From £31,3599

Toyota switches its popular mid-sized SUV onto a new platform and hybrid-only tack

The Toyota RAV4, the brand's current-generation mid-sized SUV, made a clean break with its more than 25 years of history when it went on sale in the UK at the beginning of 2019. Following so many of its rangemates, it switched into Toyota’s latest ‘TNGA’ modular vehicle platform technology. Its dimensions changed only slightly, becoming one of few new cars to become shorter at the kerb than its immediate predecessor.

But the mechanical change most will likely have noticed happened under the bonnet. Having been available in all of its previous forms with conventional petrol engines, and since the ‘XA20’ second-generation version also with a diesel for those who wanted one, the new RAV4 switched to petrol-electric hybrid power exclusively. 

Being based on Toyota TNGA-K modular platform, the RAV4’s closest in-house relations aren’t fellow SUVs but saloons: the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES (although the new Highlander is a close sibling, too).

While buyers in other markets can buy conventional petrol-engined versions of the car, then, in the UK the RAV4 comes with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, atmospheric petrol engine and a combination of electric motors, depending on what version you opt for. Both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available. Entry-level cars offer 215bhp and front-wheel drive, while ‘Hybrid AWD-i’models come with power increased slightly to 219bhp (because they add a second electric drive motor for the rear axle).

Back to top

It’s the range-topping RAV4 PHEV that we’ve elected to test, though, whose more powerful electric motors and drive battery combine with its combustion engine to produce up to 302bhp – which is enough to get your attention. 

Being capable of almost 50 miles of lab-tested electric running on its 18.1kWh drive battery, and emitting as little as 22g/km of CO2, the plug-in hybrid also moves the RAV4 into quite rarified waters as a tax-saving company car. It’s one of a still-very-limited number of family cars that might cost a fleet driver less than 10 per cent of its showroom value in annual benefit in kind tax, but might also cost his fleet operator less than £50,000 at list price. The regular RAV4 Hybrid can be had for much less, but no version of the car other than the PHEV promises to beat an advertised 50mpg, or emits less than 130g/km of carbon dioxide.

Toyota RAV4 engine line-up and trim levels

The petrol-hybrid RAV4 comes in a four-tier model trim range that opens up with the sub-£32,000 Icon version, and continues with Design, Excel and the range-topping Dynamic. The plug-in hybrid verson, as tested here, has three options: Design, Dynamic and Dynamic Premium.

Alloy wheel sizes range from 17- to 19in; and while entry-level cars miss out on equipment such as heated electric seats, LED headlights and front parking sensors, they do get adaptive cruise control and plenty of active safety kit as standard.

All versions of the RAV4 intended for the UK market, including the range-topping plug-in version, are built in Japan.

Toyota RAV4 design & styling

Toyota clearly set out of make an impact with this daring-looking fifth-generation RAV4. While it doesn’t have the plunging roofline or slimline features of the smaller Toyota C-HR crossover, there are much bolder lines and more chiseled features on display here than previous generations have had. 

Back to top

You wouldn’t call the result beautiful, but it’ll certainly get your attention. At the risk of authoring a car that some may consider fussy, Toyota has carved plenty of form and detail into the RAV4’s flanks, and – with some success – has chosen big stand-out design features to distinguish the car like its arrowhead radiator grille, kinked C-pillar and squared-off wheel arches.

Underneath the body panels, the car’s new all-steel model platform and chassis brings greater torsional rigidity, a lower centre of gravity and double-wishbone rear suspension – all of which promise improved handling. Both the bonnet line and driver’s seat are 15mm lower than in the fourth-generation RAV4, while the glasshouse is larger than before, boosting visibility all-round. The car’s electromechanical power steering system is now rack- rather than column-mounted, while road-biased ‘summer’ tyres replace the all-weather type fitted to the previous-generation car.

Like so many of Toyota’s hybrid-intended motors, the 2487cc four-cylinder petrol engine that primarily powers the RAV4 runs on the thermal-efficiency-boosting Atkinson combustion cycle, and has a more ‘undersquare’ cylinder design than its predecessor (the engine’s smaller-of-bore and longer-of-stroke than its predecessor was, for better natural torque production). Fed by both direct and indirect fuel injection and aspirated by two different forms of intelligent variable valve timing technology, it produces up to 176bhp for the car; it’s mounted transversely under the bonnet; and it drives the front wheels in tandem with an electric motor/generator itself rated for up to 118bhp. 

In the case of four-wheel drive cars, a second electric motor drives the rear axle directly with up to 54bhp, although ‘total system’ power outputs for the front-driven Hybrid and four-wheel drive Hybrid AWD-i are only 215- and 219bhp respectively.

The plug-in hybrid RAV4 uses most of the same mechanical ingredients as the regular Hybrid, although its combustion engine produces slightly greater peak power (182bhp) and its front-mounted electric drive motor is significantly more powerful and torque-rich (180bhp, 199lb ft). Total system output here is 302bhp; as ever, Toyota doesn’t quote a total system torque output but, with both electric motors working hard and the combustion engine’s torque curve building, there can safely be imagined to be in excess of 400lb ft finding their way to the car’s axles.

Back to top

Featuring so much electrification, the RAV4 might never have been taken for a particularly lightweight member of the SUV set, but entry-level front-driven cars can actually weigh in at less than 1600kg according to Toyota’s claims. A plug-in hybrid is nearly 300kg heavier than a like-for-like, all-wheel drive regular Hybrid, however. Our PHEV test car weighed in at 1949kg in running order and with fuel onboard, but that fell well within Toyota’s claimed kerbweight range for it. It’s plainly not light. Allowing for the car’s good-sized 18.1kWh drive battery though, it might actually qualify for quiet praise against a backdrop of PHEV SUVs which almost universally weigh more than two tonnes.

More on the Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4 2012-2018 review

Toyota RAV4 2006-2012 review

Toyota introduces RAV4 Adventure specification

Toyota RAV4 First drives