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First Drive: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Tough meaningful looks aren’t just skin deep in the new hybrid-only RAV4, discovers Jonathan Musk.

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SECTOR Large SUV   PRICE £29,635-£36,640   FUEL 49-51mpg*   CO2 102-105g/km**

Unrecognisable from its 1994 humble origins, the fifth generation RAV4 sports an entirely new design, moving
away from its predecessors to become a more useable car with less focus on off-road capability.

Akio Toyoda told the chief engineer, “no more boring cars!” and built on Toyota’s new GA-K platform, the sharp new looks certainly offer more kerb appeal than its upright predecessor. While ‘RAV’ once stood for ‘Recreational Active Vehicle’, it now means ‘Robust Accurate Vehicle’ – a nod towards its distinctive design and “rough and capable” performance.

The latter point is taken care of by Toyota’s latest hybrid system, featuring a new 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder Atkinson cycle (efficient and frugal) petrol engine, that sits up front alongside an electric motor. Adding an extra motor at the rear introduces the AWD-i all-wheel drive model.

Sales in the UK are expected to be split 70:30 in favour of all-wheel drive, while fleet sales should make up half of the expected 10,000 or so units Toyota plans to shift in the UK in 2019.

Of course, those sales will be at the expense of rivals, which now include the refined Honda CR-V Hybrid, solid
Volkswagen Tiguan diesel and practical Ford Kuga. Toyota believes the promise of low CO2 will win customers
over, which – together with fuel economy savings – the company calculates could ensure up to £127/mth is kept in
your bank account over a diesel Tiguan or £47/mth over the CR-V Hybrid – not to be sniffed at.

The all-new interior sports a fresh solid look that’s been carefully completed with quality materials and a high-up 8-inch touchscreen with ergonomically positioned controls throughout. Pleasingly, the RAV4 is the first to receive a mildly redesigned user interface for the infotainment system. Unpleasingly, it’s the same tired and oddly void of detail mapping system, which managed to aid us taking several wrong turns. Particularly conspicuous by their absence are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, though Toyota did hint that these may be introduced at a later date.

Happily, Toyota hasn’t made a wrong-turn themselves when it comes to the RAV4’s on-road performance, which is surprisingly refined and brisk despite the overall size of vehicle. Speaking of which, the new car is shorter than the outgoing model, yet boasts a longer wheelbase that creates a large amount of legroom in the rear.

Likewise, the boot is supremely practical and wide, thanks to the GA-K platform’s rear suspension having been pushed out and made more upright. It’s a sensible design that will win favour with families and those who require regular load lugging capacity.

With prices starting in the UK from £29,635 the RAV4 represents good value for money. It’s well-equipped as standard and even the entry-level Icon grade comes with a raft of standard kit including LED headlights, Toyota Safety Sense 2 and a rear view camera.

Pre-orders at dealers are already open, while first deliveries are expected to start in April for FWD models and May for the AWD-i.

The Verdict
There’s very little to dislike about the new RAV4 – it’s quiet, comfortable, practical and handsome. The hybrid-economy promise lives up to scrutiny too, as do the financials and low CO2.

Key Fleet Model
Toyota RAV4 Icon

Strengths
Spacious and practical design

Weaknesses
Poor infotainment system, no Android Auto/Apple CarPlay

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.