RAV4 gets hybrid but diesel will still be king
Published 27/01/2016 | 02:30
The real surprise - that Toyota is now offering a hybrid challenger in the fastest-growing market segment - is that it has taken so long.
After all, RAV4 can claim to be an original of the crossover species, while Toyota has been synonymous with hybrid technology long before it became fashionable.
The RAV4 Hybrid is the star turn of a mid-life facelift for Toyota's mid-sized SUV which sold more than six million since 1994.
External and internal updates to the current model are relatively minor - usual modifications to lights, bumpers, and a restyled interior.
An updated Toyota Safety Sense system that now includes Pedestrian Detection and Adaptive Cruise Control is a worthy addition.
As well as the Hybrid, there's a revised 143hp 2.0 diesel engine (123g/km) and up to 4.7l/100km (60 mpg).
However, unlike previously, the diesel model comes with front-wheel-drive only. If you need all-wheel traction, the Hybrid is the only show in town.
On paper at least that looks appetising. A 2.5 litre normally aspirated petrol engine is paired with either one (front wheel drive only) or two (AWD) electric motors to produce 197hp. Which makes it the most powerful RAV4 to date, boasting a 0-100km/h time of 8.3 seconds.
However, those figures are a bit misleading as the RAV4 Hybrid is far from a hot hatch challenger. For starters, there's quite a degree of body roll, and a tendency to understeer if pushed hard into corners - not unusual in crossovers to be fair.
As with Toyota's other hybrid offerings it uses a CVT automatic transmission. Press the accelerator hard and you get a rather harsh sounding continuous whine as the car builds up speed.
To get the best from this car, you need a relaxed driving style - whereupon you'll appreciate the seamless progression of a standard many executive cars aspire to.
The AWD version uses a second rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels. Apart from the all wheel traction, it improves the RAV4 Hybrid's towing capacity from 800kg to a much more useful 1,650kg. That's still well short of the 2,000kg offered by the diesel though.
Trim levels include a new grade, Luna Sport, which sits between Luna and Sol trims. The diesel version also adds an entry level Aura trim.
Toyota is expecting Hybrids to account for up to two-thirds of all RAV4s sold in Europe, though Toyota Ireland is more circumspect, anticipating it to achieve around one-in-10 sales here.
Partly down to our ongoing diesel love-in no doubt, but pricing is undoubtedly going to be a contributing factor too.
While you can purchase a diesel RAV4 from €29,950, the cheapest RAV4 Hybrid costs a whopping €8,000 more. Starting from €37,950, that's €6,000 more than the equivalent Luna grade in the diesel.
Furthermore CO2 emissions from 115g/km are only marginally better than those of the diesel, while it returns slightly worse average fuel consumption (5.0l/100km).
Sadly you wonder if even hardcore environmentalists might find it hard to make a case for the Hybrid. Which is a shame as it's a likeable car in many respects.
Urban users and those wanting an automatic transmission and/or AWD will see its appeal, but for most, the diesel will remain the RAV4 of choice.