Toyota’s new RAV4 Hybrid promises to bring the company’s eco-friendly technology to its insanely popular crossover SUV. Does it resonate well with the Singaporean car buyer, or does it miss the mark? We find out.
Ever since its debut into the Singapore market in the early 2000s, the RAV4 has enjoyed both commercial and critical success. Local buyers were enamoured with the SUV's versatile character, from its rugged design to its family-centric practical interior. And with every new iteration of the model, the level of seemingly bulletproof engineering, practicality, and build quality only went up.
And now, Toyota is keeping up with the times by offering a more environmentally – and wallet – friendly hybrid variant of their best-selling SUV.
Mechanically, it shares the same underpinnings as its premium Harrier XU80 sibling, which we reviewed earlier this year. Like the Harrier, the RAV4 Hybrid uses Toyota's capable TNGA GA-K platform, and even the same inline-four engine that is complemented by a hybrid system, churning out similar performance figures.
However, things get very different when it comes to design language. Where the Harrier is akin to putting on a tailor-made suit and leather Oxfords, the RAV4 seems more like wearing hiking clothes with thick Timberland boots. Sharp creases, squared-off wheel arches, and plenty of plastic cladding adorn the metal shell of the RAV4 Hybrid. The front fascia alone gives off an aggressive look with its gaping grille and skid plate garnish, hinting at its adventurous nature.
Front, rear, and daytime running lights are an all-LED affair.
I especially like the sharp L-shaped crease on the D-pillars, which accentuate the flared rear arches while keeping the overall design fairly clean. Toyota has also graciously given the RAV4 Hybrid a set of 225/60/R18 Bridgestone Alenza tyres; premium rubber that's usually reserved for high-end SUVs. For added stopping performance, ventilated brake discs are equipped for all four corners.
The RAV4 Hybrid's cabin is surprisingly luxurious, with a full-leather upholstery and soft touch panels on major touch points. Both driver and front passenger seats are electrically-powered with eight-way adjusments. The former also has four-way lumbar adjust with memory function.
Aluminium-finish trim pieces and the 9" Apple Carplay/Android Auto-compatible infotainment screen on the dashboard break the monotony of the interior. Surprisingly, the RAV4 Hybrid does not come with USB ports. Instead, it features a trio of 12V power sockets - one below the seat heater controls, one in the centre armrest storage bin, and one below the rear AC blowers. There is also a Qi wireless charger up front.
Front and centre are the HVAC controls, which are operated via buttons and dials. While no issues were had with the buttons, the rugged-looking textured rubber dials felt a tad loose and lacking in tactility. I would have preferred a more "clickety-click" mechanism when operating them.
Next to the leather-sleeved gear shifter is a series of driving mode buttons - Eco, Normal, Sport, and EV. Apart from EV Mode, I found no discernable difference between the three settings during the driving assessment.
The 7" digital display shows all the critical information clearly, from fuel/power consumption figures to driving assistance settings. Speaking of which, the RAV4 Hybrid is equipped with Toyota Safety Sense, which means Pre-Collision System (PCS), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Control, and Automatic High Beam (AHB). It also has seven airbags all-round.
Sitting behind, the rear leather seats are quite comfortable, fitting three full-sized adults in relative comfort; more than adequate if you are ferrying your family around. ISOFIX mounting points are also available should you need to mount child seats. There are also rear AC blowers installed behind to keep passengers cool throughout.
The powered tailgate opens up fully to reveal the RAV4 Hybrid's rather cavernous boot, providing a capacity of 542 litres. Additionally, there are side pockets available to store smaller items. The load lip is also shallow, which is convenient for loading and unloading purposes.
Lifting up the carpet, you have access to a full-size spare tyre, which has become increasingly rare in today's market. Kudos for providing this, Toyota!
If you're looking for a high performance machine, I regret to inform you that this isn't it. The RAV4 Hybrid is most happy when cruising on the expressway or driving around town, wafting about at a leisurely pace. And with the comfort-oriented eCVT transmission producing a loud drone whenever it's under hard acceleration, you are less inclined to drive the SUV hard. A GR Yaris, this is not.
