightforward, decent-looking materials and interior design. It is, however, well into the price territory of cars like the Skoda Kodiaq, which offer seven-seat versatility that the five-seat-only Toyota can't compete with. 

The RAV4's hybrid-only status means it has a 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. It's not as cheap to tax as some plug-in hybrid rivals such as the Ford Kuga plug-in, though.

As an example, savings of about £120 a month compared to a petrol or diesel Volkswagen Tiguan are possible, and the Toyota is also usefully more efficient (and therefore cheaper for company-car users) than its closest rival, the hybrid Honda CR-V. Our test drive saw economy of around 40mpg on the motorway but that crept up to around 45mpg in town, where the electric running really pays off.

Overall, the latest Toyota RAV4 is an impressive package, with those low company-car costs and a very roomy, practical and comfortable interior among its strongest attributes that make it a great family car. But it 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...

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