From £30,9707
Hybrid-only fifth-generation RAV4 finds itself in a niche class. We put the striking new D-SUV to the test
Simon Davis
17 January 2019

What is it?

It’s undoubtedly poor form to judge a book by its cover. But after casting your eyes over this new fifth-generation RAV4, you’d be hard-pressed to deny that company boss Akio Toyoda’s goal of making Toyota great again is gathering a serious amount of momentum.

Admittedly, a D-segment, family-oriented SUV such as this is never going to capture the imagination of red-blooded driving enthusiasts in quite the same way the GT86, Yaris GRMN and recently revealed GR Supra might. But from a design perspective, the new RAV4 certainly does some serious damage to the increasingly fading stereotype that Toyota is a purveyor of boring, forgettable cars.

Just as with its smaller sibling, the CH-R, describing the new RAV4’s overall aesthetic as ‘divisive’ is far from an unfair call; there will undoubtedly be those who find the SUV’s bold new image distasteful. There will also be those who, like me, really rather like its staunch, angular new look. Those square wheel arches - à la anything with a Jeep badge on its nose - are a particular highlight.

Of course, this striking new image brings with it a handful of dimensional alterations too. The RAV4’s roofline is now 10mm closer to the ground, and its wheelbase has been stretched by 30mm, too, with a view to increasing rear leg room. Its body is stiffer than that of its predecessor, while its centre of gravity is also lower down - which should bode well for the way in which it handles the twisty stuff.

Central to all of this is Toyota’s shiny new TNGA GA-K platform. The RAV4 is the first Toyota to be launched on this architecture, although the Lexus ES also sits on this same foundation. Suspension is by way of MacPherson struts up front, while a double wishbone arrangement is used at the rear.

In a similar vein to Honda and its CR-V, diesel power has vanished without a trace. Unlike the CR-V - which can be had with a regular petrol engine - the RAV4 is hybrid only in the UK.

Central to this powertrain is a 2.5-litre, naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine. In our front-wheel-drive test car, this was paired with a CVT and an electric motor for a combined system output of 215bhp. All-wheel-drive models gain a second electric motor at the rear, which lifts total poke to 219bhp.


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What's it like?

From the driver’s seat, largely spot on. The design language adopted in the cabin may not be quite anywhere near as daring as that of the exterior, but you won’t feel short-changed so far as build or material quality are concerned. 

Ergonomics are sound, too. Masses of adjustability in the driver’s seat and steering column make getting comfy behind the wheel easy, and you’d have to be in particularly poor shape to find the act of reaching for the HVAC controls taxing. There’s also loads of room in the second row. The infotainment suite is pretty rubbish, though, and unless you’re a fan of puzzles and retro graphics, I’d hazard a guess you won’t exactly warm to it. That Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility aren’t available even as options acts as further salt in the proverbial wound.

On the move, the RAV4 goes about the business of being a family-friendly wagon in a perfectly commendable fashion. There’s enough suppleness about the manner in which it deals with lumpier stretches of Tarmac to comfortably label it a comfortable steer, but I don’t think you could quite stretch that to outstanding - it never really feels as though it's truly in tune with the topography of the road underfoot. Secondary intrusions have a tendency to make their presence known, too.

Tip it into a bend and it stays impressively flat - evidence that the lower centre of gravity afforded by the new GA-K platform is paying dividends - while the firm but comfortable seats do a good job of holding you in place. The steering feels suitably weighted and usefully quick, and doesn’t give any cause for concern about an inherent unwillingness to change direction. There could be a dash more front-end grip, yes, and the stability systems could chime in with a fraction less severity when you begin to stray past the limit, but your average RAV4 buyer probably won’t venture anywhere near the edge.

That hybrid powertrain is usefully potent and is more than capable of dispatching overtakes with little bother, and the electric motor masks the naturally aspirated engine’s relative lack of low-down shove in tidy fashion, too. The CVT’s tendency to aggressively flare the engine’s revs every time you accelerate might grate with some - particularly as the engine is quite vocal at the top end - but adopting a more relaxed driving style goes a good way to mitigating this. Around town, it makes for smooth progress, particularly when running on electricity alone.

