WAY back in 1994, when Toyota introduced the Rav4, it was a simple, rugged three-door affair that was destined to enhance the company’s reputation for reliable motoring and getting the job done.

The beauty of the Rav4 was that it was a relatively small 4x4 vehicle with a no-nonsense attitude. More than six million have since been sold worldwide.

Fast forward to 2016 and Toyota launched a new Rav4 range that saw the introduction of its first petrol-electric full hybrid model, a revised exterior and interior styling and new equipment grades and features. The fifth-generation Rav4 – only available as a petrol hybrid - is a much plusher affair with a cleaner powertrain, and virtually unrecognisable compared with what we saw in the mid-nineties.

It combines a 2.5-litre petrol unit with a powerful electric motor in both front and all-wheel drive configurations, the latter equipped with a system that uses a second electric motor at the rear to provide automatic electronic all-wheel drive for greater traction on loose or slippery surfaces.

Toyota has improved the ride comfort, quietened the drive, refreshed the styling and brought in some new technology.

Central to this is a 4.2-inch multi-information display in the centre of the instrument binnacle and a seven-inch full-colour central touchscreen that gives access to the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system.

The new hybrid’s advances are underpinned by the first use of Toyota’s new GA-K platform in an SUV. With its low centre of gravity and significantly increased body rigidity, the new Rav4’s platform contributes to superior handling, ride comfort, a spacious interior and a class-leading load space of 580 litres with rear seats in place.

The key figures are impressive: a power output 219bhp, an official fuel economy figure of about 50mpg, 0 to 62mph acceleration in 8.1 seconds and CO2 emissions from 131g/km.

It is noticeable how much quieter the Rav4 is these days. That’s because Toyota has spent well on sound insulation to deter road, tyre and engine noise in the cabin.

Attention to detail has been key to making this new version so impressive. It remains unique in its class in offering customers a self-charging, hybrid powertrain. The new platform allows the bonnet to sit 15mm lower, adding two degrees to the driver’s forward field of vision, and the external mirrors have been moved to a lower position on the front doors. The front pillars have been made slimmer, the belt line has been lowered and the rearward view from the driver’s seat has been improved by enlarging the rear side windows.

Flexibility is designed-in so that the space can easily be adapted to gain more cargo room. For instance, with the rear seats folded down it can accommodate a 29-inch mountain bike without any wheels having to be removed. There is a height-adjustable, two-level deck board that can be reversed when dirty items need to be carried.

The new Rav4 Hybrid is equipped with an enhanced and more capable electric AWD-i system that returns better fuel economy in urban driving, gives a quieter performance at high speeds and provides better traction in slippery conditions.

Features that are available as standard or as options, according to model grade, include a power-operated panoramic roof, smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated seats and up to five USB ports around the cabin for the connection or charging of multiple devices. All models are equipped as standard with the latest iteration of Toyota Safety Sense and an E call emergency contact function.

Rav4 is available in four equipment grades: Icon, Design, Dynamic and Excel.


Toyota Rav4 Excel 2.5 Hybrid AWD

Price: £37,225 (Rav4 range from £30,970)

Powertrain: 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with electric motor, producing 219bhp

Transmission: CVT automatic driving all wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 8.1 seconds; top speed 112mph

Economy: 48-50mpg

CO2 emissions: 131 g/km


Performance: ****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: *****

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: *****

Value For Money: ****