Road Test: Toyota RAV4 Business Edition 2.0 D-4D
Choosing the right RAV4 isn’t as black and white as it once was, explains Alex Grant.
SECTOR: Crossover PRICE: £25,095 FUEL: 60.1mpg CO2: 124g/km
Since Toyota refreshed the RAV4 earlier this year, almost half of the SUV’s buyers have opted for the newly-introduced hybrid version. That’s an impressive split for such a heavily diesel-weighted sector, albeit one that owes as much to range structuring as it does competitive part-electric drivetrains.
If you’re one of the relatively few crossover drivers that needs loose-terrain capability, then there’s no longer a diesel RAV4 to suit your needs. The only four-wheel drive versions are hybrids, with a second motor at the rear axle. Gulp. But what sounds like a risky move isn’t hurting demand – Toyota is on track to sell almost 8,000 units this calendar year, which is normal RAV4 volume. Not bad for a standing start.
Diesel hasn’t been neglected, despite the hybrid’s 115g/km CO2 putting it in a lower bracket and the 3% BiK surcharge tipping the business case away from this version. There’s a new 2.0-litre BMW-sourced diesel under the bonnet, which produces 141bhp, and it’s priced at £1,600 less than the nearest-equivalent hybrid.
So, as a driver, it’s a case of carefully considering where it’ll be used. Toyota’s new hybrids are better motorway cars than their predecessors, but the diesel still has a 10mpg advantage in extra-urban use. The hybrid is more efficient in town, and attracts lower BiK payments, despite the price disadvantage.
It’s also worth considering refinement. Developed in Japan, the RAV4 feels like it’s designed for a petrol engine, and is under-insulated for a four-cylinder diesel. It’s a gravelly, clattery car, particularly when cold or under load – something BMWs don’t show up with the same engine. However, it has inherited BMW’s fuel efficiency. This isn’t among the best in class on paper, but it’s very economical on the road.
A smaller Toyota crossover, the C-HR, is on the way and this once-pioneering RAV4 has matured from a compact urban SUV into a large family-carrier. Cabin space is generous front and rear, and feels it with its large windows, and it’s a comfortable if not particularly exciting car to cover ground in. Because there’s no hybrid battery on board, the diesel gets a full-size under-boot compartment and the rear bench folds flat with the load floor.
However, the cabin isn’t this car’s strongest point. It’s not badly built, but the refresh hasn’t brought the level of interior overhaul that the old version needed. The latest Auris shows Toyota can match European brands for consistent finishes, soft-touch materials and fonts, but the hard and shiny plastics of the RAV4 aren’t up to the standards set by others at this price bracket. Neither is the clunky touchscreen infotainment system.
So Toyota’s sole diesel offering is still a sensible option; it’s an effortlessly economical long-distance car with huge interior capacity in its favour. But Toyota’s long game with hybrid technology means the alternative could be just as good an all-rounder.
Toyota has spent years Europeanising its products, but the RAV4 hasn’t quite caught up with the rest. It’s not badly built, but the cabin feels dated and the diesel version isn’t quite as polished as the hybrid.