Toyota's much improved fourth generation RAV4 is now offered with hybrid power. The experts at Car & Driving take a look.
Ten Second Review
A revised look, interior refinements, clever technological gadgets and a range centered on full hybrid power are the main elements of this rejuvenated fourth generation Toyota RAV4. It's safer too. But are the changes enough?
In over two decades on sale, Toyota's RAV compact soft-roading SUV has evolved and changed quite a lot. It launch, it was the sportiest car of its kind and in more recent times has introduced the concept of 2WD into this market segment. The fourth generation version though, first introduced in 2013, hasn't sold as strongly as Toyota hoped it might, hence the comprehensive range refresh that has brought us the option of petrol/electric hybrid power.
Unlike some of its rivals, Toyota has chosen not to match this with futuristic Plug-in technology, but the brand does have industry-leading hybrid expertise. Let's see if that comes across with this smarter, safer, more efficient MK4 model RAV4.
Toyota is offering this car's 2.5-litre four cylinder hybrid powertrain mated either to two or four-wheel drive - and either case, it puts out 197bhp thanks to a boost from two electric motors, a 105kW one on the front axle and a 50kW one on the rear axle. As usual, such a hybrid engine must be mated to automatic transmission and as ever with the brand's petrol/electric systems, there's an 'EV' button that allows you to proceed in pure electric mode for up to a couple of miles. In town, this, the most ecological and powerful RAV4 ever, goes smoothly and offers unexpected agility in traffic.
At a cruise, the atmosphere is hushed and, even at highway speeds, it's possible to chat with rear passengers without having to raise your voice. On secondary roads, the RAV4 feels remarkably agile for an SUV. If you are in a hurry, just press the 'Sport' button, crush the pedal to the metal and be surprised by the rewarding response of the power unit which makes 62mph from rest in 8.4s en route to 112mph.
Design and Build
The spacious cockpit is one of the winning virtues of the fourth generation of the RAV4. The atmosphere is airy, not only at the front but also in the rear, where passengers have many centimeters for legs and head and can even adjust the backrest angle. The back seat doesn't slide back and forth as it did on previous generation RAV4s, but in return for that sacrifice, this current model delivers a big boot, though on this hybrid variant, the positioning of the batteries means that you lose 46-litres of space in this part of the car. Still, the 501-litre total should be sufficient for most.
This revised fourth generation model gets a smarter front end, with sleeker Bi-LED headlamps and a more intriguing bumper. Standing out at the rear are the taillights with their classier graphics. The cabin isn't much different, but does benefit from improvements in the quality of materials used, the definition of details and availability of a revised infotainment system. On top models, this item's 7-inch' screen, combined with the Panoramic view monitor, allows a 360 degrees vision of the vehicle from above during maneuvering. It's a big help to avoid running into low obstacles and also a nice gadget to show off to friends.
Market and Model
Expect to pay a premium of around £1,800 to own a petrol/electric Hybrid RAV4, rather than an equivalently-specified 2.0-litre D-4D diesel version. That means you'll need a budget of just over £26,000 for the entry-level 2WD version, with the btter-specified 4WD Hybrid model priced from around £30,000. For around £700 more, you can also have your car fitted witgh Toyota's package of 'Safety Sense' electronixc safety features, an upgrade worth having.
If you're looking at the 4WD version, the issue might well be that for this kind of money, you could have more sophisticated Plug-in 4WD Hybrid technology in the form of Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV. Still, the RAV4 is more of a known quantity - and it is very well equipped. All models have LED Headlights, Auto headlamp leveling, a power tailgate, keyless entry and Push-button start.
Go for the top 'Excel' version and you get high-quality leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats with electric adjustment and lumbar support, plus parking sensors (front and rear) and roof rails.
Cost of Ownership
Toyota declares an combined cycle fuel figure of 56.5mpg for this car, with a peak of 57.6mpg in extra urban use and an excellent 55.4mpg possible in purely urban conditions. The CO2 figure is 115g/km, comparable to a 1.2-litre Ford Ka or Fiat 500 citycar. This RAV4 2.5 VVT-i Hybrid falls into VED tax band C, so owners will pay nothing for the first year registration. Toyota talks of owners saving around 12% in BIK tax payments over an equivalent diesel model, a saving of £2,287 for a 20% UK tax payer. Plus of course you'll be using cheaper green pump fuel.
Servicing should be cheaper too. This RAV4 Hybrid does, after all, have no clutch, no starter motor, no alternator, no timing belt and a longer durability of brakes discs and pads. Plus you get a comprehensive five year / 100,000 mile manufacturer warranty.
It was only a matter of time before Toyota added hybrid technology to its RAV4 compact SUV. The engine suits the car and will be of great interest to this soft roaders traditional band of loyal buyers. Will it have wider appeal than that though? Well the figures are quite tempting. Not many cars of this size can so stylishly manage over 55mpg and 113g/km of CO2 while still making 62mph from rest in under 9 seconds.
It'll also help that this revised RAV4 model looks smarter than before. Toyota's problem though, is that there are some very strong alternatives in this segment selling at much the same kind of money, with either potent diesel technology or even Plug-in Hybrid power readily available for compact SUV buyers at this price point. For all that, this RAV4 Hybrid is a welcome arrival in this segment. It's certainly a car you'd very happily live with.