The all-new Toyota RAV4 is selling like it’s an Aldi Special Buy. In just a matter of months the compact SUV has landed in the top five sales list. Until the last couple of weeks, I hadn’t driven the fifth generation RAV4. I’d previously driven the preceding model back in 2015 and found it to be rather agricultural. While the new model is a vast improvement it’s still no revolution, but there’s one key attribute that has Aussie buyers hooked.
What is it?
Arguably the first SUV, or at least compact SUV the RAV4 has plagued the world since 1994. It has always had the fun, carefree vibe going on with a presumed ability to hit the trails.
Now the RAV4 is armed with Toyota’s biggest weapon, affordable hybrid technology, on just about every model. The same tactic applies to the Camry and Corolla. While other brands are boasting about unaffordable fully electric cars, Toyota for now is sticking with technology that is more than 20 years in development now.
Take for example you want a Hyundai Kona EV which is roughly in the same league as the RAV4. Well you’ll be faced with the most expensive Hyundai in the range, at around $65K.
There are 11 variants, 2WD, 4WD with a 2.0-litre petrol engine or 2.5L petrol/hybrid combo. Despite some shortfalls, I think that’s what is delivering Toyota the goods.
Behind the wheel
So far, I’ve driven the GX 2WD petrol and GX 4WD hybrid models. I’ll say this, from behind the wheel it’s a rather benign experience. By that I mean there is nothing overly spectacular to pinpoint. I’m in no doubt the RAV4 is far more polished than the one it replaces. Noticeably bigger, the new RAV4 is also less jarring on the eye, with the good people at Toyota finally realising it’s ok to make a visually pleasing car.
The 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder can be had in a six-speed manual if you must, but I tested the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) version. This combo is the least appealing, one for the lack of power, 4WD and the typical CVT drone. As a keen driver it would never even come into consideration if I was to buy one, in fact I’d prefer a manual.
The Camry sourced 2.5L petrol four-cylinder CVT hybrid is clearly the only way to go. Being a Camry Hybrid owner, I can tell you it’s a well-honed, reliable and of course efficient way to get about.
I found the drive to be capable, but perhaps a little rough around the edges occasionally. Mind you the EFTM Proving ground will show up any deficiency in any car. On the highway or just around town the RAV4 is quiet, comfortable and easily manoeuvrable.
The cloth interior and rather hard plastic dash won’t dazzle friends and family and the lack of Apple CarPlay, well let’s just say that sent my wife into a frothing frenzy. But in good news it will arrive very soon and can be retrofitted for free!
But to place hybrid technology in a 4WD SUV is the real novelty, to see sub 5.0L/100km fuel economy figures on the dash almost makes you laugh. The RAV4 isn’t light either, it really makes a mockery of say the Mazda CX-5 equivalent petrol model. But of course, I’m strictly talking about fuel economy.
The rear load space has been extended by 65mm, it now has a class leading luggage capacity of up to 580 litres. Although because the GX model scores a full-sized spare that is reduced to 542 litres. Other models get a space saver.
But to put it simply the RAV4 hybrid is a raging success, because Aussies don’t want to save the world, they want to save at the bowser.
As mentioned, I’ve driven two of the 11 variants. The RAV4 GX FWD 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine (CVT). Then I swapped into an AWD GX with the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor generator sent through a CVT. It produces a combined output of 163kW.
The existing multimedia system sans Apple CarPlay is showcased via an 8.0-inch tablet style floating touchscreen. One that is very dominate, simply because it has an inch-thick boarder that incorporates buttons for many of the touchscreen functions and a couple of dials.
A 4.2″ Multi-information Display occupies the dash alongside analogue dials. The car scores adaptive radar cruise control as standard, along with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert, speed recognition plus auto high beam.
Safety is covered of by seven airbags, parking sensors front and back, blind spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert and a reversing camera.
The GX starts at $30,640 via the six-speed manual and 2WD mode. The GX hybrid AWD model jumps to $38,140 before on roads. Hybrid models with 2WD variants offer a 4.7L/100km fuel economy figure AWD 4.8L/100km. Even I could match that! 2.0-litre petrol engines average 6.8L/100km for the manual or 6.8L/100km for the CVT.
The 2019 RAV4 is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. The hybrid batteries are backed for 10-years, but Toyota asks you stick to an annual health check.
Why would you buy one?
Because you want an SUV, that has some robust appeal and the ability to conserve fuel better than any competitor.
I don’t really know where Toyota is headed when it comes to developing a fully electric car. But for now, it has stuck to the gold standard it created when it comes to the electrification of the Internal Combustion Engine. The RAV4 GX Hybrid is far from mind-blowing, but when you do the math, and appreciate the massive step up from the previous model, it deserves a solid score. It’s an 8.4 out of 10 from me.