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Should I buy one?

With prices starting at £29,635, the latest RAV4 doesn’t sound particularly cheap, especially when you could drive off in a new Skoda Kodiaq for considerably less. At the same time, though, it’s well equipped, and as a hybrid D-segment SUV, the RAV4 finds itself in an incredibly small class. Its only real rival is the hybrid version of the Honda CR-V, a car that doesn’t look as good, isn’t quite as quick as the Toyota and is only a few hundred pounds cheaper.

The RAV4 is a bit of a niche choice, then. Toyota reckons it’ll sell about 9300 or so in the UK this year, and I’ve no reason to believe that those people who fork out for one will sorely regret doing so. After all, they’ll be getting themselves a good-looking, comfortable and usefully sure-footed SUV with a big boot (580 litres) that’ll easily take any task a family throws at it in its stride. And that’s no bad thing. 

Toyota RAV4 Dynamic FWD

Where Barcelona, Spain Price £34,400 On sale April Engine 4 cyls in line, 2487cc, petrol, plus electric motor Power 215bhp (total system output) Torque 163lb ft at 3600-5200rpm Gearbox CVT Kerb weight 1680kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 8.4sec Fuel economy 51.21mpg (WLTP combined) CO2 105g/km (NEDC correlated) Rivals Honda CR-V Hybrid, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Kuga

Join the debate


17 January 2019

Can it tow? Too many hybrids cannot or are at best limited. I accept out of world wide sales those of us who tow are a minority of minorities however it will ensure survival of the German and Korean SUV diesel sales as they become the only source of good tow cars. On a separate note i dont dislike the looks but it has moved a long way from the original RAV4 market pitch. Maybe they need a RAV2?

17 January 2019

I’d take the Honda. It has a more inviting cabin and drives at least as well. 

17 January 2019
adrian888 wrote:

Can it tow? Too many hybrids cannot or are at best limited.

the outgoing hybrid model is rated to tow 1750lbs so I imagine that the new one will be similar.

17 January 2019

A high starting price for a 2wd SUV, and, can it only be had with a CVT.  Not a VAG fan but I'd take the cheaper Tiguan or cheaper still Kodiaq with a manual and Turbo opposed to a CVT and battery. 

21 January 2019

However, if you're a company car driver and a higher rate taxpayer you are *far* better off with the Toyota.

Just looking online - the tax bill for the Skoda (1.5 petrol) is over £ 3k, whereas the Toyota is a £2.5k.

So whilst the Toyota costs £ 5k more it's lower emissions mean it's £ 500 cheaper to have from a tax persepctive. Add in it's likely to be cheaper to fuel than the Skoda and it starts to make alot more sense. 

17 January 2019

I like the fact that Toyota are making their vehicles more interesting, but I feel that with this, and the CH-R, they're trying a bit too hard. At least they've included rear side windows in this one.

17 January 2019

Sadly for anyone under 70 or who actually wants to use google maps, spotify etc then Toyota is failing miserably.  Not helped by the fact that many of the Japanese product managers don't understand how we use our phones (clamshell phones still sell well in Japan!).  Every other car manufacturer now offers this.  It's a shame as it's a good looking car (and before you say it's a car why do you need to link your phone - just try Google Navigation with real time traffic - makes any inbuilt systems look a joke!!)

17 January 2019
Deputy wrote:

Sadly for anyone under 70...

But on the positive side for anyone over 70,  those Hi - Lo toggle heated seat buttons. must be familiar. Unless I'm very much mistaken, those look exactly the same buttons Toyota were using in the late1970's. How long have Toyota been using that same design?


17 January 2019

Ahem, I'll ignore your ageism, but add that no Apple Car Play = no RAV4 for me.

Anyway, the hideous front end says keep well away.

20 February 2019

I agree with you... They fit it to the Aygo made in PSA factory but can't get it right in their opwn factories..... or did the product marketing team make a mess?


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