From £22,9145
Petrol-electric 4x4 falls down on ride refinement and cabin quality, and won't transform your company car tax bill like some

Our Verdict

Toyota RAV4
This is the fourth model in the RAV4's history

Likeable RAV4 4x4 grows and matures but loses originality and still falls short of the class’s highest dynamic standards

  • First Drive

    2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid review

    Petrol-electric 4x4 falls down on ride refinement and cabin quality, and won't transform your company car tax bill like some
  • First Drive

    2016 Toyota RAV4 2.0 D-4D review

    A 2016 facelift for Toyota's RAV4 brings styling tweaks and a more efficient diesel engine, but we still think a Mazda CX-5 makes a more convincing case
Richard Webber
25 January 2016

What is it?

To coincide with the fourth-generation RAV4’s facelift, Toyota has added the option of hybrid power to its drivetrain line-up. It uses a similar set-up to the RAV4’s plusher cousin, the Lexus NX300h, with a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine allied to a front-mounted electric motor in the front-drive version (available from £26,195) and supplemented by a further electric motor at the back in the four-wheel-drive version (from £29,795). Toyota says combined power output is 194bhp in each configuration, dished out by a CVT.

In either arrangement, the RAV4 Hybrid takes 8.4sec to reach 62mph, making it quicker than versions powered by either the new 2.0 diesel or revised 2.0 petrol engine, despite the hybrid carrying a 105kg weight penalty in front-drive form and a further 65kg in four-wheel-drive guise.

Exterior updates are focused on the front end, while the RAV4’s cabin has been gently refreshed with some new finishes, ambient lighting and a revised instrument binnacle featuring a 4.2-inch info display to supplement the main 7.0-inch touchscreen.

What's it like?

Despite the improvements, the cabin is still decidedly low-rent, even in the top-spec, leather-upholstered Excel trim driven here. Hard, hollow-feeling plastics abound - most vexingly on the steering wheel boss, complete with moulded-in ‘stitching’ - and what padded surfaces there are feel thin.

The well-bolstered, four-way electrically adjustable front seats are firm yet comfortable, but tall drivers test the limits of steering wheel reach and rake, and will struggle to see more than half of the heated seat and drive mode buttons that are tucked into the base of the centre console.

The rear seats have manually adjustable backrests, but don’t slide. Two tall passengers can sit comfortably; three would be a squeeze, especially for shoulder room.

Due to battery stowage, the hybrid’s electrically opened boot hosts a raised tool compartment that cuts cargo volume by around 50 litres with the rear seats up and twice that when they’re folded. Still, it's a useful, symmetrical space, with no lip, although the rear seats don’t fold totally flat.

The RAV4 Hybrid’s EV mode allows emissions-free travel below 30mph. In reality, however, it’s difficult to avoid the petrol engine chiming in, but in normal urban traffic it stays pretty quiet anyway. The same can’t be said for the ride, which lacks give and readily bangs over ridges, while the regenerative brakes become grabby towards the end of the pedal’s travel.

This lack of compliance endures on rural roads, where the RAV4 Hybrid jostles and pitches, yet also suffers significant body roll. The woolly steering does little to improve confidence, while the CVT causes the petrol engine to rev noisily hard.

However, despite being relatively brisk, this car was never intended to be worked hard. Its forte is the motorway, when the ride, steering and engine all combine to make steady-throttle progress peaceful and easy, despite some road noise from the 18-inch wheels.

Should I buy one?

RAV4 fans mainly confined to the city will be pleased to know the hybrid’s 55.4mpg average economy is equalled by its urban figure, meaning it betters the diesel version by 4mpg. That said, the diesel’s combined return of 60.1mpg will resonate more with everyone else. Bear in mind, too, that the Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 150 is similarly efficient, and will better satisfy those seeking more dynamic reward from their SUV.

The RAV4 Hybrid lacks the show-stealing economy, emissions and dynamic refinement required to more effectively leverage its technology, and is too compromised when it comes to daily driving anywhere apart from the motorway, all of which will significantly limit its appeal.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Excel AWD

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £30,795; Engine 4 cyls, 2494cc, petrol, plus two electric motors; Power 194bhp (combined); Torque 152lb ft at 4400-4800rpm (petrol engine); Gearbox CVT; Kerb weight 1775kg; 0-62mph 8.4sec; Top speed 112mph; Economy 55.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 118g/km, 18%

Join the debate

Comments
12

25 January 2016

If this is the engine with dual port+direct injection, it will be definitely better than a bog standard diesel.

You have no carbon buildup issues , the hybrid drivetrain is virtually bulletproof. Not sure why should one bother with dpf, turbo, dmf, and all the other issues associated with diesel. Plus almost all Euro6 diesels will come with adblue. Just another thing to go wrong...

25 January 2016

I had a 3 hour test drive in one last week. It was awesome. Yes the interior wasn't wonderful, but it was fine. I took it on motorways, a-roads and country lanes and it was perfectly good on all of them. No body roll to speak of and the whole experience was eerily quiet. You really had to rev it hard to even hear the engine. 40 mpg without trying too. Plus, this thing can tow. Finally a 4x4 that you can use on the school run without clogging up a dpf and then use it to pull the caravan at the weekend. Makes sense to me.

