In-depth reviews

Toyota RAV4 review: solid mid-size SUV with efficient hybrid tech

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

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Bold styling
  • Great ride quality
  • Decent running costs
  • Noisy engine
  • Infotainment not up to class best
  • Not available with seven-seat seats
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Quick verdict

When it comes to covering all the bases, the Toyota RAV4 drives neatly, rides very well, is highly practical, provides respectable efficiency thanks to its all-hybrid engine line-up, and is solidly built. This latest version represents a welcome step forward over the previous model in terms of styling, with its chiselled looks helping it to stand out against rivals. However, it needs to catch up in the infotainment stakes, and the limited engine range and higher price compared with some of its Korean counterparts may put off some.

Key specs

Fuel type

petrol/electric Hybrid

Body style

5-door Large SUV

Powertrain

2.5-litre, 4cyl petrol plus electric motor

Safety

5-Star EuroNCAP (2019)

Warranty

3yrs/60k miles (up to 10yrs/100k miles with routine franchised dealer servicing)

Toyota RAV4: price, specs and rivals

You can’t knock the Toyota RAV4 because it’s well-built, economical, practical, reliable, and comfortable. And it seems the world agrees, because despite being a modest seller in the UK, the previous generation RAV4 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 have arrived – to the point where Toyota’s offering has risked becoming ‘just another SUV’, swamped by dozens of rivals.

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-wheel arched creation that should hold its own against the likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.

In the UK, the RAV4 is being offered exclusively with hybrid power. The base model is a ‘self-charging hybrid’, which is marketing-speak for an electrified vehicle that you can’t plug into a wall socket. Buyers get a choice of front or all-wheel drive with this version, but are limited to just a CVT automatic gearbox.

The latest RAV4 uses the brand’s New Generation Architecture (TNGA) platform – the same modular chassis that’s impressed us beneath the C-HR and Corolla. But unlike any of its closely related counterparts, the RAV4 is available as a plug-in hybrid. The RAV4 PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) offers a pure-electric range of up to 46 miles and an official fuel economy figure of up to 282mpg.

Trim levels vary depending upon which hybrid set-up you order; the self-charging RAV4 is available in Design and Excel trims, while the RAV4 PHEV plug-in hybrid is reserved for Excel and GR Sport.

Entry-level models get dual-zone air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, automatic headlights and wipers, a 10.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, smartphone connectivity, a power tailgate, keyless entry and start and 17-inch alloy wheels. Meanwhile, pricier Excel models add 19-inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, fancier LED headlights, and a host of additional safety technology.

The top-of-the-range GR Sport has sportier exterior and interior styling, driver’s seat memory settings and a head-up display.

The biggest downside with the RAV4 is that despite being an SUV of this size, it isn’t available with seven seats. And considering that the range starts at nearly £39,000, it looks pretty expensive compared with other five-seat hybrid SUVs like the Tucson and Sportage we mentioned earlier.

Engines, performance & drive

The Toyota RAV4 drives and rides well, but its CVT gearbox isn't fantastic

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i (2WD)

218bhp

8.4 seconds

111mph

Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i (4WD)

222bhp

8.1 seconds

111mph

Toyota RAV4 2.5 PHEV

306bhp

6.0 seconds

112mph

On the road, the RAV4 is a curious mix. The latest generation’s body is 57 per cent more rigid than the previous model’s, and this – coupled with the TNGA underpinnings – makes it a surprisingly capable performer on twisty roads. The body doesn’t lean as much as you might expect an SUV to, and the front end turns into bends crisply, with less tendency to carry on in a straight line and understeer like the Honda CR-V. Barring the worst hooliganism, it grips the road well and is admirably amenable to sudden direction changes. The steering feels direct and nicely weighted.

These traits promise to reward the driver more than you might expect in such a tall vehicle, but Toyota’s hybrid powertrain isn’t quite willing to play its part in that. It’s not that it’s unrefined or inherently unsorted; it’s more that the Hybrid Drive principle of having the engine revs not entirely related to how fast you’re travelling is a little odd.

