From £23,4245
Petrol-electric 4x4 falls down on ride refinement and cabin quality, and won't transform your company car tax bill like some
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.

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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%

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nicebiscuit 5 January 2018

I'm going to defend this...

I think this car could be very useful for a lot of people.   I've driven a number of Toyota hybrids and once you adapt to the driving style required can make smooth and satisfying progress, and can actually get the quoted economy figures.  The best bit is urban driving - and lets face it, most peoples commutes are pretty stop start these days.  

I got quite fond of an Auris hybrid I borrowed - unpretentious, comfy and well screwed together.   This is even more use, and while some would consider it blandly styled, I'd call it understated and rather welcome for those who dont aspire to a blinged up Evoque or similar. I dont really understand the reviews that expect to be able to fling around a family SUV like a sportscar.  Thats not the point.

Add in the five year warranty and it makes a good case for itself.

Countryman 27 January 2016

Range

Of course, the fuel costs are not the only (or even largest) part of the running costs. I don't think one can take an "average" mpg and apply it to a specific journey. The Outlander PHEV has less than 50g/km "taxable" emissions so has much reduced road tax which will help compensate for a bit more petrol, but also, for those short runs to the shops / gym / school etc it can run on electric alone and recharge overnight. Its transmission seems to be much more sophisticated than the Honda's. It can run on petrol alone, electric alone, or a smart combination of both. It does not NEED to use expensive petrol to recharge, but will if the mains electricity is not available. Only the Volvo XC90 T8 seems to be in competition, but that is in a wholly different price league.
gregor60 25 January 2016

Horses for courses?

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.

xxxx 26 January 2016

Flat battery?

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

gregor60 26 January 2016

Not disagreeing, but...

...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.
EndlessWaves 7 February 2016

gregor60 wrote: I'd have 50

gregor60 wrote:

I'd have 50 miles at 40 mpg with the PHEV and 80 miles at 55 mpg with the RAV.

Except you're quoting the pie in the sky official figure for the Rav 4 but a real world figure for the Outlander (the official battery empty figure is 49mpg).

Unfortunately this article completely skips over the whole point of this car and doesn't even report fuel economy on the road test so it's difficult to know what it'll do

However, if we look at the Lexus NX 300h which also has an official fuel economy of 55mpg then that's getting reported average fuel economy of 36-38mpg

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