The five-door Toyota RAV4 is the best-selling SUV in the world and has been in high demand since it was introduced 25 years ago. The all-new fifth generation model has just been launched and is available in four generously-equipped trim levels, with AWD or FWD and powered by an all-new hybrid unit.
The goodGreat to drive, sporty styling and economical to run
The badOnly available with hybrid technology
Toyota RAV4 fifth generation – first drive (2019)
It’s difficult to imagine that it was a quarter of a century ago that Toyota introduced its game-changing RAV4 model pioneering the way for so many other go-anywhere SUVs with handling akin to a ‘normal’ car.
There have various incarnations of the car over the years and now it’s time for the all-new fifth generation model and, once again, Toyota has raised the bar.
With prices starting from £29,635, the five-door car (long gone are the three-door versions with a spare wheel on the back door) is on sale in four generously equipped trim levels called Icon, Design, Excel and Dynamic, along with the option of front or all-wheel drive.
But the headline news for UK buyers is that the latest RAV4 is only available powered by an all-new hybrid unit. Toyota prides itself on its two decades of experience and know-how in hybrid development and with sales of more traditionally-powered cars plummeting, they have ditched the stand-alone petrol and diesel options, although other countries still have that choice.
Toyota needed to box clever and not be too radical with its new RAV4 because it was the best-selling SUV in the world in 2017 and the company believes 2018 figures will be just as impressive when they are released. So, despite developing an all-new car, they didn’t want to scare off loyal customers in any way.
And it would seem they have pitched in with the perfect replacement. It looks more mature and sportier, boasts a wealth of on-board technology, has extra space, offers better comfort, improved driving dynamics and upgraded safety technology.
Much of this long list of improvements is thanks to the introduction of a new platform called TNGA GA-K (I won’t go into what it stands for). As a result, the RAV4 is slightly lower and wider, has a lower centre of gravity and that, in turn, means it is more balanced and agile to drive.
Driving the latest car is a new 2.5-litre self-charging hybrid powertrain mated to a CVT gearbox and it impresses on all counts. It delivers 219bhp/163kW in the all-wheel drive model and can sprint from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds maxing out at 112. The front-wheel drive car delivers 215bhp/160kW and can reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.4 seconds and also tops out at 112mph.
We tested the RAV4 in top-of-the-range Dynamic trim with front-wheel drive on a route around Barcelona that included fast moving highways, twisting country lanes and testing mountain roads, and it certainly didn’t lack any firepower. The car, sitting on 18-inch wheels, carried a £34,400 price-tag and could return a combined 51.2mpg with carbon emissions of 105g/km.
The new hybrid unit proved nicely timed and punchy with a constant stream of power on tap to make light work of overtaking and the perfectly weighted steering offered ample driver feedback.
As is the case with most CVT units, it can get a little rev-happy when driven under heavy acceleration and some of the more testing ascents caused the noise levels, in the otherwise beautifully quiet cabin, to rise a little.
But the RAV4 could cruise effortlessly at maximum motorway speeds and proved beautifully nimble as it weaved its way through the crowded city centre streets. Then out on the twisting country roads it was a delight to drive accelerating hard into bends with confidence.
There are three different driving modes called Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the performance and handling, along with an EV-only mode that works up to speeds of about 75mph.
The new-look, more aerodynamic styling of the RAV4 also results in a more refined cabin with barely a hint of wind sound or roads surface noise filtering through, and the new suspension system that has been introduced does a very thorough job of smoothing out any bumps and dips in the road.
Toyota has also developed an electric AWD-i system to give additional grip in poor driving conditions and this debuts in the new RAV4. This set-up is more compact and lighter than a standard mechanical AWD system, so fuel consumption and performance are not compromised. There is a Trail mode for extra grip when faced with off-road terrain and the car’s ground clearance has been raised by 15mm. We had the opportunity to test out this system in an AWD version of the RAV4 and it impressed on boggy tracks and gravel.
Another plus factor for the TNGA GA-K platform is a 30mm extended wheelbase which results in extra room within the car for occupants and increased storage space. Rear passengers have more width to spread out and an additional 49mm of legroom which means a couple of six footers can sit comfortably in the back of the RAV4.
