The RAV4 (for Recreational Activity Vehicle) was born in 1993. It was a fun and very compact vehicle. (In fact, it was 90 cm shorter than the current version!) Over the years, it grew in size… and power. It’s the most popular SUV in the world, having sold more than ten million copies so far. Within the Toyota range, it’s the second best seller, behind the Corolla. Last year, almost a million units left the factory. The fifth generation was launched in 2019 and is only available with a petrol engine, or as an hybrid or plug-in hybrid. We just tested the last one for you. (Text: Dimitri Urbain, Photos: Paul-Edouard Urbain)
Toyota popularised hybridisation through various Prius generations. The brand went further and now sells plug-in hybrids as well. This RAV4 can be recharged from a household socket, a full charge taking about 7.5 hours. Using a Wallbox reduces it to about 2.5 hours. On the road, energy is recuperated during braking and then reused during acceleration. The main engine is a four-cylinder petrol lump with a 2,487 cc capacity ! Engine downsizing is not really popular with Japanese manufacturers. On paper, 306 bhp and 227 Nm at 3,200 rpm is quite attractive. Certainly, the accelerations are vigorous and put a grin on your face. We surprised more than one BMW driver…
However, given its weight (more than 1.9 T!) the engine seems adequate for such a vehicle. Once the battery is discharged, li is still a heavy vehicle and the engine is a bit slow to pick up. It is mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). We didn’t feel it was losing its grip and revving up the engine for no real reason, as with many other CVT-equipped vehicles. It’s comfortable and easy to use, with true family credentials. The interior is spacious and welcoming, well equipped and well finished while the boot is very large.
I like it
The RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid is not a sporty vehicle but it is quite reassuring on the road. Switching to ‘sport’ mode makes the steering firmer and less mushy. The RAV4 is a 4X4 made in a simple way: an electric motor sits on the rear axle and drives the rear wheels while the combustion engine (combined to an electric one) drives the front wheels. The boot has a capacity of 520 litres and the battery does not reduce its size.
I don’t like it
The 17″ wheels are a bit lost in the wheel arches. The multimedia screen could be crisper, just like the rear view camera: it would certainly benefit from being moved up. The image is very often completely blurred because the weather is wet, foggy or it’s raining… The brake pedal feel is surprising… at first nothing happens (it’s the regeneration phase) and then you find yourself with your nose in the windscreen! Dosing pressure is really difficult to master.
A Toyota, any Toyota, never disappoints with interior finish and adjustments. The leather may be artificial but it looks and feels like the real thing. Nice details abound, such as the rear hatch that opens automatically. On board, there are numerous well laid-out and practical storage spaces. Perceived quality is pretty good, from the thick-foamed dashboard top to the antislip interior door handles.
Why I buy it
The RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid makes electric power credible. A 70km range is enough to drive in urban areas. And there’s no range- anxiety to think about. Given its size and weight, the RAV4 is very easy on petrol… Five passengers will travel in great comfort. Its regularly shaped boot will swallow large suitcases, there won’t be any painful choices between dresses and shoes to be made. The interior is rather dark but the panoramic opening glass roof enlarges it visually while making it brighter as well. The seats are comfortable and supportive. The standard equipment list is very long, from the lumbar adjustment to the heated front and rear seats and steering wheel. It’s easy to feel comfortable in the RAV4, even on a frosty morning.
Why I don’t buy it
The RAV4 is easy to drive but has an ‘American’ feel to it… you never really feel involved behind the wheel. The same goes for the gearbox : you really feel disconnected from what is going on under the bonnet and at the front end. This is certainly the biggest fault we can find… Mind you, on a car costing €57,000 it’s hard to swallow there are no passenger seat electric adjustments.
The RAV4 is comfortable and welcoming, but should not be mistaken for a sporty SUV, which it is definitely not. However, it is just the right size to accommodate the electric motors and battery without sacrificing too much space. It is a rolling showcase of Toyota’s technological mastering.