Road test: Toyota RAV4

Posted on February 19th, 2016 by James Luckhurst

The RAV4 gets a big thumbs-up for economy and space, but its price tag is on the hefty side

Road test: Toyota RAV4

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What is it?

A brand new hybrid version Toyota has added to its 2016 RAV4 line-up. It’s big, it’s gutsy (this model boasts 194bhp) and it’s seriously cheap to run. We achieved an average consumption of 45.7mpg which was not a million miles off the manufacturer’s quoted figure of 55.4. CO2 emissions are a very respectable 118g/km.

How safe is it?

The Toyota array of Safety Sense active safety features is standard on this model, as it is now on all RAV4 variants except the entry-level Active. Hill start assist is also a great safety aid when you’re out and about. Just push the brake pedal and this will apply the brakes for two seconds, preventing the vehicle from rolling back before you pull away on a slope. There is also an enthusiastic fatigue warning device that started bleeping at us during a journey of just eight miles.

Who should buy one?
If you’re looking for something sizeable but most of your journeys are going to be around town, then this could well be worth a look. Also, if you’re a company car driver paying benefits in kind, then you may be attracted by the 18% rate.

On the same day the new Toyota RAV4 was launched to the British motoring media in Spain, Good Motoring was offered the chance to drive the car in the UK. Here’s what James Luckhurst thought after becoming one of the first journalists to drive the RAV4 on British roads. Road test published 20 February 2016


After weeks and weeks of warm, wet conditions, the RAV4 arrived on what was probably the coldest day of the season so far. First impressions were that it was big, mean and serious-looking. We remembered the first RAV4, launched in 1994, with its unusual look and that characteristic >> spare wheel on the tailgate. We scraped ice off the windows, stowed luggage in the boot (with a handy hanging net for ensuring nothing rolls loose on journeys), found the seat heat switches, and were soon getting going.
Acceleration was brisk but not as satisfying as we might expect from the 2.5-litre engine. Maybe this was because of noise from the CVT gearbox.
An hour or two of short, suburban journeys let us get used to the knobs and dials (it’s all very simple).

A hard overnight frost was followed by a lot of driving through glare from low sun. Time to appraise cabin quality as we made a few stops by the side of the A4 in Slough and Reading. It was OK, but we couldn’t say it exceeded expectations. For a start, those heated seats could be a bit more liberal with their heat. A small thing, but noticeable on such a chilly morning. Next, the dashboard layout was for us just a bit confused, with lots of little symbols visible in the central space between the power gauge and the speedometer.
Good Motoring always likes to see 30 and 70 marked clearly on any speedometer, so there’s definitely a demerit for the RAV4 in omitting them. The fuel gauage looked nice, big and clear, but we wondered what the ‘R’ mark meant on the gauge between 1/1 and zero. More of that anon.

A chance to assess passenger comfort, both adult and child. We found loads of space, and decent levels of comfort, but nothing that would make the RAV4 particularly stand out. Some in-cabin materials felt plasticky and old, though we did like the faux chamois leather material used on the insides of the front door handles. Two tall adults had all the room they needed in the back, and boot space was ample, even with a few litres sacrified for the hybrid technology.
Part of Saturday involved meeting Sandra Mcdonald-Ames (see page 24 of Spring 2016 edition) to discuss her feature article on advanced driving. So she spent some time in the passenger seat appraising our driving, as we continued our review of the RAV4.

The freezing weather continued, yet Gwernyfed Rugby Club decided the pitches were playable, so it was off to Talgarth for a morning of parental pitchside shouting for the under-nines team in their clash with visiting Aberystwyth. The RAV4 looked at home in the car park, and friends queued for lifts or just a quick look. But the cold weather won at the end of the morning, and we headed home, thawing out as we went.

When the weather’s reasonable, we walk or cycle to school. But this morning gave a good excuse to take the RAV4. The school car park is generally teeming with pick-ups and SUVs, simply because a lot of people live in high, remote places where four-whee-drive is an essential piece of kit. After drop-off, we headed to the farm supplies shop in Hay-on-Wye, a distance of eight miles. It was slightly disconcerting to receive a fatigue alert warning after about four of those miles. Not quite sure how the car detected a tired driver, but there was nowhere open in Glasbury for a restorative cup of coffee at that time on a Monday morning in January. Anyway, we manage to stave off any symptoms of fatigue long enough to drop in for a sack of chicken feed (which disappeared into the RAV4’s vast boot as readily as a Tic Tac might disappear into the driver’s mouth.

Time to take a more serious glance at the fuel gauge, as we’ve done a fair few miles in the past days. Remember that nice, big clear fuel gauge? With the ‘R’ marking on the gauge between 1/1 and 0? Well we rather managed to misinterpret that, because the 0 was actually at the bottom end of the speedometer gauge, and had nothing to do with the fuel. But why ‘R’ on the gauge? Run out? Reserve? Refill? Right side? Surely for consistency, isn’t 0/1 better? Or just have F and E for simplicity… Anyway, there was no catastrophe and we found petrol at 99.7p a litre, so recharging the tank wasn’t too painful. We glided silently into Radley College for an overnight stop with teaching friends. One strange thing to remark… the RAV4 display said it was +1 as we pulled in, but our friends’ home thermometer reading was -3 degrees.

To the other side of Oxford in sub-zero conditions, where we caught up with electric car tester Will Brocklebank, then to Datchet and a talk to the Women’s Institute. We waved farewell to the RAV, giving it a big thumbs-up for economy and space, but reckoning it probably wasn’t quite worth Toyota’s £33,035 price tag.

The RAV4 gets a big thumbs-up for economy and space.

Price: £33,035
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds
Economy: 55.4mpg combined
Insurance: Group 34A
Tax: Band C (£0 first year)

Figures for the Excel AWD 2.5-litre CVT