Toyota RAV4 Review
Toyota moved the goalposts when it introduced its first generation RAV4 back in 1994. It was the first go-anywhere SUV that offered handling akin to a ‘normal’ car. Now the all-new fifth-generation model aims to raise the bar once again.
- Comfortable, spacious and easy to drive
- Generously equipped from base level upwards
- Good range of trim levels, two or four-wheel drive and a great warranty
- Quite pricey
- Only available as a hybrid in the UK
- CVT gearbox is a little rev-happy under heavy acceleration
The RAV4 is Toyota’s most popular model globally. In fact in 2017 it was the best-selling SUV in the world and the Japanese company is confident 2018 figures, when announced, will follow a similar path. So, it would be fair to say the new D-SUV vehicle has rather a lot to live up to.
It’s the first RAV4 to be built on Toyota’s new platform which means better ride, handling, driving fun and safety and the car boasts an all-new distinctive style which is more mature and athletic.
Toyota has been a forerunner when it comes to hybrid technology with more than 20 years experience and the latest RAV4 features a new 2.5-litre self-charging hybrid powertrain - gone are the stand-alone petrol engines and there’s no sign of a diesel either in the UK - other global markets do have more choice.
The car also features a newly designed electric all-wheel drive system for anyone who ventures off track.
On the Road
We hear a lot these days about manufacturers adopting multi-model platforms, but the TNGA GA-K (I won’t go into what it stands for) platform is particularly important to the all-new fifth generation RAV4. It enables the car to have a low centre of gravity, it is more lightweight and it boasts a strong, rigid and balanced chassis and that all adds up to improved handling, stability and driver enjoyment.
Performance has been improved thanks to the introduction of an all-new 2.5-litre Hybrid Dynamic Force engine which delivers 219bhp/163kW in the all-wheel drive model powering it from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and onto a top speed of 112. The front-wheel drive car delivers 215bhp/160kW and can complete the 0-62mph sprint in 8.4 seconds, once again maxing out at 112mph.
We tested the RAV4 in range-topping Dynamic trim with 2WD on a range of roads surrounding Barcelona and it certainly didn’t lack any firepower. Some CVT transmissions can be lacking in gusto and get quite noisy under acceleration, but that wasn’t the case with the RAV4 set-up apart from when it was pushed extra hard or when tackling particularly steep mountain climbs. It was punchy, responsive and there was a constant stream of power on tap which helped make very light work of overtaking. There are different driving modes called Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the performance. In addition, an EV-only mode works up to speeds of about 75mph.
On the open road, long sweeping bends could be attacked with a degree of confidence and this car can easily hold its own alongside fast moving motorway traffic. The nicely weighted steering, with plenty of driver feedback, is another plus point.
Some SUVs suffer when it comes to ride and handling - it’s simply the nature of the beast. It’s difficult to develop a car that is practical, versatile and upright in its design yet still offers great driving dynamics. But the latest RAV4 achieves that goal. Admittedly, it’s no hatchback, but that new platform means the car is 10mm wider yet 10mm lower and that, together with the new position of the fuel tank, helps provide the car with an improved centre of gravity. And that in turn results in a far more balanced driving experience with better stability. There is minimal body sway and the road holding is confidently assured.
There is a newly designed electric AWD-i system that offers extra grip in the wet. This set-up is smaller and lighter than a standard mechanical AWD system, so fuel consumption is not compromised. It works really we'll automatically optimising torque according to driving conditions providing improved handling, stability and off-road performance. There is also a Trail mode for extra grip when faced with off-road terrain and the car’s ground clearance has been raised by 15mm. We tested this system in an AWD version of the RAV4 and it was impressive across slippery gravel and muddy tracks.
The latest RAV4 is available in four trim levels that are all well-equipped. The grades are called Icon, Design, Excel and Dynamic and buyers can expect a high level of cabin quality especially on the top trim levels.
There are soft touch surfaces including the dashboard and door panels along with some snazzy ambient lighting. Move up through the grades and you will see the likes of full leather upholstery, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a powered tailgate, roof rails and the option of adding a premium JBL sound system and an opening panoramic sunroof.
Comfort levels are good and Toyota engineers have worked hard to improve the refinement of the vehicle. You can expect to hear a little wind noise when driving on faster motorways or dual carriageways, but generally the cabin is well insulated against engine and road surface sounds. The improved aerodynamics of the car have certainly contributed to a quieter cabin.
