REVIEW: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is an efficient hit
The Toyota RAV4 revolutionized the compact SUV market way back in the mid 1990s, thanks to its “cute” design, all-wheel-drive chassis, and practical packaging.
Since then, the RAV4 has become a household name in the family SUV segment. The RAV4 is now in its fourth generation cycle; last year, Toyota revised and updated both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the refresh was the debut of the hybrid model.
The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada named the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid the Canadian Green Utility Vehicle of the Year.
A big improvement was made to the interior by upgrading to higher quality materials, including more soft-touch surfaces. Toyota added such items as digital display in the instruments gauge cluster, a seven-inch (optional) touchscreen, and a 12-volt outlet for the rear plus another USB port.
The RAV4’s exterior went through changes too. Its design became a bit more modernized with a bolder grille and redesigned LED headlights. Hybrid badging can also be found throughout the car.
Overall, the car retains its good looks and it continues to look up-to-date, despite the fact that the basic body hasn’t changed for a number of years.
Powering the RAV4 is a sophisticated system that’s built around a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that works in conjunction with an electric motor. The hybrid system produces a total of 194 horsepower and 206 foot-pounds of torque. This is paired up with Toyota’s CVT or continuously variable transmission that enables the car to produce best-in-class fuel efficiency numbers. Low fuel consumption is achieved with aid from the regenerative braking system that converts kinetic energy to electricity from all four wheels. This vehicle is designed and programmed to be a top performer when it comes to fuel efficiency. For a medium-sized SUV with a curb weight of 1,775 kilograms, it is impressive to hear that fuel consumption comes in at a combined 7.8 litres/100 kilometres.
The RAV4 Hybrid’s standard AWD system is not mechanical in design, unlike the non-hybrid version. Instead it uses a 67 h.p. third electric motor on the rear axle to provide the rear wheels with torque when its control system senses the need.
Out on the road the RAV4 is responsive, but does not feel as sporty as some of its competitors like the Mazda CX-5. It does ride lower than some compact SUVs, and combined with the AWD system, this provides the vehicle stable, predictable handling even when driving conditions are tough.
The power steering system is better weighted than expected and feels well centered, although the road feedback to the driver is absent or minimal.
Four driving modes are available when driving: normal, sport, eco and EV. Even though each mode has a specific purpose, we found that normal mode works the best. Eco mode can get bogged down and can lead to a stressful situation because immediate power is not available when demanded. Sport mode seems just a little silly on a car that has been optimized for fuel efficiency.
In true Toyota tradition, the RAV4 is a crossover that’s easy to live with. The ride is quiet and comfortable for everyday use. The driver’s seating position is car-like and supportive.
The stitched grey dash and seats are upscale in design and soft to the touch. This premium feel continues with the addition of chrome door handles, a leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel. There is a new seven-inch touchscreen with Navigation as standard in the SE and Limited Hybrid versions.
There is plenty of room upfront, but adults sitting in the back row might feel a bit cramped if there are three people on a long trip. The smaller back seat is due to the battery pack for the Hybrid system. As far as cargo numbers are concerned, there isn’t much difference between the hybrid and non-hybrid version. Behind the second row is 1,008 litres of cargo space which increases to 1,999 litres when the back seats are folded down. This is only 79 litres less than the non-hybrid version, so there is almost no compromise.
The SE Hybrid version comes with a power lift gate as standard and is available in the LE+ Hybrid.
Large doors make it easier for taller occupants to enter and exit the vehicle.
The 2017 Toyota RAV4 starts at $34,455 and there are three versions to select from.
All of the RAV4 versions come with all-wheel drive and Toyota’s Safety Sense P. This includes automatic high beams, lane departure alert, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, and dynamic radar cruise control. These are kinds of features that were only available on expensive Lexus models a few years ago.
Fuel efficiency numbers (l/100 km) are 6.9 city and 7.8 highway.
Great fuel economy over the standard model, plus extra power and great utility for everyday challenges.
The bottom line
The Toyota RAV4 offers high reliability, modern features and lots of interior space in a hybrid packaging. It’s a practical, fuel efficient SUV that everyone dreams of owning.