Hybrid Toyota RAV4 charges ahead in Australia

With nearly 5,000 units sold, the Toyota RAV4 was the Number One selling model in Australia in August 2020. Of these, 4,405 were hybrid variants making it the first time is history for Australia that a petrol-hybrid vehicle topped the new vehicle sales charts in its own right.

Toyota started using this hybrid technology 20 years ago with the original Prius and Toyota Hybrids are not the plug-in variety, the battery is charged while you are driving. The system automatically switches between EV mode and the petrol engine depending on the driving situation with the aim of reducing overall fuel use.

The RAV4 GXL AWD I recently drove had a 2.5 litre Toyota Hybrid System with an auto CVT. The combined power output of the combustion engine and battery is 163kW and 221Nm of torque (which comes from the combustion engine only) and there are three drive modes being Eco, Normal and Sport. The official combined fuel efficiency of this variant is 4.8L/100km and Toyota recommends that it runs on 91RON petrol. For my week with the RAV4 hybrid GXL AWD I used 7.1L/100km, which is less than similar powered SUVs.

TH GXL has premium embossed fabric seats and according to my children these are not the worst cloth seats they have sat on, but if you have younger children cleaning the seats may be more difficult to clean. The front seats are comfortable enough and both have manual adjustment for forward/back and recline and height adjustment for the driver only. The one thing in the cabin I did not like was the fact that I was unable to shut off the central air vents, something I like to do if I find the air blowing too much on me.

The steering wheel is comfortable to hold and has easy to navigate controls that include voice recognition. Like many other car companies the symbol which designates the voice recognition system is the silhouette of a man’s face. I found the system worked well for making calls, but not well for entering a destination.

For smart phone charging and connectivity with your RAV4 GXL there are two USB ports under the arm rest and one USB port and one 12V outlet at the front of the centre console where there is also a ledge for wireless phone charging for compatible devices. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard across the entire RAV4 range and media sources include AM/FM radio, DAB, USB, Bluetooth and Miracast.

The 8” touchscreen display comes with satellite navigation that has SUNA Live Traffic.  The geek in me likes that I can view the energy monitor on the screen while driving, so I know when I am using battery power and when I am charging it.

The rear seats have ample head and leg room for two adults to comfortably sit in the back. Or for your children there are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but in reality you would only fit two seats in due to the width of the seat. The centre seat folds down and has two rigid drink holders in it, but being the arm rest is cloth covered, it may get dirty from spills. Rear passengers get central air vents with speed control only and there are two USB ports below these. A single mat covers the entire width of the rear floor, which is great for cleaning and would mean that the carpet on the transmission tunnel would not get worn either.

The RAV4 GXL has a manual opening boot with plenty of space that would fit a small pram or stroller and the weekly shop. The boot height was good for me reaching in as I did not have to bend uncomfortably to load it. There is a 12V outlet in the boot and it comes with a temporary spare tyre. If you need additional storage space the rear seats have a 40/60 split folding mechanism.

All RAV4 models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense which includes Lane Departure Alert, Lane Trace Assist (auto CVT only), Pre-Collision Safety system with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, Road Sign Assist, Automatic High Beam and Active Cruise Control (All-speed on auto and auto CVT. High-speed on manual). You also get blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert on all models, while the GXL comes with a standard rear view camera with front and rear sensors and back guide monitor.

I found the Lane Trace Assist worked well enough when combined with active cruise control to make motorway driving less of a chore. ANCAP testing found Autonomous Emergency Braking system showed GOOD performance in highway speed scenarios with collisions avoided or mitigated in most tests. ANCAP tests of the Lane Support System functionality showed some GOOD performance, however the system does not intervene in more critical emergency lane keeping test scenarios and overall performance was classified as ADEQUATE. Overall the active safety assist features on all RAV4 SUVs received an ANCAP score of 83%.

Passive safety on all RAV4 variants include seven airbags featuring front, front side, full length curtain airbags and driver’s knee airbag and all variants come with a 5-star ANCAP safety rating (2019) with an Adult Protection Rating of 35.7 out of 38 (93%) and a Child Occupant Protection rating of 43.9 out of 49 (89%).

All new Toyota vehicles come with a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty and this can be extended for up to seven years with unlimited kilometres on Engine and Driveline if your vehicle is properly serviced and maintained as per the vehicle’s Warranty and Service book. Plus if a defect covered by the Toyota Warranty Advantage causes your vehicle to be undriveable, towing to the nearest Toyota Dealer and a loan car is covered.

For hybrid vehicle batteries the standard five year warranty can be increased to up to ten years with unlimited kilometres, subject to annual Hybrid Health Check. The service interval for the RAV4 hybrid is 12 months or 15,000kms, whichever occurs first. Using Toyota’s website I calculated the first four services for the GXL AWD would cost $860 under the Toyota Service Advantage program.

The RAV4 GXL AWD hybrid is a good all-round SUV that is comfortable to drive with the added advantage of greater fuel efficiency thanks to the tried and true Toyota Hybrid engine. Prices for the GXL AWD model start at $42,790 plus on-road costs and as tested with premium paint my RAV4 was $43,390. Visit your preferred Toyota dealer to find out more.

ProsCons
Fuel efficient hybrid engineCan’t close off the front central air vents
The level of standard safety equipmentCloth seats are harder to clean than leather
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto standard in every RAV4Only has a manual open/close boot

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.