The RAV4 is a comfortable, generally gentle-riding family SUV even in PHEV form. Unlike other manufacturers, Toyota hasn’t been misled to tune the range-topping version as if it were a high-rise performance car just because it’s powerful- and fast enough to give some syllogistic validity to the logic. 

And so this car has just the kind of rounded, mature, easy-going on-road qualities you’d hope an extra-versatile family car would. It feels relatively softly sprung, but not wallowing or inert. It rolls as it corners a little but its rate of roll and its ultimate lean angle are both contained, and neither is permitted to corrupt the linearity and intuitive authority of the car’s medium-paced, medium-weighted steering, which makes the car very easy to place and feel natural to guide at both low speeds and high. 

Although the RAV4 PHEV weighs nearly 300kg more than the regular car, its anti-roll bars are the same thickness. Toyota’s evidently had no greater dynamic ambitions for it than any other RAV4, and its pleasing roundedness to drive is the beneficiary.

Some SUVs of this size and price can feel heavy, wide and cumbersome on the road, but the RAV4 isn’t one of them, retaining a sense of balance and understated agility, and demonstrating little dynamic penalty for its considerable kerbweight. Hurry the car along and you’ll more likely be steadied on more testing roads as the car’s vertical body control reaches its limits, but outright cornering grip and balance are encouragingly high, and traction likewise. At times, you really can feel the car’s rear-mounted electric motor and its more rearward weight distribution helping to rotate the chassis on the way out of bends, filtering in a sense of sporting dynamic poise to the car’s character that few will have expected.

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The car’s ride is supple and absorptive across the speed range, just as you’d want a practical family car’s ride to be. Good isolation makes cruising refinement on good surfaces commendable, with our noise meter registering just 61dbA of cabin noise at 50mph (a decibel lower than a Range Rover Evoque P300e). But there was just the occasionally interruption to the general onboard calm caused by our test car’s 19in alloy wheels, which clunked and fussed a little over sharp edges and drain covers. It’s not a serious enough factor to erode the car’s generally refined, comfortable and easy-going vibe overall; but it may be another reason to think hard about whether you really need a higher and more expensive trim level, or would actually be better served by an entry-level RAV4 PHEV on 18in wheels (or could perhaps have the smaller rims fitted by your dealer).