Up front, the steering wheel adjustment has been increased by 50 per cent and the driver’s hip point has been lowered so getting comfy is an easy process. In addition, the front pillars are narrower, the bonnet and belt-line lowered and the door mirrors have been moved to a slightly lower position too – all these factors, along with the elevated seating position, result in excellent all-round driver visibility.
And there is a wealth of techno treats to explore with the likes of full leather upholstery, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, Toyota Touch 2 Go system with eight-inch multimedia touchscreen, full navigation, DAB radio, up to five USB ports and the option to upgrade to a premium JBL sound system and an opening panoramic sunroof.
Storage limits have increased too with an additional 79 litres of boot space, meaning the capacity now ranges from 580 litres to 1,690 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. The flat boot floor is convenient when loading heavy items and the tailgate is power-operated so really handy when approaching the car carrying shopping bags. The rear doors open wider on new RAV4 making it easier to access a child seat.
Toyota has introduced extra safety features to the car too and the existing technology has been upgraded. Although the vehicle has not yet been tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, the company is confident it will receive a maximum five stars just like the previous generation model.
When it comes to pricing, the RAV4 line-up ranges from £29,635 for the base-level Icon model with 2WD to £36,640 for the range-topping Dynamic RAV4 with AWD. For customers looking for AWD, it is available on all apart from the entry-level Icon model and costs an additional £2,240.
All in all, the latest RAV4 is a fabulous piece of kit and ticks all the right boxes for anyone looking for a quality, safe, practical SUV that’s fun to drive, economical to run and packed with all the latest technology. And based on that, the RAV4 is likely continue with its domination of global sales.
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (2016) – first drive
Ask any Michelin star chef what makes a winning recipe and it’s a blend of all the right ingredients mixed together in a perfect manner to create a masterpiece and that’s kind of what Toyota has done with its latest model.
The Japanese company is world renowned for its hybrid technology and know-how. In fact 60 percent of all hybrid sales globally are Toyota cars. And there’s no denying the success story that is the RAV4 with more than six million models sold since it was first launched back in 1994. It stands for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel-drive by the way.
Now, for the first time, Toyota has put the two mixes together and the result is the RAV4 Hybrid, which combines a 2.5-litre petrol engine with a powerful electric motor and can be selected with either front or all-wheel-drive.
The total power output is 194bhp and this equates to impressive performance stats of 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds with fuel economy of 57.6mpg for the front-wheel-drive model and 55.4mpg for the all-wheel-drive version. Carbon emissions are from 115g/km and 118g/km respectively.
The latest RAV4 is 35mm longer than the outgoing model and now features the company’s latest design traits such as the slim upper grille that anchors the headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. In addition, the Toyota emblem is slightly bigger as it also houses the adaptive cruise control system. The middle grille is wider and the lower trapezoidal grille is much larger – these styling cues help to make the vehicle instantly recognisable as a Toyota.
Interior modifications concentrate more on the quality levels, comfort and upgrades in materials and technology with improved practicality and functionality. The TFT display now offers extra information such as navigational directions plus energy output data and the centre console has been adapted to house the seven-inch touchscreen.
Other improvements that are noticeable when driving have been made to the sound proofing and vibration levels within the car thanks to the addition of extra insulation. And suspension tuning, along with new shock absorbers and front coil springs, has led to enhanced ride and comfort levels.
Buyers can select from five generously-equipped trim levels – Active, Business Edition, Business Edition Plus, Icon and Excel – with prices starting from £23,695 and rising to £30,795.
There is also the option of choosing a new 2.0-litre 141bhp diesel powertrain or the improved 2.0-litre 149bhp petrol derivative. But as the all-new hybrid is the true headline act that is the model we concentrated on during our test drive in and around Alicante, Spain.
First up was the top-of-the-range Excel version with AWD and CVT gearbox priced at £30,795. This model can reach from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and tops out at 112mph. it can achieve combined fuel economy of 55.4mpg with carbon emissions of 118g/km.
The newly refreshed design is certainly eye-catching with its distinctive nose and smart 18-inch alloys and the interior is beautifully laid out with an abundance of room.
Back seat passengers benefit from ample leg, head and shoulder space and up front the seats are electrically-controlled and adjusted. There is a smart leather dashboard, along with leather trim on the door panels, armrests, steering wheel and gear stick surround, but this premium styling is rather let down in places by the large quantity of somewhat cheap-looking hard plastic on display. And another slightly annoying factor is that several buttons such as the seat heaters are hidden from view until you go in search for them.
