New car review

Toyota RAV4 review

Can the all-new Toyota RAV4 do more than carry a torch for hybrid cars?

Summary

The RAV4 is a compelling package. Its on-road performance is highly competent, and the economy and emissions will be particularly appealing to those coming out of diesel vehicles.
Design
8.0
Comfort
8.0
Driving
8.0
Value for money
8.0
Safety
9.0

Summary

The RAV4 is a compelling package. Its on-road performance is highly competent, and the economy and emissions will be particularly appealing to those coming out of diesel vehicles.

Inside the Toyota RAV4

Regular RAV4 drivers will notice big changes inside the car, a legacy of the TNGA platform. The new car actually measures up a tiny bit shorter than its predecessor, due mainly to sharpening the angles under the front and rear to add some manoeuvrability if drivers do decide to tackle a rocky off-road track in it.

The roofline drops too, although only by a centimetre, which gives the car a more sporty appearance, but the width grows by the same amount and the wheelbase by 3cm. This and the much-improved packaging of the TNGA means that three adults will be comfortable in the rear with no complaints about headroom.

The extra space shows most in the boot – the 580 litres is 79 more than the outgoing model and claimed as best-in-class by Toyota. Drop the rear seats and load it up to the roof and you will get 1,690 litres in.

It’s a well put-together interior, with quality soft-touch finishes that are the same through the range – no low-rent plastic on the entry model. The driver’s layout is practical, the touchscreen atop the centre console large and easy to navigate, and the console wide with space for two cup holders behind it.

Finally, the driver’s view is improved thanks to a number of minor but effective changes, such as lowering the bonnet line, moving the side mirrors along the door to make space for a small quarterlight window, and reversing the angle of the rear side windows to open up a low rear three-quarter view. In total it’s an impressive environment.

Driving the Toyota RAV4

It’s easy to talk about the RAV4’s powertrain because there is only one. It combines a brand new 2.5-litre petrol engine of 180hp with an electric motor of 88kW, giving a combined system output of 218hp in FWD or 222hp in AWD form, together with 221Nm of torque.

The output is around 10hp more than the outgoing RAV4, and Toyota is so confident that the hybrid will do the business in the UK that it is not bringing in the 2.0-litre petrol-engined model that will be available in other European markets.

Certainly fleet drivers coming out of diesel vehicles will appreciate the hybrid, with CO2 levels, and therefore benefit-in-kind tax advantages, of between 102 and 105g/km depending on wheel size and whether one chooses FWD or AWD drivetrains.

While fuel economy for the AWD version is yet to be revealed, it will be comparable to the around 50mpg of the FWD model, and that in turn is comparable to a similar diesel.

The hybrid system has undergone a major update and it shows most in the AWD version. On this the electric motor is mounted on the rear axle, with only cables joining it to the front end – somewhat lighter than a typical 4×4 propshaft.

It’s effective too – the driving modes include the Eco, Normal and Sport settings of previous RAV4 models but there is also now a ‘Trail’ mode. This is effectively a limited slip differential, activated by a button at the base of the centre console and adding extra security on low-grip surfaces.

It really shows its capabilities if you do what very few RAV4 owners will, and take the car away from the tarmac. Toyota demonstrated this on the launch with an off-road course that wasn’t that challenging, but with enough rocks, mud and humps to defeat any normal car. But the RAV4 bowled through the lot of them quite happily, the Trail mode braking any wheel suspended in the air and sending its torque to those in contact with the ground.

Of course, it’s on the road where virtually every RAV4 will spend its time and a day in both the FWD and AWD variants on the launch event shows that both are competent performers. The instant torque of the electric motor produces enthusiastic acceleration, with 8.4 seconds in the FWD version and the AWD model even quicker at 8.1 seconds.

But what also comes with the electric motor under hard acceleration is an audio note that suggests it is being worked hard – especially on the FWD version, where it becomes intrusive.

Sitting in the driving seat, the car also feels very wide – much wider than its market, and this can be a little unnerving in situations such as negotiating tight toll booths.

Ride quality is good, the car untroubled by less than perfect road surfaces, and the lower centre of gravity of the new platform translates to confident cornering. It’s easy to place the car and grip remains good, especially of course on the AWD version.

In summary, the on-the-road performance of the new RAV4 is a major advance on the old one and will likely surprise drivers coming out of other SUVs.

Summary

Almost ‘on the quiet’ Toyota breathed new life into its RAV4 when it added a hybrid model. Now, a couple of years on, it gets to put the car back in the limelight with an all-new generation of the car.

The story isn’t all about hybrid – the new platform, in particular, has made possible a serious update that ensures the RAV4 can properly compete with an ever-growing number of rivals in its market.

But then the RAV4 offers something most of its rivals can’t, thanks to the hybrid – diesel-like economy and emissions, which in the fleet market, in particular, should ensure it’s a hit.

Good points
Hybrid drivetrain
More space, better quality
Excellent safety package

Bad points
Intrusive electric motor audio under acceleration
Car feels very wide to drive

Key specifications

Make & modelToyota RAV4Honda CR-VVolkswagen Tiguan
Specification2.5i hybrid CVT AWD-I DesignSE 2.0 i-MMD Hybrid AWD eCVTSE L 2.0 TSI 180PS 4Motion auto
Price (on-road)£33,430 (range starts £29,635)£32,115 (range starts £24,900)£33,830 (range starts £23,485)
Engine2.5-litre petrol engine + electric motor2.0-litre petrol engine + electric motor2.0-litre petrol engine
Power222 hp (combined)184 hp (combined)180 hp
Torque221Nm (combined)315Nm (combined)320Nm
0-62mph8.1 sec9.2 sec7.7 sec
Top speed112 mph112 mph129 mph
Fuel economy (combined)TBC51.4 mpg38.2 mpg
CO2 emissions124 g/km126 g/km170 g/km
Insurance groupTBC24E18E
Euro NCAP ratingNot yet testedNot yet tested5 stars (2016)

 

Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.

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