In-depth reviews

Toyota RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid engines, drive & performance

The Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid is quick, quiet and refined, but it’s not as much fun to drive as a Ford Kuga

Toyota RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid
Overall rating

3.5 out of 5

Engines, drive & performance rating

3.0 out of 5

0-62mphTop speedDriven wheelsPower
6.0s112mphFour302bhp

The Toyota RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid has more power than a basic Porsche Boxster. But don’t be fooled – this is no sports car; the RAV4 PHEV is best driven in a calm and collected manner.

Don’t let that alone put you off, however. Too many family SUVs trade on a sporty driving experience, but the fact of the matter is that very few buyers in this area of the market are looking for the last word in dynamic ability. More people will find solace in a car that's comfortable, quiet and safe than they will in one that has been designed to keep up with a turbocharged hot hatch.

And if nothing else, the Toyota RAV4 certainly is quiet, comfortable and safe. It’s easy to drive around town and super-refined on the motorway. The way the hybrid system mixes power from the petrol engine and electric motor is fine, although some rivals manage to blend the two to better effect. Given a charged battery, the Toyota will prioritise electric power by default.

If you avoid flooring the accelerator, you’ll avoid the notorious 'rubber-band' effect so often associated with Toyota gearboxes – that's where the revs soar and cause an unwelcome drone in the cabin. As mentioned elsewhere in this review, the RAV4 Plug-In is a car best suited to a gentle driving style.

Toyota RAV4 Plug-In Hybrid 0-62mph, top speed and acceleration

Why Toyota felt the need to give its RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid over 300bhp is a bit of a mystery. Rivals like the Ford Kuga make do with around 80bhp less, yet still offer enough punch to tick off all your daily duties.

The RAV4 will do 0-62mph in six seconds, which not that long ago was the preserve of sports cars and hot hatchbacks. Top speed is limited to 112mph, although if you live in the UK that’s unlikely to trouble you too much; the RAV4 is perfectly adept on the motorway – and can even travel at speeds of up to 84mph on electric power alone.

The shove from the electric motor means it feels like a really quick car – with that instant response available with little more than a gentle flex from your right foot. There’s some sense in running the RAV4 in its Eco setting, however, whereby the car’s computer dulls its responses in an effort to preserve some of that all-important electric range.

Handling

The problem is, while the Ford feels like it could deal with a good chunk more power, the Toyota isn’t quite as adept. That instant shove makes it an effortless car to drive; a small squeeze of the throttle and you’re in the gap you wanted to be in, or past that slow moving tractor. 

But you certainly won’t want to be throwing this thing around any tight bends at speed. It’s based on the same platform and parts as cars like the latest Toyota Corolla and Toyota C-HR SUV – both good cars to drive – but the RAV4’s light and lifeless steering encourages a gentler approach.

And despite the fact It’s also four-wheel drive, it doesn’t feel like there’s an abundance of grip. Granted, our first test drive took place on a particularly wet and greasy winter day, but where rivals remain solid and secure, the RAV4 occasionally felt a little skittish. 

But take things a bit easier and the RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid is a perfectly capable and comfortable car to drive. It’s quiet, thanks to some extra sound insulation and acoustic glass, and it rides well, too – despite its large 19-inch wheels.

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