Toyota RAV4 Review

Find out more about the Toyota RAV4 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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  • Pros
  • Spacious interior
  • Good equipment levels
  • Reliable and well made
  • Cons
  • Not great to drive
  • Hybrid fuel efficiency is mediocre
  • Some cheap materials in the cabin
  • MPG
    42 - 53
  • CO2
    102 - 154 g/km
Model review

The first RAV4 arrived in 1994 almost in a class of its own. Aside from the similar Suzuki Vitara (and five door Grand Vitara) there wasn't much like the dinky Toyota when it came to small, urban SUVs. With a side-hinged rear door and the spare wheel hanging on the outside, the RAV4 looked like an off-roader, but drove like a car. The RAV4 – short for Recreational Activity Vehicle, Four-Wheel Drive, even though front-wheel drive was available – was well received as a result.

A second generation arrived in 2000 and stayed true to the original formula, with the little three door car to displace a traditional hatchback for running around town and the larger five-door for more family-biased duties. It still had the same looks, but squared off some of the rounded edges.

Toyota dropped the three-door from the line-up with the third generation in 2006, making the RAV4 a far more conventional crossover SUV as other manufacturers flooded to an increasingly popular market.

It was the first sign of the RAV4 growing up – even the boot-mounted spare wheel was replaced, although the boot was still a side-opening affair. This was the longest-lived version of the RAV4, remaining in production until replaced by the fourth generation in 2013.

Latest model

Like its predecessor, the current RAV4 is only available as a five-door car, and sits as one of the largest cars available in the C-Crossover segment – crossover SUVs based on C-segment family hatchbacks. The RAV4 shares a platform with the Auris, third generation Prius and Lexus NX.

It first went on sale in early 2013, and was facelifted in 2015 to bring the updated Toyota front-end treatment as seen on the Auris, Avensis and, more recently, the new Yaris and C-HR.

The engine range is typical of a vehicle of this kind, with diesel and petrol available. However diesel is only available with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive and petrol is only available at higher-specifications, with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.

Unusually there's also a hybrid powertrain available, although it's behind the diesel for fuel economy. It's available with front- or four-wheel drive, but the front-drive hybrid has half the towing capacity of any other model

Trim levels are similar to other Toyota models, with the usual Active, Icon, Excel grades. There's also two Business Edition trims, between Active and Icon, which offer the kind of equipment useful for company cars, such as navigation and adaptive cruise control. An Invincible trim level, referencing the Land Cruiser model of the same name, was available at launch, but this has since been discontinued.

The RAV4 sits in a very difficult market sector, dominated by the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. There's no shortage of rivals either, as it seems like every manufacturer offers a C-segment crossover now. These include the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga.

 

Value for money

Considering the sheer size of the RAV4, it seems rather inexpensive. Prices start at £24,765 for a large five-door, five-seat crossover and though they do rise to £30,860 for the top-spec Excel car it's still an awful lot of metal for the money.

Equipment levels are decent too. Things like full leather and LED headlights are reserved for the high-grade models, but right from the start the RAV4 has air conditioning, DAB and Bluetooth, a reversing camera, cruise control, powered and heated door mirrors and a seven-inch touchscreen.

You'll need to move up one grade to the Business Edition to get equipment like navigation, adaptive cruise and dual-zone automatic climate control, but it still has the edge on many rivals for price.

 

In terms of value it's a little hard to justify any of the engines other than the basic diesel though. Only the Hybrid is quicker, but the diesel is the most economical and though slightly beaten on CO2 emissions by the petrol-electric car it makes no difference to the first year VED. The diesel is also the only engine available with all trim levels – you'll need to go for Business Edition Plus or higher for the Hybrid, and the petrol is only available with Icon and Excel.

 

The RAV4 does suffer with unusually high insurance groupings, with a spread from group 22 to group 34 being some way higher than rivals. Depreciation is reasonable though, at least for a vehicle of this type.

 

 

Looks and image

Toyota's corporate image is a little on the dull side. Despite currently competing in both the World Rally Championship and the top class of Le Mans 24 Hours, the brand only really makes one car that's appealing to younger buyers. Its range is largely earnest but bland – there's nothing actually poor, but then there's nothing excellent either. A recent update to the styling across the range, including the RAV4, has brought a more dynamic look however.