But those minor gripes aside, the new RAV4 is as inspiring and rewarding as ever. The steering is precise and the acceleration through the automatic CVT gearbox is smooth and responsive without any signs of screaming and whining even when pushed particularly hard.
The driver benefits from excellent all-round visibility thanks to the elevated driving position and the cabin remains beautifully silent even on poor road surfaces. There is a little wind noise, but this is to be expected when driving any compact SUV model.
In busy towns and congested villages, the RAV4 was very easy to drive with excellent agility and then out on faster country roads and motorways it remained nicely composed and well grounded, which meant long sweeping bends could be attacked with confidence.
We also took the vehicle onto a short off-road course comprising mainly slippery gravel tracks with a few hidden potholes along the way and once again it was easily up to the challenge in hand. The 4WD version is equipped with Toyota’s E-Four system which incorporates a second electric motor at the rear which delivers automatic electronic all-wheel-drive to provide extra traction when needed.
Next up was the front-wheel-drive version in Business Edition Plus costing £26,195. This car has the same performance capabilities as the AWD version apart from slightly improved economy with a combined 57.6mpg and carbon emissions of 115g/km.
Once again the car impressed with its handling as it cruised effortlessly at motorway speeds and once more the cabin remained beautifully quiet at all times. The vehicle proved exceptionally nimble and confident as it tackled steep mountain climbs with hairpin bends and the steering was reassuringly precise making it a very complete all-rounder.
Storage options on the RAV4 are comprehensive with a boot capacity of 501 litres (547 on non-hybrid models) which is increased to 1,633 litres (1,735) with the 60:40 quick-folding rear seats dropped down flat. Elsewhere there is a good-sized glovebox, door pockets, a handy non-slip tray, central bin and practical cup holders that can actually accommodate drinks containers with handles. The boot is accessed via a powered tailgate which is a very practical feature, although it was a tad slow opening.
As one would expect the car comes fitted with the latest safety innovations to protect occupants and pedestrians alike. In addition, all models apart from the entry-level Active grade are available with Toyota Safety Sense which adds a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert, road sign assist, automatic high beam and trailer sway control. This pack costs between £695 and £1,495 depending on the model.
Toyota has set itself an ambitious target that by 2020 half of all its car sales will be hybrid models and if the RAV4 Hybrid is anything to go by then it’s a goal that is well within the company’s reach.
Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.0 D manual 4×2
It may have left its teens behind but the Toyota RAV4 is certainly aging gracefully and moving with the times. If you want proof of that, then check out the very latest fourth-generation model.
Featuring all Toyota’s latest signature design traits the spruced-up RAV4 is wider and longer than its predecessor and that means extra interior space for all occupants
The car has a more sporty, planted stance and despite RAV4 standing for Recreational Active Vehicle with four-wheel-drive, the test car had 2WD, which in reality, is ideal for most drivers.
Attention-grabbing features include LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps, 17-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, plus heated, retractable door mirrors.
And once you take your seat behind the multi-function leather steering wheel, it’s difficult not to be impressed with the spaciousness and technical wizardry that surrounds you.
Techno treats are plentiful, such as Toyota’s Touch & Go multimedia infotainment system (£750 extra) which introduces sat-nav and Google Local Search connectivity, a six-speaker audio with CD player, rear-view camera, USB port, a 6.1-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
The cloth sports seats are very supportive and back seat passengers have ample leg, shoulder and head space.
Another bonus is the top-hinged powered tailgate which is very handy especially when approaching the car laden with shopping and there is an adjustable cargo net inside the boot to help store items more securely.
Storage limits is not a problem either as the RAV4’s boot has a capacity of 547 litres which can be increased quickly to 1,746 with the 60:40 split folding rear seats folded flat.
Elsewhere there are a number of good-sized storage compartments throughout the vehicle.
The test car featured a 2.0-litre diesel engine, which delivered plenty of power, and acceleration through the six-speed manual transmission was both smooth and responsive. In fact, the RAV4 can sprint from 0-62mph in just 10.5 seconds which is impressive for its size and it tops out at 111mph.
It copes admirably with motorway driving, although when pushed particularly hard there is a little engine noise of note. Then in busy city centres, it’s deceptively nimble and easy to manoeuvre – the rear parking camera and excellent all-round visibility are added factors of note when trying to squeeze into a tight parking space.
