Motoring

Toyota RAV4 range review – Making hybrids normal again


The original SUV has come a bloody long way since its humble beginnings back in the mid-90’s. Now Toyota’s “compact crossover SUV” has gone all 2020 on us. With Hybrid drivetrains, FWD, AWD and new technology, is it a genuine all-rounder? Let’s find out.

Firstly, Toyota has made hybrids, more than any other brand, attractive. Be it the Corolla or Camry, the brand has certainly cornered that part of the market. But even just five years ago, the concept of the RAV4 going hybrid would have seemed almost laughable. Now there are 11 variants over four grades and three powertrains.

The range is spread across the GX, GXL, Cruiser and Edge models. The first three score a choice of a 2.0L four-cylinder engine or a hybrid model that uses a 2.5L four-cylinder engine matched to an electric motor and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with AWD. The GX is also offered with a 6-speed manual.

The Edge model almost sits outside the range, with a petrol only 2.5L four-cylinder matched to an eight-speed automatic and AWD.

Having driven all of them now, I believe the pick of the crop is the GXL AWD. The new RAV 4 really does up the ante when it comes to styling too, with attractive grilles, and fun colour options, without departing from that typical RAV4 look, too much.

Out on the road the RAV4 is a relaxed, elevated cruiser. It’s no lightweight with hybrid models tipping the scales at around 1.7-tonne. If you’re going to get one of these, I have no idea why you’d bypass the hybrid option. It’s an almost flawless display of all the practicalities of an SUV but won’t drink petrol like Bob Hawke could down a schooner. 

You also must, in my opinion, get an AWD model. In wet conditions FWD hybrids can get a bit messy off the mark. Hybrid versions really get up and moving when pushed, whereas I found the petrol only variants lacked punch. The 2.0L engine just feels a little unnerved by any hint of “spirited” driving. However, a new 2.5L four-cylinder engine found in the Edge, does bring it up to speed. More on that shortly.

The range has some killer standard features. An 8.0-inch touchscreen can be updated to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you purchased prior to November 1, now all models have it as standard, finally!

DAB radio can be found in every RAV4, along with sat-nav, automatic wipers and auto LED headlights. 

Safety was paramount for the new RAV4 and there’s stacks off it. Every model has adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, speed sign recognition, automous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Steering is well calibrated, it’s not too light or heavy. This is a car made for everyone. However, that means plenty of side to side motion via softish suspension. But that also means it irons out most road conditions with ease.

The Edge model stands out like a sore thumb, but it’s the only way to score a combo of petrol and AWD. Plus, in place of the CVT is an eight-speed auto, with a sport mode and various off-road modes such as “Rock and Dirt”, “Mud and Sand” or “Snow”. I’d happily take the Edge model onto a beach, but of course it has its limitations.

The interior is pleasant from the base all the way to the top. The only thing I find unpleasant is the infotainment screen. It’s unnecessarily big, mostly because its surrounded by buttons.

Now just how much power can you expect from your RAV4? The hybrid system produces a combined 160kW for FWD variants or 163kW for AWD. While the petrol only 2.0L engine musters up 127kW/203Nm. The Edge has a new 2.5L petrol engine that delivers 152kW/243Nm.

Fuel economy is rated at 4.78L/100km for hybrid 2WD variants and 4.7L/100km for AWD. For the 2.0L petrol engine the claim is 6.8L/100km for the manual or 6.5L/100km for the CVT. The larger capacity engine found in the Edge comes in at 7.3L/100km.

Did I achieve any of those figures? No.

Depending on what variant you chose, the RAV4 can roll along on 17-inch, 18-inch or 19-inch alloys. Cloth seats dominate lower spec models, but the Cruiser and Edge still don’t get real leather, in its place is “Softex”, fake leather.

Full pricing details are below.

But if you’re thinking about buying one have between $30,640 and $47,240 before on roads ready.

I’ve seen any number of RAV4 taxis now, so surely Toyota is on to a good thing. The Toyota RAV4 hybrid is the most compelling way for people to start thinking about the future. It’s near perfect.

Hybrid models score an 8.9 out of 10 from me, while the two petrol variants can cop an 8 out of 10!

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Toyota RAV4 range review – Making hybrids normal again
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