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2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid: Hands-on review

Toyota puts the fun back into recreation.

Picture not described: ToyotaRav4_Finder_783x410.jpg Image: Finder

The RAV4 is an important car for Toyota in Australia. At the end of the 2019's first quarter, it was Toyota's third most popular model down under, moving 4,855 units. Needless to say in the hotly contested medium SUV market, the latest incarnation of the RAV4 needs to be a home run.

And to that point, Toyota has done its homework. Armed with the insight that "a large portion of the market is purchasing SUVs with the idea that they will recreate more, however, due to their busy lifestyles, the vehicle spends more time in the car park at work or at home," Toyota has gone about building a car that will get people out of the city and using these SUV vehicles for what they were built for. Recreation.

In theory, this is great, because the great outdoors are there to be explored. But has Toyota executed well enough on this?

We travelled to Adelaide to get behind the wheel of the new GXL and Cruiser Hybrid variants, which have increased price points of $41,140 and $44,640 respectively. Spoiler alert, the Toyota RAV4 is a vast improvement on its predecessor, in almost every sense.

A new look for the RAV4

The styling of the 2019 RAV4 has been completely overhauled and for the better. The new look front end gives the RAV a more aggressive and rugged appearance, throwing off those city slicker stereotypes.

Despite having an increased wheelbase of 30mm, the 5th gen RAV 4 is actually shorter than the outgoing model, but with a wider track and more ground clearance.

What's it like to drive?

Granted, we only spent a day or so driving around in the new RAV4, but we were quite impressed by Toyota's engineering efforts.

With a previous model of the RAV4 in the family, I have had my fair share of driving it and it has never been a favourite of mine for a range of reasons, but it seems as though Toyota has addressed all my qualms.

In previous models, I found the seats to be quite uncomfortable, making you sit in almost a hunched position, however, there is none of that in the new 2019 model. The seats are quite comfortable and you wouldn't have a problem travelling long distances in them.

Steering is light and accurate, and coupled with the reversing cameras and the rear cross traffic alert, the vehicle is easy to maneuver, meaning that even though tracks and trails are a focus, it still hasn't compromised its urban credentials.

The ride was quite comfortable and the body roll was kept under control too. Toyota has implemented the new TNGA platform (Toyota New Global Architecture) in this latest iteration of the RAV4 and the improvements are obvious.

You get a whole suite of technology dubbed the Toyota Safety Sense Suite, ensuring you and your passengers' safety at all times. The suite includes a camera and radar-based pre-collision safety assist with Autonomous Emergency Braking along with day and night pedestrian detection. During the day the RAV4 will also detect cyclists too, just like the Corolla ZR Hybrid we recently tested.

Also included is active cruise control, road sign assist, lane departure warning with steering assist, a blind-spot monitor and a lane trace assist, which will gently adjust the direction of the car on straight stretches of road and slight bends. The implementation is much less aggressive than those of other manufacturers.

Other notable inclusions are dual zone climate control, smart key entry plus push-button start.

New 2019 Toyota RAV4 range Image: Supplied

In the cabin

We were impressed with the fit and finish inside the Cruiser in particular. With the addition of leather-accented seats and door trim, there's a premium feel that was missing on older RAV 4 incarnations.

Offroad

The 2019 RAV4 Edge model includes a multi-terrain system that changes various setting within the vehicle to handle mud and sand, rock and dirt or snow surfaces.

We did take the Hybrid RAV4 along Sellicks Beach in Adelaide during our test drive. And while we didn't test the Edge model with the multi-terrain system, we didn't have any concerns or worries when travelling over the sand in the vehicle.

This is down to the smart "trail' mode which ensures that the all-wheel-drive system is always providing the right amount of traction regardless of the surface underfoot.

Entertainment

One of the pain points with Toyota in recent years has been the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and this continues to persist, for the time being. The 8-inch touchscreen is much the same as the systems in Toyota's other vehicles.

Toyota has confirmed, though, that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be made available in the fourth quarter of 2019. If you wish to have this fitted, we have been told that you can take your vehicle back to the dealer and the new system will be retrofitted free of charge – a move in the right direction from Toyota.

That aside, you get full Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM, DAB+ digital radio as well as satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates.

The Cruiser that we jumped behind the wheel of also included a 9-speaker JBL sound system, which sounded punchy, and also featured a wireless phone charging bay. Along with the wireless charger, there are five USB points throughout the vehicle, four of which are fast charging, so no-one in the car should run out of battery.

What is the new RAV4 Hybrid engine like?

Solid. The 2.5-litre petrol hybrid setup we tested gets the car up to speed quite well, with both the electric and petrol engines working together when your foot is through it. We can't really speak to fuel efficiency for that reason, but Toyota claims that the 2WD hybrid will use a planet-saving 4.7 litres per 100kms.

Key stats: 2.5-litre petrol Hybrid RAV4

Maximum power (2WD/AWD)160kW/163kW
Maximum torque221Nm
Fuel tank size55 litres

The tank is also good for a range of over 1,000kms, which means that any recreational activities that you have in mind between Sydney and Melbourne can be sought on a single tank.

When running off the electric engine only, the JBL system comes into its own with road noise in the cabin being kept to a minimum.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Image: Supplied

Is the Hybrid RAV4 practical?

Luggage space has been increased in the 2019 RAV4, meaning it now has 580 litres of luggage space with all the seats up. With the rear seats folded down, you're looking at an impressive 1,690 litres. These are class-leading numbers, helped by the smart positioning of the onboard battery pack.

"On the RAV4 Hybrid, the battery is located under the rear seats, which means that there's no sacrifice to luggage volume and the centre of gravity is also slightly lowered," Toyota told us.

If you are looking to tow, inspect the tow weights closely. While the AWD hybrid models have a braked towing capacity of 1,500kgs, the front-wheel-drive version will only haul 480kgs.

The verdict

We're looking forward to having a longer, more thorough test of the all-new Hybrid RAV4 in the near future, however, we were pretty impressed with the vehicles we tested in Adelaide.

If you're in the market for a medium-sized hybrid SUV, it might be worth waiting and taking the RAV4 for a test drive when it's available at your local dealership.

Until then, stay tuned.

Alex Jeffs travelled to Adelaide as a guest of Toyota.

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Alex Jeffs is the senior publisher for personal, car and business finance at Finder. He has been building websites since he was 14 years old and has tested cars everywhere from race tracks to Oodnadatta. See full bio

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