Car Reviews

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review

Toby Hagon’s 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In a nutshell: Fifth generation of the car that kickstarted the whole soft-roader genre a quarter of a century ago has come out fighting with a hybrid drivetrain option for the first time and vastly improved dynamics.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Specifications

Price $38,140+ORCs Warranty 5 years, unlimited km Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety Not rated Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and electric motors Power 160kW/163kW (2WD/AWD) Torque 221Nm (petrol engine), 202Nm (electric motor) Transmission CVT auto Drive Front- or all-wheel drive Dimensions 4600mm (L), 1855mm (W), 1685mm (H), 2690mm (WB) (Edge dimensions slightly different) Ground Clearance 190mm (Hybrid models), 195mm (petrol models) Kerb Weight From 1515kg – 1745kg Angles 17.5 degrees (approach), 20.0 degrees (departure) Towing 480kg (2WD Hybrid), 800kg (2WD 2.0 models), 1500kg (AWD Hybrid and 2.5 AWD) GVM 2125kg (2.0 CVT), 2185kg (Hybrid 2WD), 2230kg (Hybrid 4WD), 2215kg (2.5 4WD Edge) Boot Space 542L (or 580L with boot floor lowered) Spare Space saver Fuel Tank 55L Thirst 4.7L/100km (2WD Hybrid), 4.8L/100km (AWD Hybrid)

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Toyota’s mid-sized SUV has come under intense pressure in recent years, but Toyota has come out fighting with the fifth generation car that offers a hybrid system for the first time in Australia.

That combination of electric motors with a petrol engine helps the RAV4 stand out among its competitors, providing an affordable fuel-saving model that is expected to account for almost half of sales.

More equipment and a vastly improved driving experience set the scene for a car that promises to take the fight to the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Key to the RAV’s funkier appeal is more aggressive styling, which incorporates elements of the American Tacoma pick-up truck (ute) and the 4Runner SUV.

At 4600mm long and 1855mm wide the body is 5mm shorter but 10mm wider than the model it replaces, and it also sits lower. The new RAV4 utilises Toyota’s latest TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform that also underpins the Prius, Corolla, Camry and C-HR.

What’s in the range and how much does it cost? The price of the entry-level RAV4 GX with a manual gearbox jumps $1190 to $30,640. The auto most owners will choose costs another $2000 and it’s a CVT, or continuously variable transmission, with the ability to vary engine speed according to conditions and driving style.

Like all RAV4 models the GX comes loaded with the latest active safety equipment that incorporates autonomous emergency braking (AEB), rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning and mild steering assistance.

8 things you need to know about new Toyota Rav4

There’s also digital radio tuning and satellite-navigation displayed on an 8.0-inch touchscreen, part of a significant step up in gear. Other standard kit includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera, parking sensors front and rear, electric park brake, heated and folding exterior mirrors, adaptive (radar) cruise control, a single USB plug and satellite-navigation.

The base GX is powered by a 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, well up on the 107kW of its predecessor.

The RAV4 will also be the first Toyota to come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity – albeit with a catch. Early cars imported into Australia will have to be retrofitted late in 2019, something that won’t cost owners anything.

Elsewhere across the range prices have in some cases dropped thousands. And the step up to the GX Hybrid is a modest $2500 ($35,140), with a four-wheel drive system adding another $3000; the four-wheel drive system includes an additional electric motor to operate on the rear wheels. All Hybrid RAVs also get dual-zone air-conditioning and push button start.

However, that step up to a 4WD means the most affordable four-wheel drive RAV4 now costs $38,140 (the GX Hybrid AWD), a full $3650 leap over the outgoing model (the 2.0 engine is not offered with AWD). Hybrid RAVs team a new 2.5-litre four-cylinder with an 88kW electric motor for a combined 160kW of power. All-wheel drive Hybrid models also get a 40kW electric motor to power the rear wheels, increasing that total system output to 163kW.

From there it’s a step up to the GXL ($35,640 as a front-drive petrol, $38,140 as a front-drive Hybrid or $41,140 as a Hybrid AWD), which adds 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 17-inch), Qi wireless phone charging, four more USB charging ports (for five in total), leather-wrapped steering wheel, as well as dual-zone ventilation and smart key entry available on some GX models. There are also various styling tweaks, including dual exhausts and roof rails.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

Next step up is the Cruiser, also offered as a front-drive petrol, front-drive Hybrid or AWD Hybrid ($39,140/$41,640/$44,640). It gets partial leather seats (there’s also fake leather), sunroof, heated and electrically operated front seats, ambient lighting, power tailgate, nine-speaker JBL audio system, 19-inch alloy wheels and a unique 7.0-inch instrument cluster with more detailed trip computer information and displays.

The Cruiser also gets a silver grille and chrome door handles, as well an additional silver strip between the tail lights, something that creates quite a different look from behind.

There’s only one non-hybrid all-wheel drive model in the RAV4 lineup and it’s the most expensive model, known as Edge ($47,140). It drops leather for Softex fake “leather-look” seats and gets some unique styling elements for a more rugged look. They include a front skid plate and unique bumpers, grille and wheel arches. There are also some orange touches inside.

