The Toyota RAV4 offers unique styling, hybrid-only power and great build quality but it trails rivals in some key areas

The latest Toyota RAV4 represents a welcome step forwards over the old model when it comes to styling, comfort and practicality – and it's still very well-built and likely to be solidly reliable. However, it lags behind key rivals in the infotainment stakes and the lack of a diesel engine may put off many. It drives neatly and rides very well, but many cheaper rivals offer a similar breadth of ability.

As a pure hybrid mid-sized SUV though, the RAV4 is pretty much in a class of one – and that makes price comparison tricky. On the face of it, an SUV of this size with a starting figure just shy of £30,000 looks pretty expensive compared with the likes of the Skoda Kodiaq.

If you're on the lookout for a well-built, economical, practical and comfortable SUV that's likely to major on reliability, the Toyota RAV4 is a strong choice.

Our Choice 
Toyota RAV4 Design 2.5 Petrol Hybrid AWD

The Toyota RAV4 may be a relatively modest seller in the UK, but it is a model with real global significance. Back in 2017, before the last generation RAV4 started to be phased out, it was the fourth best-selling car on the planet – and the best-selling SUV of them all.

Over the 25 years since the original RAV4’s debut, though, a plethora of similar vehicles has arrived – to the point where Toyota’s offering has risked becoming ‘just another SUV’, swamped by dozens of rivals.

Best SUVs to buy now

So for this fifth generation of the RAV4, Toyota has ripped up its rulebook on conservative styling and come up with a sharp-edged, square-wheelarched creation that should stand out a mile compared with the likes of the Hyundai Tucson or the Volkswagen Tiguan. Will it be for everyone? No. But that’s the point; this is a car that will excite some and repel others, and that, for Toyota, is better than to provoke no reaction at all.

This individuality doesn’t stop at the styling either, because in the UK at least, the RAV4 is being offered as a hybrid only. Specifically, it’s called a ‘self-charging hybrid’, which is marketing-speak for an electrified vehicle that you can’t plug into a wall socket.

In the case of UK RAV4s, in fact, there is just a single powertrain on offer - referred to by those marketing bods (yes, them again) as a ‘Dynamic Force’ engine. In reality it’s a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine paired up with an electric motor, offering 215bhp in front-wheel-drive RAV4s or 219bhp in 4x4 versions. And because this car is hybrid only, it is also automatic only - or rather, a CVT only. And CO2 emissions range from 102g/km to 105g/km – no higher.

Under it all is yet another iteration of the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform - the same modular set of chassis components that has impressed us beneath the C-HR, Prius and Corolla. The suspension configuration is familiar too, with MacPherson struts at the front and a double wishbone set-up at the rear.

The RAV4 drives and rides well, but its CVT gearbox isn't fantastic
Clever hybrid tech makes reasonable running costs
The RAV4 looks great and is well-built inside and out, but lags behind on infotainment
The RAV4 is longer and more practical than before, but some rivals offer more space
Toyota's reputation for reliability bodes well; lots of standard safety kit

Toyota is launching the car with four trim levels - although the cheapest of them, Icon, is only available with the front-wheel drive layout. Still, standard specs look decent enough. That entry model brings dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors and camera, automatic headlights and wipers, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Step up to Design and along with the option of four-wheel drive, you get navigation built into the infotainment system, keyless entry and ignition, a powered tailgate, front parking sensors and 18-inch wheels.

Excel is next up, with leather upholstery, heated front seats with electric adjustment on the driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, ambient cabin lighting and headlight washers. And then there’s Dynamic, which is roughly the same spec as Excel but gets styling add-ons including a different design of 18-inch alloys, a contrast gloss-black roof colour, sports seats and projection LED headlights.

Last updated: 
6 Aug, 2019