You can use steering wheel-mounted paddles to play with the ‘stepped’ ratios in the system, particularly under braking, but it will always ignore you and do what it thinks is best and most efficient once you’re back on the throttle.

​Recognise this fact and adopt a smooth, relaxed approach, and you’ll find the 2.5-litre set-up fast enough for most situations, including around town. And there’s no doubt that the larger capacity and increased torque mean that when the CVT revs do rise – and yes, they still do, from time to time – they tend to be shorter blasts than you might experience in, say, an older Toyota Auris or Toyota Prius.

The front-wheel drive RAV4 with 218bhp takes 8.4 seconds to reach 62mph while the AWD edition, which has a little more power at 222bhp and an extra electric motor on the back axle, trims three-tenths of a second off that figure. Plug-in hybrid power brings stronger straight-line acceleration thanks to 306bhp, cutting the 0-62mph time down to 6.0 seconds.

When cruising on the flat at motorway speeds, you’re unlikely to hear much engine noise at all – although we found this is as much down to the fair degree of wind noise you’ll hear instead from the side mirrors.

We’ve tried both front– and four-wheel-drive RAV4s on some pretty badly rutted and muddy terrain, and both versions have acquitted themselves well enough to persuade us that the RAV4 has more than enough off-road ability for the type of person who’s going to buy one. There’s no discernible pay-off in on-road performance either.

The brake pedal provides plenty of slowing force when needed, and the pedal feels consistent enough that you won’t really notice where regenerative braking ends and the mechanical brakes take over. It is a little disappointing that, unlike the CR-V, you cannot vary the amount of regenerative braking, or engage in one-pedal driving like you can with the Nissan X-Trail. Both systems add an additional level of involvement to the driving experience that, in our view, can be quite satisfying as you try to boost your efficiency. 

MPG & running costs

The Toyota RAV4's clever hybrid tech makes for decent real-world economy, although insurance costs might be a little expensive

Model 

MPG

CO2

Insurance group

Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i Excel AWD

48.7mpg

131g/km

30

Toyota RAV4 2.5 PHEV Design AWD

282.5mpg

22g/km

36

Toyota RAV4 2.5 VVT-i Design 2WD

49.6mpg

129g/km

28

The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 is available with either self-charging hybrid or plug-in hybrid power. During our test of the former on mixed roads, including city and motorway driving, the RAV4 returned as much as 61mpg and didn't dip below 40mpg at any point. This correlates well with the RAV4’s official combined fuel economy figures of 48.7mpg for four-wheel drive versions, to 49.6mpg for front-drive models, both of which are considerably better than the Honda CR-V. CO2 emissions for hybrid RAV4 models range from 129-131g/km, depending on the chosen trim level.

The RAV4 PHEV features an 18.1kWh battery that provides enough juice to cover up to 60 miles in urban environments, or 46 miles in mixed driving conditions, on electric power alone. Based on our experience during a long-term test, we could get over 40 miles of range (even in winter) without using any petrol. Our overall economy would put a diesel to shame – although the 64.7mpg figure we got was nowhere near the combined WLTP figure of 282.5mpg, and even then, that was from mostly urban driving and regular charging. 

Company car drivers will appreciate that this version sits in a low eight per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) band, which is better than the equivalent Santa Fe and Sorento plug-in hybrids. If you want to save money, you’ll need to look at an electric car like the Tesla Model Y, because that’s in an even lower tax bracket.

When it comes to charging the RAV4, it'll take two and a half hours to fully charge the battery using a standard 7kW home wallbox.

The RAV4 sits in insurance groups 28 to 36, depending on trim level and which powertrain you go with. That’s lower than the CR-V, but quite a bit higher than rivals such as the (admittedly cheaper) Skoda Kodiaq and all but the highest-specification versions of the VW Tiguan Allspace. To find the best deal on your car insurance, get a personalised car insurance quote fast with our comparison tool powered by Quotezone.

