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First Drive

First Drive: Toyota RAV4 PHEV

The story: Toyota adds a plug-in hybrid powertrain to its RAV4 SUV, with an impressive 46 miles of EV range giving the car a big story in terms of benefit-in-kind tax, as well as impressive 306hp from the combined systems.
Key rival:Ford Kuga
On sale:Now

Toyota has jumped straight to the top of the class in terms of plug-in hybrid efficiency, with its new RAV4 outpointing any SUV rival for electric-only range.

Only the Peugeot 3008 can also get into the 6% BiK band by offering at least 40 miles of electric range, but its EV scope is still six miles less than that of the Toyota. The RAV4 is also more efficient once the battery is used up, because it then reverts to a petrol-electric hybrid system rather than just a regular petrol engine. That means a 22g/km efficiency figure.

The combined system also offers more than 300hp, which translates into a 0-62mph time of just six seconds, and on-road performance that surprises for its driving enjoyment.

It’s also a little nimbler than expected, although still a tall SUV shape, so there is some body roll. Nevertheless, the all-round driving experience is neat.

Another impressive part of the driving experience is how far the hybrid systems have come; no longer do they provide more noise than forward momentum. The RAV4 PHEV is easily the most refined Toyota hybrid yet, helped by the lower engine speed possible thanks to the PHEV system. It makes a big difference.

But it’s the efficiency that is key, and that comes from the combination of petrol engine and two electric motors – 134kWh in the front and 40kW in the rear, with an 18.1kWh battery providing the energy.

There are a couple of visual differences that mark out the PHEV RAV4 from its hybrid sibling, such as the dark plating at the bottom of the car, and the dark mesh grille, but it’s very subtle. The plug-in also gets a bespoke interior with a pair of comfortable red-stitched leather seats up front. The boot loses 60 litres to that of the hybrid, but is still a very useful 520 litres, and there are no other compromises in terms of space or flexibility.

The elephant in the room is the price, with the entry car costing more than £47,000 and the Dynamic Plus trim more than £50,000 . Although the RAV will almost certainly be bought on monthly payment, that still has an impact, and will take some a little plotting of cost to driver and company to make the sums add up.

Toyota expects 700 registrations this year, rising beyond 3,700 in 2022 as supply frees up, with the majority, unsurprisingly, going to corporate drivers.

paul barker

The verdict

Far from cheap, but it’s quick, good to drive and the running costs are good, thanks to the impressive range and efficiency of the hybrid powertrain.