26 January 2016

Hi
Have you actually towed a caravan with the car? Because the car/caravan matching sites suggest the car will not do hill starts.
If it tows successfully then I'll have one ;)

26 January 2016
whitestetson wrote:

Hi
Have you actually towed a caravan with the car? Because the car/caravan matching sites suggest the car will not do hill starts.
If it tows successfully then I'll have one ;)

I don't think anyone has actually tested one with a caravan yet? With four wheel drive and nearly 200 bhp I doubt it's going to be a problem. Those matching sites are guestimates at best Imho.

1 February 2016

Think I agree Oilburner. Having now driven it I will be surprised if it cannot tow ! and Toyots tech dept say it can tow and perform hill starts.

25 April 2016

Hi, I've just picked up a 22ft 5 Birth Swift Caravan weighing around 1200kg from North Wales and towed it back to South Derbyshire using the New Hybrid Rav4 4wd Excel top of the range with the 2.5 ltr engine,

It towed with ease however at times a little revy, being a petrol head it sounded quite nice, just not the best fuel economy, The Vehicle had however only completed 1200 miles in it's life so not even run in really, I averaged around 23mpg,

On the journey i had to go over a mountain called Dinas which is very steep, I ended up being slowed down by other cars as the Rav just took it in it's stride, any worries of not being able to do a hill start are so un true it's rediculous, The rav has no issues!

I over took other cars and a bus who were particuly slow, the caravan sat very steady behind with little feel in the Rav it's self, of course over the back country roads there is some feel but nothing worrying, if you've towed a caravan before then you will see no negatives with this, My only concern was the MPG's which I was googling when I came across this post,

After reading write ups on other Vehicles i can see that it's actually not that bad so hey ho.

The one I drove I had borrowed, I can now safely say I'm getting one :-)

Hope this helps your decision making.

25 January 2016

Unless I missed it it's missing a major advantage of the Outlander PHEV I.e. plug-in capability. For that reason and the fact the rav4 is looking so dated now I'd get the Mitsubishi, like a lot of people.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

25 January 2016

This car seems to have consistently good economy for what it is. I may be wrong, but I think the PHEV's economy isn't that great once the drive battery is flat. If my daily commute was less than the Outlander's range (or ifI could recharge at work) it would make sense. Perhaps, though, the RAV would be better for long journeys?

I can accept Autocar giving this a low rating because the magazine is driver focussed, but for most people, Toyota reliability is going to trump steering feel and soft plastics. I suspect most owners will feel it's a 4 or 5 star car.

"There's a fine line between wrong and visionary. Unfortunately, you have to be a visionary to see it." - Dr Sheldon Cooper

26 January 2016
gregor60 wrote:

This car seems to have consistently good economy for what it is. I may be wrong, but I think the PHEV's economy isn't that great once the drive battery is flat. If my daily commute was less than the Outlander's range (or ifI could recharge at work) it would make sense. Perhaps, though, the RAV would be better for long journeys?

I can accept Autocar giving this a low rating because the magazine is driver focussed, but for most people, Toyota reliability is going to trump steering feel and soft plastics. I suspect most owners will feel it's a 4 or 5 star car.

The more advanced PHEV can recharge the battery in exactly the same way as the RAV4 so the battery won't go 'flat', the engine can also act as a generator charging the battery directly something the RAV4 can't either (I think), plus, going back to my original point it's got a plug! (charges to 80% capacity in 30 minutes, big bonus). Disadvantage is it's a fair bit slower in most cases

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

26 January 2016

...I think Mitsubishi quote an electric range of 30 miles or so. Beyond that, you're using petrol for drive and perhaps recharging. Not sure where the figure I've got in my head comes from, but I think the non-electric mode (where as you say, xxxx, you're essentially driving a hybrid) gives about 40 mpg. I was thinking of my own situation, where I have a 40 mile drive to work and presently no chance to recharge. I'd have 50 miles at 40 mpg with the PHEV and 80 miles at 55 mpg with the RAV. The PHEV wins, just, and greater distances without a recharge would see it slipping behind. I'll see if I can find out whether the range and mpg figures come from - my neighbour was considering a PHEV and did similar sums. What will be interesting will be the next generation of plug-ins with greater electric range.

"There's a fine line between wrong and visionary. Unfortunately, you have to be a visionary to see it." - Dr Sheldon Cooper

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Hyundai I30 1.4 Turbo prototype
    First Drive
    30 August 2016
    We get early access to the third-generation Hyundai i30 1.4 Turbo. Does this prototype show promise?
  • Citroën C4 Grand Picasso
    First Drive
    26 August 2016
    The Citroën Grand C4 Picasso gets tweaked styling, improved tech and new personalisation options to keep it ahead of rivals
  • Car review
    26 August 2016
    Wolfsburg celebrates the GTI’s 40th with its most extreme version yet
  • Kia Optima Sportwagon
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    New Kia estate looks the part, has good space and handles tidily, but its engine's flexibility and refinement let it down
  •  Kia Optima PHEV
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    Plug-in hybrid Optima is a practical, tax-efficient PHEV that undercuts rivals and fulfils its main remit well, but keen drivers need not apply