“Toyota is expanding its own brand’s hybrid offering with the addition of the new RAV4 hybrid.”
Toyota is the world leader in hybrid car technology. The Japanese firm gave us the original petrol hybrid Prius. The mark one Prius was without doubt one of the ugliest cars ever made – but as a platform for new technology it was very important. I still get a shiver, not in a nice way, when I remember driving the first Prius in Ireland for a TV show I was presenting back then on RTÉ. The exterior styling was hideous, but I have to give a nod of respect to it for what the car was trying to do. Now Toyota offers lots of hybrid models – to date mostly found in its luxury Lexus brand. Toyota is expanding its own brand’s hybrid offering with the addition of the new RAV4 hybrid.
RAV4 was a pioneer in the compact SUV sector and a real gas guzzler. The first petrol-powered RAV4 had permanent four-wheel drive and was as quick as a GTI from 0-100kph. Over the years RAV4 has lost its youthful appeal as it catered more and more for family motoring. The car tries to look different but is still quite bland and that in truth is what a lot of buyers want. RAV4 has got a mild makeover recently but not enough to make it a pin-up. Buyers can expect a dramatic styling change in its next incarnation.
The five-door, five-seat SUV is spacious inside, it also has possibly the thinnest front seats that help deliver impressive rear legroom. The Hybrid is stuffed with kit and there are some very nice touches like the layered dash that combines faux leather with Alcantara. Heated seats, cruise control, BLIS, Bluetooth are present but Sat Nav was not fitted on our otherwise high spec test car. There’s a conventional handbrake and other familiar Toyota switchgear. The lack of many newer driving aids is more down to age of the car’s wiring design. Toyota offers ‘Safety Sense’ as an option and it’s worth thinking seriously about.
Being a hybrid, there is a CVT automatic gearbox (insert the usual moan here about the whine and general horrible nature of these loathsome gearboxes). There are three power modes you can select like Eco, EV mode or PWR (power).
On the road, the hybrid works away by itself but you can sometimes get it to run exclusively in electric mode only… I say sometimes because you can’t force it too exclusively use EV. I’m writing this at 37,000 feet and early this morning I wanted to pull away from my house in silence (I’m so considerate!), so when I pressed the start button I immediately press the EV mode but as soon as I moved a few feet the car powered up the not so quiet petrol engine… not cool!
The RAV4 also lacks a ‘B’ lever function that you can select to help brake the car and also generate additional power – instead, with RAV4 Hybrid you rely on lifting off. At times I wanted to have more braking power without having to apply the actual brakes – if you know what I mean.
Enthusiastic drivers should look elsewhere for a fun experience behind the wheel. The suspension is set up for smooth roads too and if you try to tackle a speed hump at any sort of respectable speed, the front suspension will plop as it lets you know in no uncertain terms that this car is not an off-road SUV!
The boot is big and the powered tailgate (even if a little slow) is a nice touch in its class. The rear middle seat has a poorly positioned safety belt (set in the roof off to the side) that my kids complained about when using.
Access is good despite the high floor and it is easy to find a good driving position. The touch screen and steering controls all work well – although all car makers need to make much bigger screens standard or just give us a dock where we can place an iPad or tablet of our own. Connectivity is easily accessed, although my Bluetooth connection did not always automatically connect (iPhone6) and I was asked more than once when on a hands free call was I driving a (loud) van (my phone network might be at fault too – I’m not sure). First world problems aside, RAV4 works well and for undemanding drivers it is adequate on all levels.
RAV4 not so long ago used to be the only game in town but now there’s over 20 rivals to tempt you. RAV4 hybrid CO2 is 116g (€200 road tax) and it is capable of delivering 56.5mpg. The standard diesel RAV4 has a slightly higher CO2 figure of 124g and can do more 60.1mpg.
RAV4 prices start at €29,950 and the RAV4 hybrid is priced from €37,950.