8 things you need to know about new Toyota Rav4

It also has unique 19-inch alloys and some additional off-road features, including a terrain select system that can tailor electronics to mud and sand, rock and dirt, or snow. The new top-of-the-range Edge model gets the 2.5-litre engine used on its own, something that makes 152kW and 243Nm. It is also the only new RAV4 to get a regular automatic transmission (instead of a CVT), now with eight ratios.

Only the base GX can be fitted with a full-sized spare tyre, something that is optional. All others have a space saver that reduces the recommended top speed to 80km/h.

What’s the interior and practicality like? The interior has elements of Tonka truck to it, from the tyre tread-like surrounds of the ventilation dials and lightweight air vents to the grey plastic door handles and smooth overhead grab handles. Among some quality finishes they are rare blemishes in what is a spacious, functional cabin. Various cubbyholes also take care of odds and ends, although there’s nowhere large enough to conceal an iPad.

8 things you need to know about new Toyota Rav4

What are the front seats like? There’s great adjustability to the seating position and seats that have some plushness to their surface but enough support for long journeys.

What’s the back seat like? it’s all about space in the new RAV4. While the exterior dimensions haven’t changed wildly – it’s marginally shorter but a fraction wider than the car it replaces – those in the rear will appreciate the efforts with packaging. Legroom and head room are both terrific by class standards and there’s a comfy arm rest with twin cupholders. All models get rear air vents for better ventilation.

The only space issues likely to kick in if you align three big people hip-to-hip. The seats themselves are snug with good back support and they can be reclined slightly. One of the only negatives is that the rear seat doesn’t slide forward and back. That and storage space that is less forthcoming; there’s only one seatback pocket and small door binnacle.

8 things you need to know about new Toyota Rav4

What’s the boot space like? The flat, broad reversible boot floor gives the option of a hard or carpeted surface. It’s a useful addition for those heading to the beach, where wet towels would otherwise threaten to dampen the carpet. Plus, you can drop that boot floor a few centimetres to take capacity from 542 litres to 580L, in the process creating a recess in the centre of the floor.

What are the controls and infotainment like? The 8.0-inch touchscreen is nicely positioned on top of the dash, even if it looks a tad like an afterthought. Like other parts of the interior, it’s more functional than elegant, the plastics basic rather than classy.

Proper volume and tuning dials are a step up from other Toyotas and teams with eight menu buttons to allow easy access of main functions. Again, there’s nothing particularly elegant or innovative about it, but it nails the functionality.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

It’s a shame the reversing camera display lacks the clarity and crispness of some newer vehicles, cost cutting the apparent culprit. There similar hot-and-coldness elsewhere. The traditional tacho and speedo of GX and GXL works better than the semi-digital display of the Cruise and Edge. That’s because you can easily access a digital speedo in the small trip computer display splitting the two on the more basic version. On the Cruiser and Edge it is either/or between a regular and digital speedo.

Keeping devices topped up should be easy courtesy of a plethora of USB ports on all but the GX (which gets a single USB). There’s one below the centre console (near the wireless charging pad on GXL models and above), another two in the centre console and two more in the rear.

Two other minor gripes, each to do with locking doors and windows. The first revolves around the window lock to stop kids playing with the rear electric windows; it also locks the front passenger out, which could make your other half less than content. The second relates to exiting the car, because the passenger door doesn’t open automatically without first unlatching the lock. It means it’s a double movement to get out of the car if the driver is dropping you off (when the car turns off all doors unlock).

What’s the performance like? There’s the choice of three petrol-powered drivetrains with the new RAV4. The diesel engine available previously has been dropped, a hybrid system filling its space as the fuel miser of the RAV4 lineup (and one with far cleaner emissions than the diesel).

It’s that hybrid that provides the most interesting combination for the RAV4, providing an affordable and frugal alternative that no competitors match (Mitsubishi has a more advanced plug-in hybrid of its Outlander, but it’s a lot more expensive).

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

The RAV4 Hybrid pairs a 131kW/221Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with an 88kW/202Nm electric motor. Combined, the two make 160kW of power (Toyota doesn’t claim a combined torque peak), the CVT (continuously variable transmission) constantly adjusting to harness what’s on offer.

If you choose the all-wheel drive model there is another 40kW/121Nm electric motor exclusively for the rear wheels, something that steps the peak power up to 163kW. In regular driving there’s little to separate the performance of the two- and four-wheel drive Hybrid models, the additional 55kg of the AWD models cancelling out the minor output gains.

But each dishes up better-than-expected acceleration, the easily-available torque of the electric motor complemented by the high-revving enthusiasm of the petrol engine. The all-wheel drive is generally nicer courtesy of its superior traction from a standstill, better masking some of the very mild torque steer (or steering wheel tugging) when cornering at low speeds.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

The big drawcard with the Hybrid is the promise of using less fuel. Like all RAVs, it uses regular unleaded fuel, claimed consumption at 4.7 litres per 100km for the 2WD and 4.8L/100km for the 4WD. That’s around 3L/100km less than most petrol-powered class rivals. Assuming petrol costs of $1.50 a litre and an average 15,000km travelled annually, it promises fuel savings of almost $700 per year.