 

It's a brand known for reliability though, and a lot of what underpins Toyota's current image is hybrid technology. The first manufacturer to bring a mass-produced hybrid car, Toyota has expanded the tech across its range, including the the Auris, C-HR and RAV4. It even produces a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, named Mirai (Japanese for 'future').

 

The RAV4 is an embodiment of Toyota's brand values. Although the new front end helps the styling, it's a relatively dull car, but it's very practical, reliable and offers a hybrid option. It won't excite, but it'll get the job done without breaking a sweat.

Space and practicality

The RAV4 straddles the size brackets between C-segment and D-segment SUVs, so it's as large as some vehicles that can get away with offering seven seats, but it's still a five-seater. If you don't need those extra two pews, the RAV4 is as roomy as it gets.

The five seats it has all have plenty of legroom and knee room, and though it's perhaps not the tallest example of the type, headroom is decent for passengers of most heights. There's loads of boot space too, with 547 litres being one of the best in the class. Drop the back row down and you're up to 1,735 litres.

Better still, it has a very low lip and a nice, uniform opening with the option of a powered tailgate to make for easy access. You will have to make some concessions with the hybrid model, which limits the space to 501 litres and 1,633 litres with the seats up and down respectively.

EuroNCAP tested the RAV4 when it first came out in 2013, giving it the full five stars. It scored 89% in the adult occupant safety category, achieving Good or Adequate in every area, with 82% in the child occupant section.

 

Engines

There's three engine choices in the RAV4, with petrol, diesel and hybrid models available.

The diesel qualifies as the entry level car and is available on all trim levels. It's a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit, producing 141hp. Although the RAV4 is quite heavy, it's enough to pull it to 60mph in 9.4 seconds, with a 121mph top speed. CO2 is rated at 123g/km for cars with 17-inch wheels and 124g/km for the Icon and Excel grades with larger wheels, and this equates to 60.1mpg combined. It's exclusively paired to a six-speed manual gearbox and is front-wheel drive only.

Petrol is only available on Icon and Excel models, with a continuously variable transmission and four-wheel drive. It's also a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, with 150hp, but despite the extra power over the diesel it's slower to 60mph at 10.5 seconds. Top speed is also down to 115mph, and the fuel economy falls to 43.5mpg combined – equivalent to 152g/km CO2.

The Hybrid system is a little complex. Whichever version you choose, you'll have 197hp to hand, with 150hp coming from a 2.5-litre petrol engine, but where the rest comes from depends on whether you choose the front-wheel drive Business Edition Plus, or the four-wheel drive Icon and Excel. The front-drive car has a 105kW rated motor that powers the front wheels. The four-wheel drive version adds a second 50kW motor to the rear. A single 244V battery pack powers both.

0-60mph is 8.2 seconds for the front-wheel drive Hybrid, with the four-wheel drive car just 0.1 seconds quicker. Top speed is 115mph to 118mph in the four-wheel drive's favour, but with 57.6mpg and 115g/km CO2, the front-wheel drive car has the economy edge compared to 55.4mpg and 118g/km from the four-wheel drive version.

One other significant difference is in the towing ratings. Petrol cars can pull 1.5 tonnes and diesels will tow 1.6 tonnes. The four-wheel drive Hybrid is 50kg better off, at 1.65 tonnes, but the front-wheel drive Hybrid is only rated to tow 800kg.

 

Running costs

Although it's the base engine, the diesel RAV4 is the most economical on offer, at 60.1mpg. The hybrid just trails it, with 57.6mpg from the front-wheel drive car and 55.4mpg for the four-wheel drive.

Both will be lower in the real world, but if you can drive to the strengths of the hybrid tech, the difference between petrol and diesel prices at the pumps will make them broadly similar in terms of fuel costs. The pure petrol car is significantly worse though, at 43.5mpg, and one to avoid unless you have to have four-wheel drive and don't want the hybrid components taking up boot space.

The petrol car is also worse off for VED, as 152g/km means it'll cost £500 for the first year. The other two options are only £160 – even the hybrid – but then all cars are £140 for subsequent years.

