We have the RAV4 Hybrid Excel AWD 2.5L CVT in for review and road test as Toyota’s long-running SUV remains mainstream but now comes with a hybrid option.
The world is full of SUVs of every size, from very compact urban runarounds to full size SUVs like the Range Rover and XC90.
But Toyota has been in the SUV game for a very long time, not just with the Lexus RX, but also with the Toyota Land Cruiser, and the smaller RAV4, an appealing and once quite individual SUV, which has carved its own place in the hearts of buyers for two decades.
It’s getting on for two years since the latest RAV4 arrived, and it continued the more mainstream, arguably less individual look, the RAV4 has developed more recently, and for the first time came with a hybrid powertrain.
It seems hard to believe that Toyota hadn’t matched up the long-running RAV4 with a hybrid powertrain, especially as they’re synonymous with hybrid as the way to go, but until now you couldn’t mix two of Toyota’s USPs.
But now you can, so let’s find out if it’s a marriage made in heaven.
2017 RAV4 Inside and Out
The latest generation of the RAV4 arrived in 2015 (although it only really started to get on to UK roads last year) complete with a degree of titivation including a new front end look with LED headlights and a revised back end. Pretty much standard facelift fodder.
Perhaps the more recent cars from Toyota – like the C-HR, with its almost divisive design – makes us look at the RAV4 a little differently than perhaps we previously would, but the RAV4 seems to be from the ‘old’ school of design at Toyota.
Instead of a funky look, the RAV4 looks very mainstream and very conservative, but then that’s probably the market Toyota see as a fit. Which, when you think how individual the RAV4 originally was, is a bit of a shame.
But it still looks on the premium side of mainstream though with its LED lights, privacy glass, 18″ alloys and roof rails, and it looks purposeful too, albeit in a pretty non-threatening way
Inside, especially in this Excel spec car, there’s an air of quality, with leather heated seats, rear-view camera, climate, auto lights and wipers all on offer in the spec.
Again, it’s not exactly funky but it is pretty well laid out, there’s plenty of seat adjustment to get comfortable and decent head and leg room front and back and a half decent power-operated boot too.
It’s all pretty sensible and practical.
Toyota RAV4 On the Road
The big news when the facelifted RAV4 arrived was that, for the first time, you could get it with a hybrid powerplant. And that’s exactly what this RAV4 has.
It’s also Toyota’s full fat, 2.5 litre with electrical help good for 195bhp which propels the RAV4 hybrid along, and it uses it to work all four wheels, making this RAV4 what a RAV4 should be – AWD.
There is an EV mode to play with, but it’s use is pretty limited and you’re best leaving the car to do its own thing.
The electrical assistance does make the car feel livelier off the line than its 8.4 seconds 0-62 would suggest, but it does seem to suffer a bit from old-school Toyota ‘revs before reality’ from the CVT ‘box.
You can play with an electronic manual mode if you want, but again you’re probably better leaving the car to it and modulating the surges with more measured throttle inputs whenever possible.
Most of the time the RAV4 deals with potholes and ridges pretty well, but it does occasionally fall out with the road surface and complains with a jolt or two.
It handles country road runs quite well, but it does seem to lean a bit more than you’d expect and doesn’t feel quite as sure-footed as you’d perhaps expect. Which is probably down to the extra weight of the hybrid gubbins.
But if you treat the car with respect, are gentle with the controls and don’t try to drive it like a Macan, then you are rewarded with a comfortable and quiet crossover able to move people and stuff a round town or across country in a very pleasing way. It’s particularly cossetting on motorways.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Verdict
It’s hard to fall in love with the RAV4 anymore – it’s just too mainstream – but it’s equally hard to hate it either. It’s too good for that.
What it feels like is Toyota’s vehicle of choice for its older and more conservative buyers, offering a good combination of build quality and refinement, enough toys – especially in this Excel spec RAV4 – to keep those buyers happy, and the ability to move around at a sensible pace with real refinement.
That it also now offers a green halo with its hybrid powertrain will please those with no time for diesel, and it feels like Toyota’s reputation for making cars which will survive a nuclear holocaust is intact in the RAV4.
The trouble for buyers outside that apparent target demographic is that there are perhaps better choices to be made; choices which offer more for less, be that style, spec or performance.
In fact, at the £33,975 this RAV4 lists at, you can buy a Lexus NX 300h Sport, and you’re only a few grand away from an NX 300h F Sport, which is a very appealing car.
The 2017 Toyota RAV4 has its place in Toyota’s lineup, and it is a good choice if you fit the target demographic. But we’d be looking to the Lexus NX for this sort of money.
Toyota Prius Plug-in Review Tech Specs (2017)
- Engine: 2494cc plus Electric Motor: 195bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 8.4 seconds / Top Speed 112mph
- Economy: 55.4mpg – Official / 41.6mpg – Test
- Emissions: 118g/km
- Price: £33,975 / Price as tested £34,770
- Test car supplied by Toyota UK