That in itself will be a big tempter for families looking to lower running costs, especially considering the relatively sharp pricing; sure, the Hybrid costs more than similarly-specified rivals, but the payback should take no more than a few years.

Those wanting a cheaper price of entry can choose the 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder, also mated to a CVT. It’s not as effortless as the Hybrid, instead having to rev harder to shuffle things along. That’s less of an issue around town – albeit with some raucous sounds when the engine is working hard – but loses its lustre on the open road, especially if you encounter big hills.

Like the Hybrid, the 2.0 gets a CVT, although there’s also a traditional first gear that adds crispness when taking off from a standstill. It’s an innovative solution that debuted in the Corolla and, like that car it works cleanly in everyday driving, the handover from first-gear auto to CVT similar to a traditional auto transmission gearchange.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

For the traditionalists, the RAV4 Edge gets a 2.5-litre petrol engine with no electric assistance. It’s mated to a new eight-speed automatic, one that works well in utilising the full 152kW and 243Nm on offer. With its lighter body than the Hybrid, the Edge 2.5 brings a welcome perkiness, albeit with higher fuel use (7.3L/100km is the claim) as a penalty.

What’s it like on the road? Those stepping out of an older RAV4 are in for a revelation with the new model. Riding on the latest TNGA platform (Toyota New Global Architecture) it is lighter and stiffer and fitted with new suspension for a vastly more convincing driving experience.

Steering is responsive and backed with precise yet predictable responses. The body is nicely controlled over undulations and through corners and there’s a newfound agility that makes for the most enjoyable Toyota SUV to drive on regular roads.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

Whether it’s the 17-inch tyres of the GX, the 18s of GXL or the 19s of the Cruiser or Edge, there’s also an impressive level of grip available. That’s something that helps exploit the raw ability of the car, drivers rewarded with confidence and control if you step up the pace.

Mild criticisms include noticeable tyre noise on some surfaces and some fidgeting of the ride comfort at low speeds. Suspension compliance is more forthcoming above 70km/h, the more intense inputs somehow more confidently absorbed.

What’s it like off the road? Toyota would like you to think the RAV4 is adventurous, one of the taglines being “return of recreation”. Grey bumpers, grey wheel arch surrounds and side skirts provide the requisite rugged aesthetics, although in reality the RAV4 is a softie at heart.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

Unlike the hardcore Prado and LandCruiser, the RAV4 is very much a city slicker, focused on safely traversing the suburbs and a trip to the ski fields. That said, there is at least 190mm of ground clearance, which should assist in traversing rough tracks, while the all-wheel drive system includes a Trail mode that tailors throttle response and traction control to slippery conditions, helping with grip.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

We trialled it on some specially-prepared light-duty tracks at the launch and it performed fine, although the limitation were apparent. With a wheel hanging in the air it took a second or two for the traction control to figure things out, plenty of wheelspin in the interim. It’s also worth keeping in mind that you can’t fit a spare tyre in the boot of any of the four-wheel drive models.

Does it have a spare? Only the base RAV4 GX can be fitted with a full-sized spare tyre, something that eliminates the ability to lower the boot floor due to the space it consumes. That, in turn, reduces luggage capacity ever so slightly, although for many the trade-off will be more than worth it. All other models come with a space-saver spare, which limits the top speed to 80km/h.

Can you tow with it? All RAV4s can tow something, although it depends on which drivetrain you get to determine how much it can take. The least useful in the towing department are RAV4s with the hybrid system driving just the front wheels. Each can tow 480kg. Those cars with a 2.0-litre engine step that up to 800kg. All four-wheel drive RAV4s – the Hybrids and 2.5 Edge – can tow up 1500kg.

What about ownership? The RAV4 is covered by Toyota’s five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and the nickel-metal hydride batteries as part of the hybrid system gets coverage for eight years. Servicing costs are capped for the first five years or 75,000km, each service costing just $210. But Toyota dangles some carrots to encourage people to keep the checks regular. If you get the battery checked annually after five years of ownership the battery warranty extends to 10 years.

What safety features does it have? Part of the step up in price for the current RAV4 is attributable to the active safety equipment fitted to all models.

A forward-facing radar and camera provide high speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as well as lane departure warning with mild steering assistance. The lane departure warning is somewhat frustrating because it lets out a trio of beeps, prompting you to swiftly press the button on the steering wheel to turn it off. Blind spot warning is more subtle and useful, as is the rear cross traffic alert. Results for ANCAP independent crash testing haven’t yet been released, but Toyota is anticipating a five-star rating.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review

Editor's Rating

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Practical Motoring Says The RAV4 brings an affordable fuel-saving hybrid drivetrain to the popular mid-sized SUV category – and it’s a combination that delivers with more than respectable performance. That is also has loads of space, family-friendly functionality and genuine driving nous cements the latest RAV as a classy mid-sized SUV worth popping on the shortlist.

Toby Hagon

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.