Number three selling car in Australia.

Toyota RAV4: Practically practical

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD 7

What is it?

Launched in 1994, the Toyota RAV4 was one of the pioneers of the SUV genre that now dominates motor vehicle sales around the world.

The acronym stands for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive.

It was a cross between a passenger car and a four-wheel drive and quickly attracted the attention of buyers looking for a combination of practicality and tough-ish looks.

RAV4 has grown steadily in size over the years and is now verging on being a mid-size rather than small vehicle.

Since 2010 it has been available with two-wheel drive. Sensibly Toyota opted not to rename these versions as RAV2.

The latest fifth generation RAV has been here since 2018 and so is probably about midway through its life cycle.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD 6

What’s it cost?

There’s plenty of choice including five equipment levels, two engines, petrol or hybrid, and either two- or four-wheel drive – but one engine only.

Prices range from $34,400 for an entry-level 2.0-litre petrol 2WD GX through to $52,700 for the 2.5-litre/hybrid Edge AWD.

On-road costs need to be added.

Between them sits GXL, XSE and Cruiser. XSE is available only as a hybrid, the other four get the choice of petrol-only or hybrid.

Although it’s slightly shorter and lower than the previous model, a longer wheelbase, wider body and longer front and rear tracks combine to make it larger overall.

Bold, squared-off lines make RAV4 look larger than it really is.

The blunt-nosed grille is slightly different depending upon variant, including blue badge trim to identify hybrids.

Cruiser and Edge variants get a panoramic sunroof.

RAV4 uses a fairly unexciting 8.0-inch touchscreen, but one that – importantly for the driver – is relatively easy to use (and so reduces the amount of time taken from looking ahead).

We’d expect the next upgrade to get the impressive 10.5-inch high-definition screen that debuted in the recently-launched Corolla Cross.

The most recent upgrade to RAV4, in April 2022, added the latest version of the Toyota Connected Services app-based communications system.

Owners can remotely check the status of the doors and lights, access information such as the vehicle’s last known location and recent trips — or start the engine or climate control.

There’s a semi-digital instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch Multi Information Display in front of the driver in GX and GXL. XSE, Cruiser and Edge step up to a 7.0-inch display.

Satellite navigation is optional in the GX and standard on all other variants.

There are five USB-C ports, three in the front and two in the rear.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and digital radio are all standard with a wireless smartphone charger on GXL and higher models.

GX, GXL and XSE have six-speaker audio. Cruiser and Edge get a nine-speaker JBL premier unit.

Standard safety features across the RAV4 range include 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.

Also standard in all models is the latest Toyota Safety Sense package which adds a pre-collision safety system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, emergency steering assist, active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane change assist with deceleration assist, road sign assist, door exit warning and automatic high beam.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD 2

What’s it go like?

The exterior shape takes the cabin and load areas out to the corners for maximum interior space.

RAV4 has the simple, practical dashboard design that we love with most functions accessible through the infotainment touchscreen.

But it’s also got physical knobs for the most commonly-used features such as air-conditioning and audio.

The touchscreen menu can also be activated through ‘real’ buttons, four on either side of the screen.

There are plenty of different-sized storage spaces including a long shelf on the dashboard in front of the passenger.

There’s excellent space in the rear, both in leg and headroom. Even shoulder space is wide enough for a mid-sized adult occupant.

The rear load space is an impressive 580 litres with the rear seatbacks in place, expandable to 1690 litres with the seats folded.

GX is the only variant to get a full-size spare wheel. All others get a space saver.

Toyota’s hybrid system shares a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with a battery-powered electric motor at the front axle in the 2WD version and another for the rear axle with the AWD.

They have combined maximum outputs of 160kW for 2WD variants and 163kW for AWD versions.

Petrol-only GX, GXL and Cruiser variants are powered by a new-design 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 127kW and 203Nm, with 2WD and CVT.

Top-spec Edge petrol gets AWD as well as a new 152kW/243Nm 2.5-litre petrol engine that drives through a conventional eight-speed automatic.

The AWD system in Edge features a multi-terrain select system that offers different modes for mud and sand, rock and dirt and snow.

Our RAV4 test vehicle was the second-highest Cruiser variant with the hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive.

It has a solid feel that’s more like that of a full-size SUV than a small-to-mid sized one.

It’s smooth and quiet on most roads and cruises comfortably at 110km/h on motorways with a minimum of stress on the engine and transmission.

The engine is sharp off the mark with the first few metres using electricity from the hybrid battery.

Similarly, overtaking takes a minimum of distance with both engine and battery working in unison.

Fuel consumption is impressively low, especially in the hybrids with listed numbers around 4.7L/100km, but also in the petrol-only models (6.0L/100km in the 2.0-litre and 7.0 in the 2.5).

We found ourselves sitting in the 5-7 litres per 100 range around town in the Cruiser hybrid, dropping to 4-5 litres on the open road and motorways.

Handling is quite responsive with little free play before the steering kicks in.

Changes of direction are handled without too much fuss.

It’s not sports car but it’s not meant to be – and owners are well-aware of this.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD 3

What we like?

  • Feels more like a full-size SUV
  • Smooth and quiet on most roads
  • Cruises comfortably at 110km/h
  • Practical dashboard design
  • Touchscreen easy to use
  • Physical knobs for most commonly-used features
  • Plenty of different-sized storage spaces
  • Excellent space in the rear
  • Rear load space is impressive

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD 8

What we don’t like?

  • Not a sports car but it’s not meant to be
  • GX only variant to get a full-size spare wheel

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD 1

The bottom line?

The latest in a long line of Toyota RAV4s is quite different from the earliest models of years gone by.

But it has been changed according to buyers’ needs and certainly deserves a place on your short list.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD 4


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Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid AWD, priced from $48,750
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 7/10
  • Safety - 8/10
  • Thirst - 9/10
  • Practicality - 8/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
  • Tech - 7/10
  • Value - 8/10

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