Review: Toyota RAV4
Famous slogans include “the car in front is a Toyota” (UK and Europe) while the Unites States has “let’s go places” as the rallying cry. “I like you are so smart”, from South Korea.
The Toyota in front of my house at the moment has no rear window sticker apart from one proclaiming its five-year warranty. It is the latest RAV4, a bulky descendant of the all-road, pumped-up hatchback from the mid 1990s. This recreational activity vehicle had the option of 4-wheel-drive and was the first compact-sized SUV, slightly smaller than today’s VW Golf.
Just as the Golf has got plumper in the past 25 years, so has the RAV4. The 2019 model measures up to that darling of the well-to-do, Audi’s charming Q5.
It is a Toyota so no-one seems to have bothered that it looks nothing like anything posh from Germany. Very few Toyotas could be described as winsome or beautiful or handsome. This season’s RAV has a frightening face, all ledges and meshes and protrusions. If they had cars in Game Of Thrones then the RAV4’s tough grimace may fit in nicely. Disclaimer: Thrones is not my thing but I have been to Seville’s Alcazar, the setting for Dorne.
To be fair – a bland phrase not yet heard in Thrones – the RAV4 gets better looking when you move away from the front. The side view is a powerful shape, letting onlookers know that you are in, as they say in the Camshaft Arms, a fair machine – fair meaning significant in this context. The rear styling carries the same cues, with chunky rear lights – not quite as chunky as on the smaller C-HR which has rear light design overload.
This time around – the fifth iteration of RAVdom – the UK model uses only a 2.5 litre petrol and electric hybrid automatic power unit. This upscale power unit hoists the price dramatically, starting at £29,640 for the entry grade Icon with front wheel drive and at £33,435 for 4x4 drive in the Design trim. The Excel specification hoists the Design’s 2WD and 4x4 prices by more than £2,000 while the Dynamic version tops the list at £34,405 and £36,645.
My “silver blade” demonstrator was the 2WD Excel at £33,615, plus £545 for the glittery paint. It is made in Japan. Before you start groaning at this heady cost for a RAV4, consider that Q5 quattro prices now start at £41,420 for a 188bhp 2-litre diesel.
Of course, this hybrid RAV dodges the whole dirty diesel confab and chimes with its customers. The hybrid version of the outgoing model ended up being a 90 per cent customer choice. The official “real-world” ratings are just 105g of CO2 and 49 to 51 miles a gallon. The top speed is 112mph. The 0-62mph time is a useful 8.4 seconds. Total power output is 215 bhp on the 2WD car, with an extra boost from a second electric motor which drives the rear wheels on the 4x4 model.
Ground clearance has increased and the test car went up an ill-surfaced, water-rutted track with neither a graunch nor any loss of grip from the Dunlop Grand Trek tyres. I believe you’d only need the 4x4 version in extreme conditions or in snow when the £2,240 may seem worth having for peace of mind.
Inside the car there are plenty of places to put the things you fancy, with a large drop-in box, various shelves and trays, plus room for five large occupants.
All versions have adaptive cruise control, auto lights and wipers but move from Icon to Design and you get navigation and keyless entry. Move up to Excel and you’ll have leather, a rear view camera, a blind spot monitor and rear crossing traffic alerts when reversing.
If you are new to the idea of hybrid motoring there’s nothing of concern or needing special skills. The petrol and electric power units mesh seamlessly. In theory these cars will run on electric power alone but not for long and the best method is just to drive. The smart system will bring in electric power when needed.
You can look at diagrams on the information screens but after a while you’ll get the feel and avoid the distraction of how the car is operating.
Then there’s some very good news. Unless you are thrashing your RAV4 you’ll be getting well over 40 miles a gallon from quite a large petrol SUV. My figures ranged from 43mpg to 49mpg without any intentional economy methods. Ergo: reaching Toyota’s data.
If you are a company car driver with a RAV4 this means very competitive benefit in kind tax.
Verdict: The car in front may be cleaner than yours.