Insurance is a little higher than rivals though. The cheapest – counterintuitively – are the Business Edition diesels in group 23 of 50, and it only gets more expensive from there. The top grade Hybrid Excel is in group 34, which is unusually high.

Servicing costs are at least reasonable though. The RAV4 doesn't use any particularly novel or unique components, body panels aside, so much of what makes it tick is shared across the Toyota range. This means good parts availability and lower costs, and Toyota isn't known for especially high spares and repairs pricing anyway.

Things to look out for

As is common with Toyotas, there's not a lot of horror stories around the RAV4, despite 23 years of production. It's another typically solid car from a brand with a good reputation for making them. There's nothing outlandish in the powertrain and no huge stresses, so reports of issues are few and far between and may be treated as isolated cases.

There are a couple of recall notices that affect the RAV4 that you'll need to be aware of however, though they do not affect the current model. They deal with the rear suspension arms, that may become compromised during service work, and a very large scale global recall to fit plastic covers to the lower area of the rear seatbelts.

 

Rivals

The RAV4 shares a category with one of the industry's greatest success stories, Nissan's Qashqai. It's the benchmark vehicle in the category for a good reason. Other rivals include the Qashqai's sibling, the Renault Kadjar, along with the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and Ford Kuga, but the class is now so popular that there'll be something from almost every other manufacturer.

The RAV4 does have an unusual selling point in the shape of that Hybrid model and there are precious few hybrid SUVs to rival it – at least in this price bracket. The Kia Niro is a recent addition, but probably the most successful vehicle in the sector is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Toyota also makes an upmarket version of the RAV4 Hybrid, the Lexus NX300h.

 

Depreciation warning

Large cars of this type need to have a more premium badge to protect them from high rates of depreciation, and while Toyota is a byword for reliability it's not particularly known for its prestige.

Nevertheless, the RAV4's size and practicality, along with a reasonable list of standard kit, safety equipment and solid fuel economy means it doesn't perform quite as poorly as you might expect when it comes to residuals. It's no worse than the rest of the class, and you can expect around 40-45% retained value after three years.

It will be rather trim dependant though, as the entry-level cars don't quite have enough kit to be compelling and the high grade cars have a higher initial purchase price and suffer a steeper fall. The fleet-friendly Business Editions have the best balance and are likely to be most attractive second hand as a result.

Which RAV4 to Pick

Trims Explained

The RAV4 is available in five different specifications

Active

The Active model serves as the entry grade, but is nevertheless equipped with cruise control, a reversing camera, manual air conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen with DAB and Bluetooth connectivity and a stop-start function.

Prices start from £24,765

Business Edition

Business Edition adds front fog lights, powered folding door mirrors and the Toyota Safety Sense assist package, which includes adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights and automatic windscreen wipers . The infotainment is upgraded to include navigation and the aircon is now dual-zone and automatic.

Prices start from £27,290

Business Edition Plus

The Business Edition Plus is only slightly more expensive and adds the powered tailgate with height memory function, auto headlight levelling and keyless entry with a push-button start. It's also the entry-level model for the hybrid version of the RAV4.

Prices start from £27,990

Icon

With the Icon grade you get a significant interior upgrade to leather and alcantara seats and door trim, along with heated front seats with power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver. There's a step up with the wheel options, from 17-inch to 18-inch, and the headlights are upgraded to LED units.

Prices start from £30,160

Excel

Excel includes a full leather interior in three colour choices, adds a memory function to the driver's seat and upgrades the navigation system further with voice recognition. Roof rails are also added, along with specific high-gloss alloy wheels.

Prices start from £30,860

Summary

  1. Diesels are front-wheel drive only
  2. Petrol-electric Hybrid model available on higher trims
  3. Reversing camera, DAB, Bluetooth as standard
  4. High insurance groups
  5. Navigation not available on entry Active trim
  6. Diesel has the best fuel economy at 60.1mpg
  7. 547-litre boot (501 litres in the Hybrid)
  8. Front-wheel drive Hybrid has very poor towing rating
  9. Five star EuroNCAP rating