A fifth of Toyotas sold in the UK are hybrids so it£€™s surprising it is only now that the RAV4 SUV is available as one. The new RAV is futuristic looking, a bigger vehicle than before and great news for company car drivers wanting to minimise tax or motorists wanting to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
But while you can buy a turbo diesel for £23,695, hybrids start at £28,020. Pick the front-wheel drive version and its CO2 emissions are rated at 115g/km compared to 118g/km for the car tested which has a second electric motor powering the rear wheels so creating a 4×4.
There is no mechanical connection between the front and rear wheels unlike with a conventional 4×4 which might also have differential locks for tough off-road conditions.
All-wheel drive means more brake energy is saved as electricity than with two wheel drive. Manufacturers are doing their best to blend regenerative braking with hydraulic braking, but there is still an inconsistent feeling through the brake pedal.
This is the most powerful RAV4 made in Europe so far with a total output of 194bhp. Acceleration from stationary to 62mph takes 8.4 seconds and top speed is 112mph, but with the extra 175kg of nickel-metal-hydride batteries it never feels that fast.
And because the 2494cc petrol engine hasn£€™t much low down torque you have to rev it to get the performance. Couple this with the irritating continuously variable automatic transmission and this is a car happiest cruising main roads.
You can select electric vehicle mode, Eco mode or Sport mode if you can find the switch! The one electric motor delivers up to 141bhp to the front wheels and the other 68bhp to the rear ones.
The motors are always operating while the petrol engine cuts in for the best balance of performance and fuel efficiency depending on road conditions and driver inputs. Even on a very gentle throttle, it£€™s hard to stay only on electric power for more than half a mile.
Overall fuel consumption was 37.1mpg with a best of 46.5 mpg. The steering is electrically assisted and low on £€˜feel.£€™ In Excel trim the test car was very well kitted out, including leather seats, but it cost £31,990 without optional metallic paint at £545 and a £750 £€˜touch and go£€™ pack.
The pack adds a 7in colour screen, six-speaker stereo, CD player, satellite navigation, text to speech function, SMS text and email display, online connectivity and Bluetooth phone connection.
The car also had a colour rear camera, LED headlights and tail lights, electric rear tailgate, keyless entry and engine start, dual zone air-conditioning, heated seats, electrically adjustable driver£€™s seat and radar cruise control. The satellite navigation screen was sometimes behind the car£€™s actual position which made life £€˜entertaining.£€™
A tray on the centre console looks like a mobile phone charging plate but isn£€™t. The RAV4 will seat four people easily and five for shorter journeys. The boot is a big 500 litres, although with the back seats folded there£€™s a ridge in the floor.
The electric tailgate didn£€™t always open first press on the remote but you find that with a lot of cars. General storage includes good size cup holders but the door pockets are narrow.
There is a big bin between the front seats with a built-in tray and large pockets on the backs of the front seats. The RAV comes with a five-year pan-European mechanical warranty, 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and three-year paintwork guarantee. Servicing is every 10,000 miles or annually. Insurance is group 29.
Also consider: Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5.
Verdict Makes sense for company car drivers. Others better with diesel