3.8 out of 5 3.8
Parkers overall rating: 3.8 out of 5 3.8

Hybrid SUV is a practical family car with low running costs

Toyota RAV4 SUV Review Video
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At a glance

New price £31,090 - £39,915
Lease from new From £321 p/m View lease deals
Used price £21,460 - £33,330
Used monthly cost From £536 per month
Fuel Economy 47.1 - 51.3 mpg
Road tax cost £140
Insurance group 25 - 30 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Practical and spacious interior
  • Lots of standard equipment 
  • Good safety credentials 
  • Low running costs 

CONS

  • Styling is spec-sensitive 
  • Poor standard media system
  • Quite pricey to buy

Toyota RAV4 SUV rivals

Written by Keith WR Jones on

The Toyota RAV4 is a medium-sized family SUV that had the distinction of being the only car of its type that came exclusively with a hybrid engine as the only method of propulsion when it was launched Toyota calls it a self-charging hybrid because you don't need to plug it in. That's changed now, though, as the firm has also added a plug-in hybrid option to the range. 

>> We rate the best hybrids for 2020

What’s more, it’s the first SUV to be based on Toyota-Lexus’ GA-L architecture (Toyotaspeak for the chassis and mechanical bits under the body), plus it comes with the latest incarnation of the company's Safety Sense pack of driver assistance and safety systems.

Rivals include the Honda CR-V – also available with a hybrid powertrain – and more conventionally powered options like the Ford Kuga, Skoda Karoq and Hyundai Tucson.

So, is the new platform and hybrid-only gamble enough to elevate the RAV4 above the competition? Read on to find out.

Solid interior packed with kit, but misses a couple of key items

Interior quality is a step up over the previous generation RAV4 and there’s still a reassuring feeling of durability from all of the switches and buttons. The dashboard display is clear, and the most important controls easy to operate.

There's not quite the design flair on show of the more fashionable C-HR, but the RAV4 is more about ruggedness, and as such there are big, chunky rubberised buttons and dials, with a thick gearlever to complement. It may not feel plush, but it certainly feels durable. Perhaps emphasising the slow-and-strong approach, the infotainment system continues to lag behind rivals with clunky graphics and an unintuitive sat-nav.

Such troubles can usually be overcome since the introduction of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which wasn't available until a couple of years into the RAV4's life. Luckily if you buy one new now, smartphone integration is standard across all trim levels: Icon, Design, Excel and Dynamic.

Plenty of rear-seat space and a capacious boot

Both front and rear seat passengers shouldn’t be short of space in the RAV4, with generous amounts of head and legroom afforded. What’s more, the tunnel running through the centre of the car is smaller than it is on most rivals, giving the rear middle seat passengers greater space to put their feet.

Bootspace is equally impressive, with oodles of room seats up or seats down and more than competitive with the RAV4’s rivals. Additional practicality aids include the absence of a loading lip, underfloor storage compartments and a 12V power supply. The only disappointment is the lack of a 40:20:40 seat-folding arrangement ­­– the 60:40 split hampering flexibility. 

RAV4’s hybrid engine is the only option

While more than punchy enough for everyday use, the 215hp (219hp on all-wheel drive models) 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor(s) combination lacks the polish and refinement of conventional petrol and diesel models in some situations, but is very responsive when you put your foot down.

Most attempts to make significant progress are met by flared revs and a raucous noise from under the bonnet as the CVT transmission selects a lower ratio. Such a setup can work well, and it does for the RAV4 around town. It's only in situations where you need to speed up quickly where things can become noisy. It's quieter than an equivalent Honda CR-V Hybrid, though. 

On the plus side, claimed fuel economy is up to 49.5mpg (impressive for a car of this size and performance), while CO2 emissions come in at just 129g/km on front-wheel drive models with 17-inch wheels.

Biased towards relaxed comfort and easy driving

The RAV4 deals well with 90% of road surfaces and only feels unsettled by smaller, scattered surface imperfections or large expansion joints and potholes. Otherwise, it’s pliant and well-judged, staying surprisingly controlled at normal speeds.

If you’re looking to have fun behind the wheel, however, you’re better off opting for a SEAT Ateca or Ford Kuga, both delivering sharper driving experiences than the RAV4 with more direct steering. On the other hand, if you're buying a family-friendly SUV the chances are this isn't a priority.The RAV4 remains composed and refined the majority of the time, and doesn't leave you feeling out of control if you somehow go too quickly into a corner, for example.

Toyota Safety Sense 2 fitted as standard

The second generation of the Japanese brand’s active safety technology, Toyota Safety Sense 2, is designed to help the vehicle avoid accidents by warning the driver of an impending collision or, in some cases, automatically taking evasive action.

Standard-fit on the RAV4, Safety Sense 2 includes a Pre-Collision System (essentially like autonomous emergency braking), Road Sign Assist (traffic sign recognition), Lane Tracing Assist (active lane-keeping technology) and adaptive cruise control. As for improvements over the first generation system, the technology is now capable of spotting pedestrians in low-light conditions, and cyclists in daylight hours.

Read on for the full Toyota RAV4 review to see if it's a hybrid SUV worth considering

Toyota RAV4 SUV rivals

Other Toyota RAV4 models: