2019 Toyota RAV4 Review
Paul Horrell’s 2019 Toyota RAV4 Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL Massively better than the last RAV4. Lots of space, a nice cabin, and civilised ride are the highlights. There’s no diesel this time. Economical hybrid is offered in a clever 4WD system.
2019 TOYOTA RAV4 HYBRID Specifications (Europe)
Price N/A Warranty 5 years/unlimited km Engine 2.5L petrol hybrid System Power 160kW (FWD) 163kW (AWD) System Torque NA Transmission CVT auto Drive front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive Body 4600mm (l); 1855mm (w exc mirrors); NAmm (w inc mirrors); 1685mm (h) Turning circle 11.0m Towing weight 800kg (FWD) 1650kg (AWD) (braked), 750kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1590kg (FWD) 1650 (AWD) Seats 5 Fuel tank 55 litres Spare Space saver Thirst 4.5l/100km combined cycle (NEDC)
The outgoing RAV4 was the world’s best-selling SUV or crossover. Here in Australia more than 300,000 of them have found homes since 1994.
But rather than gently evolve the winning formula, Toyota has pushed hard with this one. It’s got a chunky new look and much nicer interior. The body and platform are all-new too, and that has brought better proportions. The longer wheelbase makes the cabin roomier, but the shorter overhangs improve the looks. It’s also lower, and has a lower centre of gravity, yet it has better ground clearance.
What is the Toyota Rav4?
The hybrid AWD system might look like the classic soft city-dweller’s choice, but it’s better than that. Toyota’s hybrid systems are capable of high mileages in heavy use with unimpeachable reliability. The RAV4 has a Prius-type (but more powerful) hybrid drive for the front wheels, and an additional electric motor for the rears. That isn’t only astonishingly fuel-efficient, but it allows fine torque-control for surprising off-road smarts.
The Oz range also includes a front-drive version of the hybrid. We tried that too on the overseas launch event. Overseas chassis and engine tuning is the same as Australia’s local spec.
Australia will also get a non-hybrid version with an eight-speed autobox (not the continuously-variable auto of the hybrid) and a propellor-shaft AWD system. Even that has a clever wrinkle: torque-apportioning rear clutches to send effort to whichever side has grip, like the system used by Land Rover in the Discovery Sport. But that one wasn’t available at the overseas event, nor the front-driven entry-level non-hybrid 2.0-litre.
Toyota now offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and you can get your money back for any failure that prevents the vehicle being driveable for the first 60 days of ownership.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
It’s roomy everywhere you look. It feels commanding and chunky from up front, and outward vision to the front and sides is good, and to the rear aided by a reversing camera.
The seats are cushy and the top specs have heating and fan-cooling. They adjust in plenty of directions and with lots of range.
In the back three adults will find plenty enough legroom, foot space and head clearance. The seat has an adjustable backrest angle too. Two vents and two USBs sit in the centre.
The boot is 580 litres of good box-shaped area. It can have an electric door if you want but it’s annoying slow to do its thing. The luggage cover is a flimsy blind, but at least if you don’t want it in place you won’t have a rigid cover to find a home for. The boot floor reverses to a plastic side if you’re carrying a wet dog or muddy kit. Seats folded, it’ll swallow a 29-er mountain bike wheels-on.
There’s a decent but not huge bin under the front armrest storage, and a tray in front of the passenger, and a bigger than normal inductive charging plate. But cabin storage isn’t too generous besides some recent crossovers such as the Volvo V40 or Citroen C5 Aircross.
The perceived quality is towards the top of the class for mass brands, if not into the premium arena. (But then, the RAV4 has the space of an Audi Q5 – and compare those prices.) The dash and door uppers are wrapped in stitched padded material, and the air-con controls are chunky to grip and feel precise.