There is a gear shift prompter to help maximise fuel efficiency and according to official figures, the car can achieve a very creditable 57.6mpg on a combined run with carbon emissions of 128g/km.
And when you take into account the comprehensive list of safety features and Toyota’s impressive 100,000-mile/five-year warranty, the price-tag of £25,940 with options is very attractive indeed.
Toyota RAV4 Invincible 2.2 D4D Auto
It may be approaching the end of its teens, but the RAV4 has certainly moved with the times and the latest generation model is guaranteed to turn heads.
It boasts Toyota’s new styling format and despite being wider and longer, those exciting driving dynamics associated with the RAV4 are still just as prevalent.
It has a more grounded, ready for action stance and eye-catching features include 18-inch alloys, wraparound headlights with LED daytime running lights, front fog lights, body-coloured door handles and mirrors, roof rails, privacy glass and plenty more besides.
The spacious interior offers excellent comfort for all occupants and it is richly equipped with techno treats. Features include a 6.1-inch colour touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera and a brilliant sound system compatible with today’s media devices. There is dual-zone climate control, dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control and leather upholstery with electrical adjustment for the driver’s seat.
There is ample space for five adults to travel in comfort and there will never be any limits on luggage allowances as the RAV4 has a generously-sized boot with powered tail-gate. There is an under-floor compartment and 60:40 split-folding rear seats mean the storage capacity can quickly and easily be increased if necessary.
So the RAV4 looks great and is packed to bursting with technical wizardry, but how well does it perform?
The answer is very well indeed. The 2.2-litre diesel engine produced ample power and acceleration was smooth through the six-speed automatic transmission. Although the vehicle is not exactly the Usain Bolt of the SUV line-up, it’s no slouch either and can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 10 seconds.
The driver can change gears manually via steering wheel-mounted paddles if so desired and if you want to keep an eye on your pennies and help maximise fuel efficiency, there is an ECO driving mode option.
One striking factor about the fourth generation RAV4 is just how quiet and well insulated the cabin is with virtually no engine or road surface noise even at higher speeds.
The high-seated driving position results in excellent all-round visibility and all controls are easy to reach and operate. There is quite a lot of hard plastic on show which is a bit of a shame as the interior is otherwise very well put together.
But that aside, the RAV4 is an amazing performer and as one would expect, Toyota has kitted it out with a comprehensive range of safety features.
These include anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, hill start assist, traction control, numerous airbags and lots more.
And never forget that the model tested, priced at £31k with a couple of optional extras, came with all-wheel-drive, meaning it is more than capable of keeping you on the move during those colder winter months.
Toyota RAV4 XT5 2.2 D-4D 5dr
It’s always been a massive hit with soft-roader fans, but there is one thing the Toyota RAV4 loves to do and that’s get off road and dirty.
Sadly, most owners are too scared to get any mud on their pride and joy, but the RAV4 does boast some excellent off-roading capabilities for those brave few who put it to the test.
It’s testament to its ability that in gale force winds when all high bridges were shut and severe weather warnings were dotted all over the UK map, the RAV4 barely wavered from its path and shrugged off Mother Nature’s battering.
We seem to be suffering more extreme weather conditions these days, so having a vehicle with 4×4 capabilities is quite reassuring.
The RAV4 offers a high-seated driving position which results in excellent all-round visibility so passengers benefit from the light and airy cabin space.
The array of safety features simply add to that feeling of invincibility.
For example, the RAV4 has nine airbags including a first-in-class knee airbag, traction control, brake assist, a whiplash protection system and top notch child seat mountings. To be honest, the list goes on and on.
Large windows with no obstructing pillars make manoeuvrability a complete doddle and its agility in and around town is most impressive.
Out on the open road, the 2.2-litre engine bursts into life delivering plenty of power and the road-holding is superb.
Although the RAV4 is now only available in five-door versions, it is now longer and wider than former models which means more cabin space and a much bigger load capacity. This is enhanced even further by the split/fold rear seats.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of smaller storage compartments throughout the cabin along with a hidden compartment under the floor.
Creature comforts are plentiful with a six-speaker sound system, dual-zone air con, a DVD based sat nav system with touch screen operation, rain-sensing wipers, a keyless entry and start-up plus bags more.
All in all, the RAV4 still has all the appeal of its predecessors and for me is one of the very best soft-roader options available today.