The RAV4 feels very poised and balanced, and the new suspension system does a very good job of ironing out any bumps and dips along the way. Once again the new platform can take some credit for this. It distinguishes itself in its use of a double wishbone rear suspension system that aims to offer better ride comfort. Our test car was sitting on 18-inch wheels which seemed the perfect fit.
In the car
Getting a comfortable driving position in the RAV4 is an easy process. The driver’s hip point has been lowered and the steering wheel adjustment increased by 50 per cent. The front pillars have been slimmed down, the bonnet and belt-line lowered and the door mirrors have been moved to a slightly lower position too - all these factors, along with the elevated seating position, result in excellent all-round visibility.
All the switchgear is new on the latest RAV4 with cleanly integrated buttons. The horizontal flow of the layout accentuates the car’s width and the wider console along with chunky gear lever give the vehicle a more modern, upmarket appearance.
Our car was in range-topping Dynamic specification so featured all the bells and whistles, including the company’s impressive Toyota Touch 2 Go system with eight-inch multimedia touchscreen. Creature comforts include heated seats, full leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, full navigation, a DAB radio, up to five USB points and plenty more besides.
All dials, controls and readouts are ideally positioned for ease of use and, whilst the car is generously equipped, the technology is easy to access and operate.
Being a hybrid, the instrumentation does offer slightly different readouts with dials showing charging and power levels.
Thanks to the new platform, the latest RAV4’s wheelbase has increased by 30mm and this means extra space for occupants and more room for luggage too.
The boot capacity has increased by 79 litres to 580 litres and the 60:40 split-folding rear seats can be dropped to increase the limit to 1,690 litres. There is also a fully flat floor which makes life easier when loading heavy or awkwardly shaped items. In addition, the tailgate is power-operated on Design grade and above which is handy if approaching the car laden down with shopping bags.
Back seat passengers have more space to stretch out with 40mm extra width and an additional 49mm of legroom, so two six-footers can sit comfortably - add a third occupant and it gets rather cosy though.
There are a number of storage compartments scattered throughout the vehicle, including a locking glovebox, front and rear bottle holders, a front console box, pockets in the backs of the front seats and some handy trays.
The rear doors open wider on the new model and that would prove beneficial when gaining access to a child seat or for anyone with mobility issues.
The RAV4 is available in four trim levels with the entry level Icon model with front-wheel drive priced at £29,640. The most expensive version is the range-topping Dynamic AWD model which costs £34,405. The entire RAV4 line-up has carbon emissions figures that range from 102g/km to 108g/km and that would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £135. This would increase to £140 the following year.
Our Dynamic test car on 18-inch wheels in FWD was priced at £34,405 and could return a combined 51.2mpg with carbon emissions of 105g/km.
The jump from 2WD to 4WD, which is available on all versions apart from entry-level Icon, costs £2,240.
Toyota has launchede the car with some very tempting PCP deals. For example, the Design is £279 per month with 0% APR, plus deposit.
Insurance ratings for the new RAV4 are yet to be announced but should be available within the next month or two
Toyota enjoys an enviable reputation amongst motoring manufacturers for developing reliable cars that survive the test of time. The company frequently tops customer reliability surveys and it has years of know-how when it comes to developing hybrid technology. So, based on those facts, there is little reason to think the new RAV4 would have any mechanical issues.
The interior is well put together and all the new switch gear feels sturdy enough. The seat upholstery is comfortable offering plenty of support - it also feels like it has been designed to last.
Toyota offers one of the best warranty packages in the business of five years or 100,000-miles. There is also a 10-year warranty on the hybrid battery pack and this can be extended through Toyota dealerships.
Toyota introduced its Safety Sense system back in 2015 with an aim to dramatically reduce the number of road accidents and make inroads to the ultimate goal of zero road accident fatalities and, to date, more than 10 million new vehicles worldwide benefit from the technology.
The second generation of Toyota Safety Sense makes its debut in the new RAV4 where it is fitted as standard to all models.
The upgraded system features a single lens camera and radar set-up to detect hazards and hopefully prevent accidents occurring. There are also better versions of the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, intelligent adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, road sign assist, automatic high beam and a lane tracing assist system which introduces a degree of automated driving support by helping to keep the car within its lane.
Other safety features include brake assist, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, vehicle stability control, hill-start assist, trailer sway control, traction control, ISOFIX child seat fixings on the rear outer seats and a full suite of airbags.
The previous generation RAV4 was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating in 2013 gaining a maximum five stars. Although, the current model has not been tested yet it boasts a lot more new safety kit and many of the existing systems have been improved.