IN OVER two decades on sale, Toyota’s RAV compact softroading SUV has evolved and changed quite a lot. It launch, it was the sportiest car of its kind and in more recent times has introduced the concept of 2WD into this market segment.
The fourth generation version though, first introduced in 2013, hasn’t sold as strongly as Toyota hoped it might, hence the comprehensive range refresh that has brought us the option of petrol/ electric hybrid power.
Unlike some of its rivals, Toyota has chosen not to match this with futuristic Plug-in
technology, but the brand does have industry-leading hybrid expertise. Let’s see if that comes across with this smarter, safer, more efficient RAV4. Toyota is offering this car’s 2.5-litre four cylinder hybrid powertrain mated either to two or four-wheel drive - and either case, it puts out 197bhp thanks to a boost from two electric motors, a 105kW one on the front axle and a 50kW one on the rear axle.
As usual, such a hybrid engine must be mated to automatic transmission and as ever with the brand’s petrol/ electric systems, there’s an ‘EV’ button that allows you to proceed in pure electric mode for up to a couple of miles.
In town, this, theamost ecological and powerful RAV4 ever,agoes smoothly and offers unexpected agility in traffic.
At a cruise, the atmosphere is hushed and, even at highway speeds, it’s possible to chat with rear passengers without having to raise your voice.
On secondary roads, the RAV4 feels remarkably agile for an SUV.
If you are in a hurry, just press the ‘Sport’ button, crush the pedal to the metal and be surprised by the rewarding response of the power unit which makes 62mph from rest in 8.4s en route to 112mph.
The spacious cockpit is one of the winning virtuesaof the fourth generation of the RAV4.
The atmosphere is airy, not only at the front but also in the rear, where passengers have many centimeters for legs and head and can even adjust the backrest angle.
The back seat doesn’t slide back and forth as it did on previous generation RAV4s, but in return for that sacrifice,
model delivers a big boot. It was only a matter of time before Toyota added hybrid technology to its RAV4 compact SUV.
The engine suits the car and will be of great interest to this soft roaders traditional band of loyal buyers. Will it have wider appeal than that though?
Not many cars of this size can so stylishly manage over 55mpg and 113g/km of CO2 while still making 62mph from rest in under nine seconds.
It’ll also help that this revised RAV4 model looks smarter than before. Toyota’s problem though, is that there are some very strong alternatives in this segment selling at much the same kind of money, with either potent diesel technology or even Plugin Hybrid power readily available for compact SUV buyers at this price point.
For all that, this RAV4 Hybrid is a welcome arrival in this segment. It’s certainly a car you’d very happily live with.