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Driven: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2WD. Image by Toyota UK.

Driven: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2WD
Toyota continues to massively step up its game with the really rather good new RAV4 Hybrid.

   



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Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid 2WD

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: much-improved 2.5-litre drivetrain, bold exterior styling, high-quality and spacious interior, refined manners, impressive real-world economy

Not so good: expensive, first TNGA that's not that thrilling to drive, interior fascia design a bit dull, still faint traces of CVT 'roar'

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota RAV4 Excel 2.5 Hybrid 2WD
Price: RAV4 range from 29,940; Excel 2.5 Hybrid 2WD from 33,915, car as tested 35,570
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with permanent magnet synchronous electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery
Transmission: electric Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT), front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hybrid crossover-SUV
CO2 emissions: 105g/km (VED Band 101-110 (TC59 hybrid): 140 in year one, then 135 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 51.2mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Power: petrol 178hp at 5,700rpm, electric 40kW (54hp), combined peak system output 217hp
Torque: petrol 221Nm at 3,600-5,200rpm, electric 202Nm, combined peak system output not quoted
Boot space: 580-1,690 litres

Our view:

If you read our review of the old Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, you'll know that we (or, more specifically, this correspondent) weren't impressed with it much at all. But what you might also have noticed is that, with the advent of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) products, this giant of a Japanese manufacturer has got its spark back. The C-HR crossover is a little peach. Even the Corolla, once a nameplate synonymous with 'boring', has returned after a hiatus and proven it's excellent to drive.

Well, now that the Mk5 RAV4 has shifted to TNGA, we have high hopes for it. And, having spent a week and more than 530 miles with this two-wheel-drive variant (it makes do without the e-motor on the rear axle and has slightly less power overall, at 217hp), we're delighted to say those hopes haven't been dashed on the rocks of disappointment. What a lovely, lovely thing the RAV4 Hybrid has become.

For a start, it looks great. The boxy, slightly aggressive appearance of Toyota's bigger crossover might not be to all tastes, but we say 'bravo!' to the carmaker for being bold, instead of conforming to 'safe' and blending into the herd. In White Pearl paint (795) and with a black roof/alloys, it's a striking-looking thing that deserves re-appraisal if you're not sure of the design on first glance. Stepping inside, there's acres of space onboard for four adults to get properly comfy, five adults would be fine at a push, and the boot's a whopper at 580 litres with the seats in place. It's all built well, while it's nicely laid-out up front, too, with clear dials and Toyota's more-than-acceptable Touch 2 infotainment, but it lacks for any of the visual flair that you'd find in the C-HR.

On the move, though, and you can't help but like the RAV4 Hybrid 2WD. Toyota has clearly gone to great efforts to make its previously coarse combination of a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle, normally aspirated four-pot engine and e-CVT transmission into something a lot more civilised. And it has worked wonders. Yes, if you absolutely clog the RAV4 and demand 'MOAR POWAAH!' from it, you do get hints of the typical CVT whining and the whiff of a disconnect between the engine's efforts/increased forward motion, but in the main this is a much quieter, much smoother and much more palatable drivetrain than it ever has been before. Throw in the fact we saw 51.1mpg average across our week with it, and a best return of 58.5mpg (a figure well up on its 51.2mpg combined number), and it's clear the Toyota petrol-electric hybrid is a credible alternative to a diesel of equivalent power.

It's nice to travel in as well, with a really comfortable ride and good suppression of external noise characteristics. If we were slightly critical of the dynamics of the RAV4, it's that it's the first TNGA-based machine from the company which isn't that engaging to drive at the limit, although a lot of that will be to do with its kerb weight of a portly 1,720kg. Never mind, though; it's unlikely RAV4 Hybrid owners are going to be throwing their vehicles around like they're GT86s on stilts, so slightly uncommunicative handling is hardly going to be a dealbreaker.

Perhaps more pertinent is the price of the RAV4. Admittedly, our test car was a high-ranking Excel, pushing the starting number up from sub-30,000 to a figure almost at 34,000. And it only had the paint and the panoramic roof (860) added, although that still resulted in a list price of 35,570 as tested. Maybe it's just us, but remembering that the original RAV4s of the 1990s were cheap little things, it's weird to think of the crossover now being a machine heading gaily towards the 40,000 mark.

Overall, though, it was a completely different RAV4 Hybrid experience in the Mk5 than it was in our last try of a Mk4. A cultured and competent all-rounder, wrapped up in a smart suit and given a decent interior, the Toyota RAV4 is now something well worth considering first and foremost in this marketplace, rather than being an also-ran as it was before. The TNGA-inspired Toyota revolution rolls on.

Alternatives:

Honda CR-V: the most obvious direct competitor to the RAV4. Also Japanese, also petrol-electric, also capable of running as an EV for brief periods; only the Honda can't match the Toyota's performance and eco stats.

Hyundai Tucson 2.0 CRDi 48V: Hyundai goes down the fashionable 48-volt mild hybrid route with a diesel mash-up, and comes off worse than the Toyota. Heavy, pricey, not that much fun to drive. Harrumph.

Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 190: no hybrid shenanigans here, just a good, old-fashioned turbodiesel. That's not as powerful as the Toyota, claimed to be worse on fuel and for CO2, and which can be very expensive. Ah. It IS a blinking good SUV, though.


Matt Robinson - 22 Jul 2019



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2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.

2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.2019 Toyota RAV4 2WD Hybrid UK test. Image by Toyota UK.








 

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