Toyota RAV4 Excel 2.5 Hybrid AWD
Rugged, roomy and reliable—three words commonly used in years gone by to describe a Toyota RAV4. Never has the term ‘good-looking’ been considered before the 2019 version. Also, by bringing an electric motor in the mix, the Japanese OEM is hoping to add efficient to the list. Can it tick all the boxes?
Before having the new RAV4 delivered to my door for a test drive, the one and only experience I had of Toyota’s best-selling SUV was during a visit to Columbus, Ohio. A good friend of mine drives a battered old second-gen RAV4, and despite the fact it is about to fall apart, she absolutely adores it as if it were her kiddy. When asked why, she simply replied, ‘Just LOOK at it… It’s beautiful!’ Yep, I also raised my eyebrows in disbelief.
The latest RAV4, however, is a very different beast. It’s the first SUV in Toyota’s line-up to use a platform called the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA). As well as using this as standard across its range to achieve cost efficiencies, the use of TNGA for the RAV4 has apparently opened the doors for the design team to get a bit freaky. It’s chockablock with sharp lines, and as a result, looks angry and menacing. There are echoes of the C-HR’s shape, but the RAV4 is more subtle and less mad. Toyota is tiptoeing along the very edges of these fine lines, and is doing it superbly.
Everything is far less ground-breaking on the inside. This is where the RAV4 hits on its functionality, but with borderline boredom. All the tech works as expected, and there are plenty of features to make the driving experience comfortable and easy. It’s just that nothing really stands out. There is the usual gubbins of Apple CarPlay and driver assistance systems.
For the latter, there’s a new digital rear-view mirror that can display real-time images from an adjustable HD camera mounted on the back window, giving the driver a much wider field of vision. And although it’s pretty fun to zoom in and out on the camera, it’s not exactly jaw-dropping stuff. In the age of giant touchscreens, minimal dashboards and plush materials, Toyota has opted for a very normal, no-nonsense interior.
This is by no means a bad thing. Those that get confused by futuristic things like the Internet and vegan sausage rolls should find the RAV4 a nice, relaxing place to be. I certainly do. Though I can’t help but think that it may feel out-dated within a year.
The driving itself, on the other hand, is a joy. Thanks again to the use of TNGA, the RAV4 has a lower centre of gravity despite the fact that ground clearance has increased by 15mm when compared to the previous generation. Toyota also decided to equip its SUV with AWD Integrated Management (AID), which basically means that a computer can automatically adjusts steering assist, brake, throttle, shift pattern and drive torque distribution depending on the drive mode selected. Essentially, Eco mode should be much more efficient, and sport mode more sporty.
Pushing the RAV4 to its limits in terms of performance won’t provide the biggest adrenaline rush. But despite it’s bulky appearance, the SUV can get off the line pretty sharpish thanks to the electric motor. The hybrid powertrain has been designed to be lighter, more powerful and more efficient. I recorded an average of 46.1mpg across the period of a week and clocked up a fair distance with both city and motorway driving.
I also found that the hybrid powertrain in the RAV4 is one of the more intuitive on the market today. Pure electric mode is utilised properly. The petrol engine only kicked in when on main roads, allowing a quiet glide through residential side streets.
So, efficient is definitely on the list of appropriate terms that can be used to describe the RAV4, and I would also plonk intelligent on there too. Toyota has been clever with the SUV, giving customers everything they expect, such as roominess and practicality, while also introducing the electric element and injecting some style. All this comes at a cost—the entry model comes in at £29,940, while the Excel trim that I tested is £33,915. And sure, there are other models that won’t cost as much, but they also won’t do half as much as the RAV4. Has ticking all the boxes ever been this cheap? I’m not sure it has…