Our expert data suggests that the RAV4 will be a strong performer in terms of residual values. After three years and 36,000 miles of ownership, the hybrid SUV model should hold onto an average of 50-55 per cent of its original list price.

That’s better than the Nissan X-Trail and on a par with the CR-V, but lags behind the 65 per cent that a plug-in hybrid P300e Land Rover Discovery Sport will hold on to over the same period. To get an accurate valuation on a specific model, check out our valuation tool.

Design, interior & technology

The Toyota RAV4 looks great and is well-built inside and out, but lags behind on infotainment

The exterior design of the Toyota RAV4 has changed beyond all recognition from the ‘90s original, trading in its curves for a much tougher, angular look. There’s a choice of eight colours, with the usual mix of grey, silver and black for those worried about protecting resale values. We think the most interesting colour is actually the free Khaki, which suits the RAV4 quite nicely.

The interior quality is hard to fault – the RAV4 feels built to last well beyond the typical three-year PCP cycle without any rattles or squeaks. But, as is often the case with Toyota, the finish is functional more than luxurious. There’s a smattering of double-stitching and soft-touch materials in the places that matter, at least.  

The layout is mostly easy to use, too, albeit with a few extra buttons low down between the steering wheel and the door that can be hard to find without taking your eyes off the road. We like the chunky heating controls, and it’s a nice touch that the rubberised finish makes them easy to grip with cold hands. That will appeal to those who don’t get on with the minimalist design of the all-electric Tesla Model Y, where all the major controls have been relegated to the large central touchscreen – including the controls for the wipers. 

All versions come with a 12.3-inch digital dash that can be configured like the Virtual Cockpit you’ll find in the Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace. It’s a big improvement over the part analogue dial, part digital readout of earlier models, and it’s great that you can customise it to show various driving data and sat-nav instructions. It isn’t as easy to alter the display on the move as the system used in the rivals mentioned above, though. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

As part of an update for 2023 the RAV4 now comes as standard with a 10.5-inch central touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and updated virtual assistant. The new set-up is more responsive, offers better resolution, and the menus are much simpler to navigate, so it’s a definite improvement over the old system. However, we prefer the easier-to-use screen fitted to the Hyundai Tucson, because it's less distracting to use on the move.  

All trim levels have a six-speaker audio system, a DAB radio, and sat-nav.

Boot space, comfort & practicality

The Toyota RAV4 is competitive with other five-seat SUVs, but some rivals offer more space and seven-seat versatility

Dimensions

Length

4,600mm

Width

1,855mm

Height

1,685mm

Number of seats

5

Boot space 

580 litres

The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 is 100mm shorter than a Skoda Kodiaq, but is easier to place on tighter streets in towns and villages because it’s around 40mm narrower, and being a little higher by 20mm helps with visibility. The latest RAV4 is closer in width and height to the Hyundai Tucson.

We’ve tried a RAV4 with a panoramic rear-view mirror similar to what you’ll find in a Land Rover Discovery Sport. It takes a feed from a camera just inside the rear hatch glass and shows it on a digital screen integrated into the usual mirror housing. It takes some getting used to, but ultimately shows a wider-angle image than you’d see in a traditional mirror. The main benefit is more for those who load up the boot to the ceiling, because with the camera engaged, you can at least see what’s going on behind you.

A 30mm stretch in wheelbase over the old car means that there’s space for four adults – and five could travel reasonably comfortably for a decent length of time. Headroom is good for six-foot adults too. Cabin space isn't quite as generous as a Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento, though, nor does it have a third row of seats like those rivals mentioned earlier, or the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Peugeot 5008, and Nissan X-Trail. Two Isofix points are provided on the outer rear seating positions, which is one less than the 5008.

