Toyota RAV4 Hybrid engines, drive and performance

Hybrid drivetrain and CVT gearbox limit ultimate driver appeal, but the Toyota RAV4 rides and handles well for what it is

0-62mph Top speed Driven wheels Power
8.1-8.4s 112mph Front or four 215-219bhp

Nobody really expects a family SUV to be the last word in driver involvement, and such is the case with the latest Toyota RAV4. It gives a good account of itself in many areas, though, with responsive steering, a comfortable ride on most surfaces and decent handling for a car of its size. The main drawbacks from the driver's point of view concern the engine and gearbox.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid engine, 0-62mph and acceleration

Toyota refers to the RAV4 Hybrid's petrol-electric setup as its "Dynamic Force" engine. It comprises a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine plus the electric motor, producing 215bhp in the front-wheel-drive car and 219bhp if you go for four-wheel drive variant.

Performance is swift enough: 0-62mph takes 8.4 seconds with front-wheel drive and 8.1 seconds with four-wheel drive (thanks to the latter's extra motor on the rear axle). Top speed in both cases is 112mph, so cruising smoothly at the UK national speed limit is well within the RAV4's capability.

The RAV4 isn't really a car for powering away from the lights, though. The CVT gearbox is an improvement on earlier Toyota efforts, but retains this transmission's characteristic tendency to rev the engine hard without accelerating the car all that quickly. The RAV4 is more suited to a smooth and relaxed approach to driving.

Handling

The same is true when it comes to handling: keen drivers won't be overly enamoured with the RAV4, but the rest of us will find it reasonably comfortable and responsive. Good suspension design means it doesn't lean as heavily in corners as you might expect a hefty SUV to, and the steering is both nicely weighted and direct. Ride quality is good, too, even on the larger 18-inch wheels.

As we mentioned on the verdict page, in four-wheel-drive form the RAV4 is actually a pretty competent off-roader, and just offering the option of four-wheel drive sets it apart from many front-wheel-drive-only rivals. Of course, it'll never go as far as a dedicated off-road machine such as the larger and more expensive Toyota Land Cruiser, but if you live in a location where muddy, slippery or snowy conditions are a regular occurrence, the four-wheel-drive RAV4 is well worth considering.