The driver’s instruments are part-analogue but with a 7-inch screen in the middle of the cluster. You can configure that to show a small digital speedo plus other trip info, or a bigger analogue speedo, which became my choice. There’s still some space for other readouts in the middle of the speedo dial. None of the screen graphics are very pleasant anyway.
What’s the infotainment like?
The centre-dash touch screen stands proud of the dash in easy reach. You can connect it to the cloud for certain apps and searches. Hard buttons easily switch between navigation, music, settings and so on.
It accepts USB music from a stick or your phone. The optional JBL-branded sound system is pretty tasty, and has a subwoofer in the boot.
But what you can’t do is properly mirror your phone. Since the built-in Toyota mapping system is ugly and cluttered, and doesn’t easily display detailed traffic info, a lot of people are going to be fed-up there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Toyota’s marketing people know this is a problem and say the engineers are working on it, but the solution is months or years away.
What’s the performance like?
Very mixed news here. Despite the reputation of both hybrids and CVTs, this one gives prompt and smooth response to your demands for acceleration. It’s not slow either, with the AWD version doing 0-100km/h in 8.1 seconds and the FWD not far behind at 8.4 sec.
In urban settings things are very quiet – for much of the time silent as you’re nudged along by the electric motors with the engine completely turned off. The hybrid system doesn’t require plugging in, but builds up a buffer of energy in the battery harvests spare energy from coasting and from times when there’s spare engine power.
But as soon as you start to ask for performance the RAV4 reveals its grim side. The engine is rough and noisy, and wails up and down through the rev range every time you so much as twitch your right foot. You’ll need to have the stereo on pretty loudly to overwhelm it.
Still, at least it’s a reminder you’re driving an extremely economical machine. “The official WLTP is 5.7l/100km and you really might get that, whether driving in town or out on the highway.”
What’s it like on the road?
Toyota’s new global platform has done the RAV4 a power of good.
The steering is now decently precise, and the RAV4 tackles corners with less roll than a lot of crossovers. Get keen, mind, and the FWD version will dissolve into understeer. The AWD resists that for longer, but not for ever. But if you wanted to drive like that you probably wouldn’t buy a car like this.
Despite the disciplined roll, the springing is supple. That makes it easy for the driver to keep it on course when the road’s bumpy, and it also keeps things placid for everyone on board. Damping control is adequate-to-good as well, so people shouldn’t get sick.
Wind and road noise are well under control at highway speeds (though the sound of rushing air rises notably at the high end of a European cruise).
What’s it like off the road?
This cushioning suspension means it’s a surprisingly plush carriage for long stints of gravel-road running. Ground clearance is listed at 195mm. The hybrid has diff-lock by brakes – not as effective as the proper torque-apportioning system of the pure-petrol version, but better than nothing. Then, it pulls back credit because the traction-control enabled by the electric motors is very subtle.
Bottom line, on gravel, and over slippery mud, the hybrid is pretty useful. But it doesn’t like very lumpy terrain.
What about safety features?
For international versions, Toyota has installed most features of its latest ‘safety sense’ system on all versions of the RAV4. That means frontal collision warning that sees vehicles and pedestrians (even at night) and cyclists (but only by day). If the driver misses the warning, it’ll auto-brake too.
The suite uses a camera as well as radar to do that, and the visual sensing can also see road signs and keep the driver in the loop over speed limits, and prime the cruise control to take them into account. The cruise is an active system, using the radar to adapt speed to the vehicle in front. It uses the camera for lane-departure warning, but via a manic beeper rather than vibrating the steering wheel which would be more intuitive.
The system also includes ‘lane trace assist’ which is supposed to nudge the car into the centre of its lane when the cruise control is on. Unlike such driver-assist from other carmakers, its touch is very light so there’s no way you can divert your attention even for a second. Which is probably a good thing.
A reversing camera is also standard. Move to the upper grades and the RAV4 also gets blind-spot warning and cross-traffic alert. Driver and front passengers get front and side airbags, and the driver has a knee bag. Curtain bags run the length of the car.