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Car reviews - Toyota - RAV4 - GXL 2WD HYBRID

Our Opinion

We like
Performance, fuel economy, supple suspension, roomy interior, resale value
Room for improvement
Misplaced interior door handles, dealership wait times, miserable towing capacity, front-wheel drive traction

The RAV4 hybrid beats diesel for emissions, economy and grunt

23 Aug 2022



THERE is a RAV4 for almost everybody in an 11-model range that offers front- and all-wheel drive, hybrid petrol/electric and straight petrol powertrains. On test, we are looking at the mid-spec, front-wheel drive GXL hybrid that sells for $40,450 plus on-road costs.


RAV4 customers overwhelmingly choose hybrid variants for good reason… they’re cheap to run compared to ICE vehicles and have plenty of get-go. This particular RAV4 is good for around 4.5 – 5.0 litres per 100km economy if you try... Better than a diesel engine by a longshot and nearly half what the 2.5-litre petrol model is capable of.


Extrapolate that to the bowser and it means big weekly savings for the average family.


Hybrid powertrains might be considered a stop gap en-route to full electrification but the fact remains Toyota’s hybrid petrol electric vehicles are about as good as they get. And they’re not as inconvenient as half-baked plug-ins (PHEVs), thank goodness.


You just jump in, drive, and occasionally put in some (91 RON) petrol. No cables, no plugs, no waiting around, no worries.


Underneath is pretty much a direct lift from Camry hybrid which means a 2.5-litre, petrol four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine mated to an electric “motor generator” running through a CVT transmission to the front wheels.


Total output is a claimed 160kW, but Toyota is cagey about the powertrain’s total torque, which feels like 350Nm or more with both power sources operating at capacity.


The five-seat RAV4 rides on a conventional MacStrut front and multi-link rear suspension just like Camry and is roughly the same size obviously with more interior space due to the wagon body. It has a purposeful, some might say aggressive look, to its angular face and flanks that are pleasingly different to the generic rounded look of many competitors.


The GXL does well in terms of exterior kit with auto LED headlights, tail lights and daytime running lights, front fog lamps, heated and folding electric exterior mirrors, automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers, rear window wiper, hatch-top spoiler, shark-fin antenna, roof rails, privacy glass, dual oval tailpipes, 18-inch alloy wheels (with a 17-inch temporary spare) and front and rear mudflaps.


Inside is similarly well catered with “premium” embossed fabric seats, a leather-accented steering wheel with steering wheel controls, leather-accented shift lever, auto-dimming rear view mirror, 60:40 folding rear seat back, rear armrest with integrated cup holders, two-level reversible (carpet one side/resin other) boot deck board (which is not available with full-size spare wheel option), sunglass storage, front and rear door bins with bottle holders, 4.2-inch Multi-Info Display (MID), Hybrid-specific indicator (Hybrid only), front 12V DC accessory socket.


From a safety perspective the RAV4 GXL scores with Toyota’s Safety Sense package that includes a reversing camera with guidance lines in GXL.


Comfort and convenience features include dual-zone climate control with rear vents, a Qi wireless phone charger and keyless ignition, while the infotainment system uses an 8.0-inch touchscreen incorporating, sat-nav with SUNA service, voice control, SIRI and ToyotaLink services.


Drive Impressions


Performance is not an issue in RAV4 hybrid, with plenty of get-go available across the full operating spectrum. It can be driven short distances in full EV mode but why would you bother as you’d only get a couple of kays down the road.


During the test, we averaged around the 6.0-litres/100km mark for mixed driving. It is better on the freeway with that figure clicking down into the 5.0s using regular 91 unleaded.


We found it best to leave the RAV4 to manage itself by simply leaving it in D, which elicits the best all-round balance between performance and economy.   


Perhaps the only downside to the front-wheel drive version of the hybrid system is a tendency to spin the wheels when you use too much throttle from a standstill. This is exacerbated on a wet road which demands judicious throttle application. Once underway the front drive hooks up nicely, driving the RAV4 just like a medium size hatchback. 


Ride quality is a good compromise between comfort and handling bearing in mind this is a family SUV. On rough roads, a degree of bump thump is transmitted through the tyres, dampers and into the cabin but otherwise passengers are well insulated.


Tyre grip is acceptable in all normal driving environments.


It steers well for a medium SUV with fairly neutral responses, limited by the tyres and the height/weight of the vehicle itself.


The CVT feels sharp and efficient, a lot like a conventional fluid auto but rolling forward can be an issue if parked on a hill with the car in R for reverse.


Three drive modes are provided offering Eco, Normal and Sport each with its own setting for throttle response, gear changing and other dynamic functions.


We left it in Normal mode as Eco dents performance too much and Sport increases engine revs, causing an urgent drive feel.


On test, we found the RAV4 GXL a comfortable proposition over a long drive with well-shaped and supported seats and multiple adjustments to the driving position. It’s quiet too, especially when cruising at speed on the freeway.


Rear seat room is good for a vehicle this size as is load space down the back… expandable of course with folded rear seats.


The GXL is mid-range spec and as such has a reasonable amount of kit and nicely styled interior with cloth upholstery on the seats. Driver information is conveyed through an easy to read instrument pod with all vehicle controls close at hand for the drive. Still no provision for passengers to use satnav on the move though. 


Towing capacity is a miserable 480kg on the FWD hybrid (between 800 and 1500kg on other models).


Overall, we liked driving this particular RAV4 as it offers strong performance and good economy in a “right size” package with distinctive angular styling and a reasonable amount of standard features. 


This is generation five of the RAV4 so Toyota knows a thing or two about making them. It shows in the latest model which ticks most of the boxes. That is, of course, if you can get hold of one…

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