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What is it?

Toyota released its first crossover style vehicle in the late 1990s. Named the RAV4 — or Recreational Activity Vehicle — it’s this car that’s largely responsible for the whole SUV revolution.

In mid-2019 Toyota released a new version and it’s been a substantial upgrade. For the first time RAV4 has been given a hybrid driveline option and it’s available across three of the four model model range.

There is the entry GX, then GXL, Cruiser, and up-spec Edge, the latter the only one not available with a Hybrid. Edge also has only the 2.5-litre petrol and comes with an 8-speed auto.

Otherwise power comes from either a 2.0-litre petrol or 2.5-litre hybrid setup.

The GX is the only version available with a proper gearbox, a 6-speed manual — otherwise there’s a CVT for all bar the Edge.

Driveline options are two- or all-wheel drive for the hybrids.

Fuel consumption figures are startling.

The 2.0-litre GX manual gets a claimed 6.8L/100km, or 6.5L/100km for the CVT, while the 2.5-litre Edge with the 8-speed auto returns 7.3L/100km.

Go hybrid (as tested) gets 4.7L100km in two-wheel drive form, or 4.8L/100km in all-wheel drive.

These figures are on the combined cycle using standard 91 RON fuel.

We averaged a brilliant 5.5L/100km from the 55-litre tank on a purely urban cycle.

Peak power for the standard engine is 127kW. The two/all-wheel drive hybrid system is rated at 160kW/163kW.

Peak torque from the 2.0-litre is 203Nm. The hybrid is quoted at 221Nm for the petrol engine alone — there’s no figure from Toyota for the combined torque output.

Kerb weight for the hybrid GX is quoted as 1705kg.

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What’s it cost?

This is where it gets a bit messy due to the variants.

In Glacier White, with 2WD and the 2.0-litre manual, my drive-away price was just over $34,300.

Tap the AWD button and the website automatically updates to 2.5-litre hybrid and CVT (and the price jumps to $42,203).

Choosing Eclipse Black and the price rises to $42,821.

GXL starts at $39,628 for the 2.0-litre auto in white. Metallic paint takes it to $40,246, then the hybrid option in black goes to $45,911.

However, there is a long list of standard equipment.

The GX has 17 inch alloys and 225/65 Bridgestone Atenza rubber. Lighting is halogen fog lamps and LED Projector, dusk sensing, headlights for the Hybrid. The cluster is surrounded by LEDS and looks classy.

Wing mirrors are power operated and heated, with dual exhausts at the rear, beneath a manually operated tailgate.

The exterior has a more solidly engineered look, with a blocky, non-organic design.

The front end has a bulldog-jowl stance, with the grille line on either side featuring a down-turned angle. This echoes the stance in profile, with the longish nose giving a head down appearance.

The rear is also squared off and has plenty of angles and straight lines. The cargo section houses a space-saver spare, with a full size spare as an option.

Head inside and all four windows are powered, with one-touch up and down. Heated seats don’t appear until the Cruiser nor do powered seats.

Toyota crams its SafetySense package into the new RAV4 range and it’s a potent package. Lane Departure Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Trace Assist with the CVT model, plus Pre-Collision with pedestrian and cyclist.

Then there is Rear Cross Traffic Alert, front parking sensor alert, Road Sign Assist, Active Cruise Control, and auto high beam.

Passengers are wrapped in seven airbags, for good measure.

Playthings for the front seat passengers include DAB audio on a slightly fiddly to use 8.0-inch touchscreen, plus Bluetooth streaming, and USB/Aux.

Naturally it also includes the Toyota app system plus Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Wireless phone charging is available in the GXL upwards. The rear seat passengers have charge points and air vents, with a subwoofer for the audio behind the driver.

The touchscreen layout can be modified in look, however the default, in a three-screen layout, has the navigation screen as the primary or larger, allowing audio, eco, clock, etc, to be moved around in the other two smaller screens.

In the hybrid there is a screen that shows the drive system, with the display showing how power is apportioned between the wheels, battery, and petrol engine.

There is also a usage page that shows distance and fuel consumption figures.

The driver has a smaller info screen and this shows on-the-fly eco info among the usual radio, safety, and connected device information.

If there’s a query about the interior, it’s to do with the dash design overall.

It mirrors the blocky exterior but no sense of being a cockpit or being wrapped around the driver.

However, there’s a nice touch with knurled rubber surrounds for a couple of the dials under the screen.

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What’s it go like?

Like the proverbial you-know-what off a shovel.

Although noticeably front wheel drive in normal drive situations, with a heavy feel to the tiller, the car makes it abundantly clear it’s a front wheel-biased setup when punched hard off the line.

The traction control system has been tweaked to allow a driver to launch hard, with some front wheel scrabble — even with then chunky 225 tyres.

It quickly picks up the drive and sends power to the rear as needed. And it gets away quickly, with no sense of feeling weighed down.

In gear acceleration is pretty good too, just quietly, with rapid pickup and response from the pedal.

The hybrid will operate on electric power alone only up to 20 to 25km/h with a light right foot, but the petrol engine kicks in above that — or more quickly with a heavier foot.

There’s a few vibrations on engagement but these disappear quickly. The petrol engine is muted in sound and when heard has a dulled metallic edge to its note.

It’s a delightful highway cruiser and is equally adept around the ‘burbs.

Although the steering is front heavy, it’s sufficiently weighted to make the driver aware of what’s going on with the front MacPherson strut setup.

On the highway it lightens enough to make lane changing feel natural, nimble, and confident, rather than imparting a sense of heaviness.

Ride quality is fantastic. It’s supple and compliant, with well controlled damping.

The trailing wishbone rear has a slightly tauter feel to deal with the 580L cargo space. This means slow speed bumps bang a bit harder but  not uncomfortably so. 

Naturally the brakes are en pointe, with instant engagement from the barest touch.

Brake travel is natural and instinctive, finely adjusted to let you know where the pedal is and what it’s doing.

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What we like?

  • High level of standard equipment in entry level car
  • Assertive stance
  • Fuel economy around town is superb

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What we don’t like?

  • Exterior design may not appeal to all (I liked it though) 
  • Touchscreen has navigation locked in as primary view on three-screen layout and can’t be moved to a smaller screen
  • Lack of engine and exhaust sound

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The bottom line?

Bearing in mind the car tested was the entry level hybrid, our score reflects that as the range increases in quality the score can only go up.

It’s a superbly equipped car and highlights Toyota’s position as a leader in hybrid drive technology. It also continues its admirable tradition as a family-oriented car.

The only real niggle is using the touchscreen and that’s such a small, personal issue, it pales in comparison to the general high quality and high standard equipment and safety features.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a winner for Toyota.

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CHECKOUT: Toyota’s hybrid show hits the road

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Toyota RAV4, priced from $30,640
  • 7/10
    Looks - 7/10
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Safety - 9/10
  • 8.5/10
    Thirst - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Comfort - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Tech - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Value - 9/10
8.4/10

Conole

Dave Conole hails from Perth where he co-hosted a car show on one of the city's major community radio stations. Although he's had formal training in stage, TV, and film, it's his face for radio that gave him his start in the automotive field, both reviewing and motorsport commentary. After moving to Sydney in 2004, Dave has worked for some of Australia's biggest media groups and is the anchor commentator at Sydney Motorsport Park. This has lead to anchoring major events such as the Top Gear Festival (and, no, he didn't get punched by Jeremy).