Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
As one of the models responsible for the rapid rise in the popularity of SUVs, every new generation of the Toyota RAV4 comes with a hefty amount of expectation. So there’s an underlying pressure to get things right.
It’s worth remembering the outgoing car was no dog, it was a strong offering in a competitive segment, and it continued to sell in reasonable numbers as it aged.
Mid-sized SUVs is such a cutthroat area of the market. Quality is abundant with the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan all presenting a compelling argument for purchase.
Playing it safe wasn’t going to position the RAV4 back to the top of the pile, Toyota needed to kick things up a notch.
Importantly, at a time when efficiency is becoming an increasingly desirable commodity, the new RAV4 has arrived Down Under with a hybrid powertrain option for the first time.
Affordable hybrid technology gives the RAV4 a significant point of differentiation, and it’s a point that’s excited buyers leading to longer than usual delivery times.
With the hybrid's initial success in mind, we have been fortunate enough to drive the new RAV4 Cruiser hybrid variant in both front and all-wheel drive guises. Although Toyota is currently offering a range-topping Edge variant, traditionally, the Cruiser is the flagship of the range.
Prices for the Cruiser hybrid models start at $41,640 plus on-road costs for the front-wheel drive model, while the all-wheel drive version is $44,640 before on-roads.
Cruiser variants pack all the fruit including 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, powered tailgate, automatic LED headlights, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, leather-accented seat trim, heated front seats, a panoramic view monitor, wireless smartphone charging, rear USB ports, a 7.0-inch driver information display in the instrument cluster, and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Toyota Safety Sense suite is standard across the range and includes autonomous emergency braking with day/night pedestrian and day cyclist detection, active cruise control, lane departure warning, speed sign recognition and automatic high beam.
For a full rundown on each grade's equipment highlights click here.
Style-wise, the new RAV4 is a long way removed from its predecessor. Toyota has adopted a new design philosophy where its designs are charged with generating interest in the brand’s cars, rather than just continuing to play the reliability card.
The new paradigm has spawned the modern lines of the latest Camry, Corolla and C-HR, which have all been well received.
Toyota’s newfound enthusiasm for automotive styling isn’t as well-executed here. The new RAV4’s design was originally previewed courtesy of the Future Toyota Adventure Concept so we had an idea of what was coming. The squared jaw gives the RAV4 an almost overwhelming dose of Americana. The overly butch, tough truck look doesn’t transfer to medium SUVs.
Things improve on the inside, the cabin is carefully thought out with a focus on function and tactility. The controls are nicely positioned and there’s greater use of soft-touch materials. We especially like the rubber finish around the climate controls.
It’s an airy, light-filled interior thanks to slim pillars and large windows. It feels more spacious than it actually is.
Lots of storage solutions for modern, device loaded families have been incorporated into the interior, as has the brand’s latest infotainment system which works fine, although more resolution wouldn't go astray.
There are a few things that detract from what is the best cabin of any of Toyota’s current SUVs. Taller drivers will bemoan the restrictive amount of seat adjustment, it doesn’t go back far enough which preserves rear-seat space. While on the driver’s seat, it’s set low which doesn’t allow your legs to fall as they usually do in this type of car. Buyers wanting to feel like they are sitting high won't find this set up particularly appealing.
Positioning the seat and steering wheel to find the sweet spot does require some patience. Another minor annoyance is the cupholders, they're obviously made for the giant McDonald's drinks that Texans enjoy, those who like to consume a standard coffee on their morning commute will find things tricky.
Drivers should find the new RAV4 better to pilot due to a 57 per cent increase in rigidity provided by the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), along with a lower centre of gravity, updated suspension, an improved steering set-up, and optimised weight distribution.
The hybrid system consists of a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor generator that drives through a CVT automatic. It develops outputs of 160kW for 2WD variants and 163kW for the AWD versions.
Everything works as it says on the box, the hybrid RAV4 is comfortable and quiet with more than enough performance to fulfil the needs of a busy family.
It feels reasonably car-like with sharp steering, compliant suspension and excellent body control. It’s also satisfyingly quick off the line.
On the road, both front and all-wheel drive versions feel well-planted. The all-paw model will spend the majority of its time driving the front wheels, push a bit harder in the bends and it will seamlessly shuffle the torque around. It’s indistinguishable from behind the wheel.
Which leads to the question, is it worth spending the additional $3000 for AWD? If loose gravel isn't a regular part of your life the answer is a simple no. However, if you fancy some light, recreational off-roading the extra cost is easily justifiable.
Toyota is talking up the new RAV4 with the ‘return of recreation’ tagline. To determine how accurate that is we subjected the AWD version to a mild off-road track after heavy rain.
Despite the abundance of mud, the AWD system did its thing without any fuss.
Up to 80 per cent of the torque can be sent to the rear axle. The system proved remarkably surefooted in slippery conditions that very few owners are ever likely to attempt. We are confident it will handle the needs of 99 per cent of buyers.
If recreational off-roading is something you will do, as opposed to something you ‘might do at some stage’, go all in and get the AWD. If all your work is done on the blacktop, stick to the front-wheel drive model.
The only aspect of the drive that took some of the shine off what is a very well rounded package is the awful rear-view camera, the definition reminds us of an old Blackberry. It’s not good enough on an all-new model.
Turning to efficiency, at the conclusion of our time with the Cruiser hybrids, the front-wheel drive car returned 6.0L/100km, while the AWD version recorded fuel consumption of 6.3L/100km.
Ownership credentials are excellent. Both variants of the Cruiser hybrid require servicing every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Under Toyota’s capped-price service program the first five trips back to the dealer cost $210 each.
Toyota Australia backs the RAV4 with a standard five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. The warranty coverage extends to seven years for the engine and transmission if cars “undergo scheduled log-book servicing.”
The warranty for the hybrid batteries can be extended to 10 years/unlimited kilometres with an annual hybrid health inspection carried out as part of normal 12-monthly servicing from the fifth year.
There are very few examples of a new car improving on its predecessor in every meaningful way, however, one such example is the new Toyota RAV4. Performance, refinement and efficiency are all noticeably better.
Australian buyers have had a long wait for a hybrid RAV4 to arrive, it’s been worth it. The overall package represents compelling value for money, as long as you can deal with a face that only a mother could truly love.
2020 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid Specifications
Price from $41,640 2WD and $44,640 AWD plus on-road costs Powertrain 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid Power 160kW @ 5700rpm 2WD 163kW @ 5700rpm AWD Torque 221Nm 3600-5200rpm (petrol engine) Transmission CVT automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 4.7L/100km 2WD 4.8L/100km AWD Tank Capacity 55L Length 4615mm Width 1865mm Height 1690mm Wheelbase 2690mm Kerb Weight 1690kg 2WD 1745kg AWD Ground Clearance 190mm Turning Circle 11m Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty five year/unlimited kilometre