The RAV4's boot is a practical shape and size; in the regular model there are 580 litres on offer with the rear seats in place (79 litres more than in the Mk4 RAV4), and 1,690 litres available if you fold them down. Go for the plug-in hybrid version, and boot space is reduced to 520 litres with the seats up, then 1,604 litres when you fold the rear seats down.

These figures look competitive enough against, say, the Nissan X-Trail, which musters 575 litres as standard. But the Toyota can’t match the latest Honda CR-V, which has 587 litres in hybrid form, and (despite having a large battery pack) 617-litres in plug-in hybrid form. The RAV4 can’t match the ultimate capacity of either the Skoda Kodiaq or VW Tiguan Allspace, which both offer over 2,000 litres of storage space when all the seats are folded down.

Those rear seats only fold in a conventional 60/40 split, which isn’t the most versatile when carrying people and luggage. The 5008 offers three individually folding second-row seats, and a sliding bench in order to maximise passenger leg room or luggage capacity, depending upon your needs.

Towing weight is quoted at 750kg for the plug-in hybrid and two-wheel drive models, or 1650kg for AWD models. The latter is a match for the similar hybrid Hyundai Santa Fe, but lags behind the 2,000kg capacity offered by the 2.0-litre, four-wheel drive petrol and diesel versions of the Kodiaq and Tiguan Allspace.

Safety & reliability

Toyota's reputation for reliability bodes well, while the RAV4 includes lots of standard safety kit

Key standard safety features

Euro NCAP ratings

  • 5 out of 5 stars (tested in 2019)
  • Adult occupant protection - 93%
  • Child occupant protection - 87%
  • Vulnerable road users - 85%
  • Safety assist - 77%

The latest RAV4 received the maximum five-star crash safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2019, scoring 93 per cent for adult protection and 87 per cent for child safety. That’s competitive with rivals tested at the time, with only the Subaru Forester scoring higher marks than the RAV4 in both these categories, as well as for active safety assistance technology.

All RAV4 models get Toyota Safety Sense 2 as standard. It includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane-keep assist, plus a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high beam headlights and road sign recognition. Step up to Excel or GR Sport for blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert.

The RAV4 came in a very creditable 30th place out of 75 cars in the 2023 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, putting it above the Peugeot 3008, Land Rover Discovery Sport, and Citroën C5 Aircross. It was only narrowly beaten by the Subaru Forester, but couldn’t match the heights of the Kia Sorento that finished in second place overall. Toyota itself didn’t make the top ten like last year, managing 12th spot out of 32 brands in the best manufacturers table, beating the likes of Hyundai, Honda, Nissan, Skoda, SEAT, Vauxhall, VW, Ford, and Renault.

Toyota provides three years or 60,000-mile warranty as standard for the RAV4, with the opportunity to extend the cover for an extra 12 months/10,000 miles every time you have the car serviced at an authorised Toyota repairer – up to a total of ten years/100,000 miles (whichever comes first). Doing so means you also get a Hybrid Health Check carried out as part of the annual service, which will, in turn, mean you maintain the hybrid battery's warranty for a further 12 months. This can be extended up to a maximum of 15 years.

Customers have the opportunity to spread the cost of a service with inflation-proof monthly plans. There’s also fixed-price servicing, as shown in the owner’s section of the Toyota website, so you can ensure you’re not being charged over the odds by your dealer.

Should you buy a Toyota RAV4?

If you’re after a practical, well-equipped, efficient, good-to-drive SUV that’s also impeccably built, then we think the Toyota RAV4 is an excellent choice. However, you can’t get a seven-seater version of RAV4, which is disappointing considering you can buy a Hyundai Santa Fe or Nissan X-Trail with seating for seven for similar money, plus you can get hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage for less money than the RAV4, and with more luxuries.

Frequently Asked Questions
We think the Toyota RAV4 is a good medium SUV because it’s well-made, efficient and is decent to drive. There are cheaper options out there, and ones that offer seven-seat versatility.
News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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