Toyota RAV4: A real contender

Riley Riley

RAV4What is it?

The Cruiser is Toyota’s top of the line hybrid RAV4, only exceeded in price by the petrol Edge model.

The hybrid represents the diesel that never was, but in fact produces better fuel consumption than a diesel — so it’s a real win-win for consumers.

Launched in May last year, RAV has lost its Corolla front end, replaced by a blunter, squarer more aggressive look.

While the truncated view from the rear, sans the spare wheel on the door — has also been cleaned up.

More importantly, the penny has finally dropped.

Toyota seems to have finally realised the good old days are over.

Its cars need more than the badge to win over buyers.

They need to offer genuine value for money, just like the competition — the latest RAV4 reflects this philosophy.

RAV4What’s it cost?

Prices for RAV start from $30,990 for the two-wheel drive with a 2.0-litre petrol engine and manual transmission.

The same model in Cruiser trim with a CVT-style auto is $39,490.

The hybrid, based on a larger 2.5-litre engine, with a CVT and two-wheel drive starts from $35,490, or you can have the same model in Cruiser trim for $41,990.

Add in all-wheel drive and the price rises again, starting from $38,490, while our test vehicle the hybrid, all-wheel drive Cruiser is $44,990.

Not sure what’s so special about the Edge for another $2500 — minus the hybrid?

It gets larger 19 inch wheels, traditional 8-speed auto, more sophisticated all wheel drive and torque vectoring – but sacrifices fuel economy in the process.

Leather accented seats and two-zone climate air with rear air vents are standard in Cruiser, along with heated front seats,
10-way power adjust driver’s seat with two-position memory and power lumbar support.

There’s also auto LED headlights, tail lights and daytime running lights, auto wipers and an auto dimming rear view mirror, reversing camera with guidance lines, wireless phone charge pad, power tailgate and tilt/slide moon-roof.

The premium 9-speaker JBL audio system includes AM/FM and DAB+ digital radio, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and voice recognition with all information displayed on a large, free-standing 8.0-inch touchscreen.

Toyota Safety Sense suite includes active cruise control, pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert, road-sign assist (speed sign only) and auto high beam.

There’s also seven airbags, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitor, rear-cross traffic alert, reversing camera, and ABS with vehicle stability control and active cornering assist, further add to the new RAV4’s impressive safety credentials.


What’s it go like?


It’s smooth, powerful and does not die in the arse on long hills.

The entry 2.0-litre engine produces 127kW of power and 203Nm of torque.

In comparison, the 2.5-litre petrol engine in the Edge is good for 152kW and 243Nm.

The hybrid system combines a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor generator that drives through a CVT.

It’s the most powerful setup in the range, with combined maximum outputs of 160kW for 2WD variants and 163kW for AWD versions.

Combined torque is always seems to be a grey area when it comes to Toyota’s hybrids, suffice to say the petrol engine alone produces 221Nm at 3600 revs.

Unlike similar transmissions, the RAV4 CVT does not incorporate so-called “steps” or manual change points, nor are gear change paddles provided to let the driver change gears manually — unfortunately you’re stuck with it.

Throttle response is however surprisingly strong.

Punch the accelerator, the wagon hunkers down and surges forward, with something of a subdued snarl.

Ride and handling are also very good, with 225/60 series Bridgestone Alenza rubber fitted to the 18-inch wheels.

Underpinning the slightly shorter, lower and wider body of the fifth generation RAV, is Toyota’s new TNGA platform, with  a 30mm longer wheelbase and wider track.

This, together with revised front MacPherson strut and new multi-link rear suspension, delivers substantially improved dynamics and improved ride comfort — both on and off the tarmac.

The brakes occasionally emit a dry rasping sound that we’ve come to associate with the regenerative system that feeds power back into the batteries.

AWD hybrids gain an additional rear motor generator to provide power to the rear axle for the innovative electric AWD system.

Complete with trail mode, it enables up to 80 per cent of total torque to be delivered through the rear wheels.

In contrast the Edge has a mechanical AWD system that is able to deliver up to 50 per cent to the rear wheels, with a choice of off road modes.

But hey, nobody takes these vehicles off road anyway, so in many ways we reckon the increased off road ability is superfluous.

The new architecture adds another 65mm of load space, with a class-leading 580 litres, and the load area features a clever two-level reversible floor for added functionality (not available with full-size spare wheel option).

Good news is that the hybrid is the most efficient of the three, with a combined cycle fuel consumption of just 4.8L/100km for all-wheel drive versions.

This compares with 6.5L/100km for 2.0-litre petrol auto or 7.3L/100km for the petrol-powered 2.5-litre Edge — and that’s on a good day.

In our experience hybrids tend to be very consistent in their fuel consumption.

We clocked up more than 400km, with a low of 5.5L/100km and high of 7.4L/100km.

And, with a 55-litre fuel tank, it takes standard unleaded petrol.

The JBL audio is crisp, bright and clear to these ears, accentuating notes not heard previously.

RAV by the way is able to tow a 1500kg braked load.


What we like?

  • Looks
  • Spacious interior
  • Chunky controls
  • Low fuel consumption
  • Impressive performance


What we don’t like?

  • Fiddly trip computer
  • Washed out screen colour
  • No digital speedo
  • No speed camera warnings
  • Brown parcel shelf inlay and other bits of trim (or is it maroon)?


The bottom line?

This is more like it Toyota. With its aggressive styling, fuel efficient hybrid powertrain and surprisingly generous features list, the new RAV4 is a real contender — it even gets a 5-year, unlimited kilometre warranty these days.

The RAV4 Cruiser will certainly be on our shopping list when it’s time to update.


CHECKOUT: Toyota RAV4: Hybrid a hard charger

CHECKOUT: Toyota’s first hybrid SUV coming


Toyota RAV4 Cruiser AWD Hybrid, priced from $44,990
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 7.5/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 7.5/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 8/10

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