Its 2.5-litre A25A-FXS Dynamic Force inline-four engine provides about 176hp alone, and 215hp with 221Nm of torque when the electric motor joins in. In full EV mode, it is pin-drop silent although the internal combustion engine kicks in fairly early. I achieved approximately 16.1km/l during the press drive, which is below the official 21.2km/l figure, but still impressive nonetheless.
The steering wheel feels nicely weighted, if not a bit heavy when city driving. Where driving engagement is concerned, I felt a sense of detachment between the steering wheel and the front wheels during the test drive, especially at higher speeds. This is not exactly a deal-breaker as the car is still responsive and stable, but for those seeking a spirited drive, this may be disconcerting.
Suspension-wise, the RAV4 is equipped with MacPherson struts in front, and multilinks at the back. The soft suspension soaks up most bumps and road undulations fairly well, providing an almost gliding experience. While cornering, however, the RAV4 Hybrid is no longer unable to mask its tall dimensions, and moderate body roll can be felt.
Road noise insulation is decent, mostly due to the Alenza rubber that's fitted as standard. Overall noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels are average, though. Driving through torrential downpours, the constant battering of rain droplets against the RAV4's body became unbearably loud and emanated throughout the cabin. Even when the audio system was almost at max volume, it was still drowned out by the external noises. More sound insulation is definitely welcomed for subsequent iterations.
The RAV4 comes with Toyota Safety Sense as standard, which is quite generous at this price point. Functions mentioned earlier in the article include Lane Departure Alert with Steering Control and Pre-Collision System (PCS).
During the press drive, my team and I noticed that the sensors were not functioning as well as intended, often allowing the car to ride along the lane markers before the warning chime finally activated. The steering sway function that's supposed to bring the car back to its lane also did not kick in most of the time.
We suspect that this may be a one-off calibration issue, as the Motorist team's previous experiences with Toyota Safety Sense-equipped vehicles have generally been quite positive.
Priced at S$192,888 at the time of publication, this Toyota faces some stiff competition. For those seeking a performance crossover, the CUPRA Formentor 190 – a mere S$4000 more – is unquestionably the better choice. And for S$9,000 more on top of that, Toyota's more premium Harrier is available.
For all intents and purposes, the RAV4 Hybrid ticks all the right boxes. It is well-engineered, a remarkably fuel-efficient powertrain, and is able to ferry around whole families and their luggages with ease. And while it may not be a perfect machine as we have already established, it is able to accomplish day-to-day errands with nary an issue. We reckon that with a bit more effort put in to further refine the car, the RAV4 can easily become the class leader.
S$192,888 (inclusive of COE)VES Banding: A2
Engine: 2.5-litre NA inline four-cylinder engine
Motor: 3NM Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
Power: 176 bhp (ICE only) / 215bhp (combined)
Torque: 221 Nm
Fuel Consumption: 21.2 km/l (official) / 16.1 km/l (recorded)
0-100km/h: 8.1 seconds
Top Speed: 180 km/h
Drivetrain: eCVT, Front-Wheel-Drive
Brakes: Ventilated discs (front & rear)
Suspension: MacPherson (front) / Multi-link (rear)
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,600 mm x 1,855mm x 1,685 mm
Kerb Weight: 1,610 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres
Boot Capacity: 542 litres
Tyres: 225/60 R18
18" aluminium wheels
Electric front seats with eight way adjustments / four-way lumbar adjustments and memory function (for driver's seat only)
9" infotainment system with Android Auto & Apple Carplay integration
Qi wireless charger
7" multi-information digital display
3 12V power sockets
Body Control with Torque Demand
LED lights (headlights/taillights/DRLs/foglights)
Full-size spare tyre
Toyota Safety Sense
Pre-Collision System (PCS)
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
Lane Departure Alert with Steering Control
Automatic High Beam (AHB)
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