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First Drive

First Drive: Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid

The story:
Toyota is introducing a new generation of its small off-roader, this time with just a hybrid petrol-electric powertrain.
Category:Mid-size SUV
Key rival:VW Tiguan
Toyota Rav4 2.5 hybrid CVT FWD Excel
On sale:Now

Even if the new RAV4 wasn’t much good as a car, Toyota would still have a company car winner on its hands thanks to the new hybrid powerplant under the bonnet.

A CO2 figure of 105g/km in a large family SUV means a benefit-in-kind tax band of 25% from April this year – when the car arrives in the UK. In isolation, a 25% band may not sound that low, but if you look at the car’s rivals, the Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan, the best they can do is 29% (from the hybrid CR-V). That equates to a saving of more than £1500 over a three-year term. For diesel rivals the RAV4 offers that level of saving each year for a 40% taxpayer. If that’s not enough, lower-specification versions with smaller wheels creep into the
24% CO2 tax band.

First Drive - March 19 - Toyota RAV4- Image 10This is a substantial saving for the user-choosers who are expected to go for the RAV4. However, if that’s not enough to sway buyers, the latest RAV4 is also a good car without the financial aspect.

Only one powertrain is offered in the UK – a 2.5-litre hybrid that produces a total power of 219hp in the all-wheel drive version or 215hp in the front-drive car.

Acceleration is good, if not outstanding, with 0-60mph times of 8.1 seconds and 8.4 seconds respectively. The acceleration, or rather a by-product of it, is also the car’s Achilles heel. If you want to access that performance there’s a lot of, not very pleasant, noise that comes with it. In part this is due to the CVT gearbox that has a tendency to offer big revs with not a huge amount of provocation.

Deliberately gentle acceleration does at least result in impressively quite progress, particularly if you’re used to a diesel engine, and on the motorway the RAV4 is particularly refined.

The economy isn’t bad either at just shy of 50mpg for the higher-spec all-wheel-drive cars and a little more than that for the lower-spec front-drive cars. On our test of the car we achieved an average of 42mpg.

The engine acceleration noise aside, the RAV4 drives well. The steering is accurate, making it easy to place on the road, and there’s little body roll when cornering, even if it doesn’t exactly encourage you to seek out twisty B-roads,.

First Drive - March 19 - Toyota RAV4- Image 14Inside, there’s more room than ever before, with plenty of front- and rear-seat space for adults. The boot is up 79 litres to a very healthy 580 litres despite the car being 5mm shorter than its predecessor.

Build quality is, as you’d expect from a Toyota, impressive, although the cabin styling isn’t particularly exciting. All versions come with a colour infotainment touchscreen with all but the entry level cars featuring sat-nav. However, it’s not an easy system to use and Toyota doesn’t offer the option of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto yet, so using your phone’s mapping isn’t an easy alternative.

Overall, it’s an exceedingly sensible car to own that’s also a winner on tax.

Tristan Young

The verdict

Not only a very practical and comfortable car, but also a seriously attractive one financially for the
company car driver.