Over the past year or two, we’ve published a lot of materials about similar cars: test drives of the new Nissan X-Trail, hybrid Hyundai Tucson, updated Mazda CX-5; detailed presentations of Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V, Skoda Kodiaq, Volkswagen Tiguan. It feels as if we are walking in a circle, but not in its center; right? After all, the center of the circle is the Toyota RAV4 crossover: a “consistently always everywhere” popular car. And what is the secret of such popularity?

Design: it has finally become masculine

Of course, this is all personal – but I really like the fact that the new generation of the Toyota RAV4 crossover has become firmly knocked down, somewhat rough. Straight side lines, defined wheel arches, a massive “nose” with a large grille – the image of the fifth-generation Toyota RAV4, which was discovered five years ago, still looks solid.

Yes, the current Toyota RAV4 crossover has been in production for about five years (that’s how time flies) and, according to all the rules of automotive life, we should expect an update. However, there is no large-scale “restyle,” but Toyota periodically introduces minor changes to the model’s design. For example, this Toyota RAV4 test car stands out for its black wheels with five double spokes and new headlights with a dark backing – I personally first saw such headlights on the Toyota RAV4 Adventure version about 1.5 years ago, after which such optics appeared on other variants of the model.

In terms of overall dimensions, the Toyota RAV4 crossover occupies a place somewhere in the middle of the class: length – 4.6 meters; width – 1.86 meters; height – 1.69 meters; wheelbase – 2.69 meters. The vehicle’s ground clearance is 190-205 mm, depending on the version. The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 has been in production for about five years, and the history of the Toyota RAV4 dates back to the mid-1990s. In the first two generations, there was a 3-door version, but then the car was produced only in a 5-door version. All for the convenience of the family?

The answer to this question should be given by the interior. Let’s start with the front, where the massive front panel attracts attention – by the way, it is made of pleasant soft plastic, but with a rather simple silver decor. The steering wheel is also lightly decorated with a similar silver décor, behind which the instrument panel with a color screen is hidden. Another display is mounted in the center of the front panel: it is also not very large in size and has a rather simple menu, mostly in dark colors. Speaking of the evolutionary development of the Toyota RAV4 model, car dealerships already offer models with a fully digital instrument panel (depending on the configuration) and an enlarged central display. Someone may conclude the Toyota RAV4 interior review with the words “everything is boring,” but in fact, you need to look at the details.

For example, the climate control unit is made with large control knobs and real physical buttons: you can figure it out in no time! Wireless charging is hidden in a niche from which the phone will not fall out, plus there is a button to turn charging on/off in case you don’t need it right now. There is a small shelf for the front passenger, and the center cup holders can even accommodate a small handbag. And the same nondescript steering wheel is actually strewn with a bunch of buttons that you really need in your daily life.

If only I could praise the rear of the Toyota RAV4’s interior like this, it would be almost perfect. No excess, but enough space above the head and for the knees. There are air supply deflectors and an armrest with cup holders. The backrest can be independently tilted for a comfortable seat. In the maximum configuration, the rear seats are even heated. At the time of the current generation of Toyota RAV4, this was enough to take a leading position in the class. However, it is no longer enough today: competitors offer climate control, window blinds, and the ability to move the sofa. So: the Toyota RAV4 crossover is no longer a leader in terms of interior design, but it still deserves the title of “four-seater.”

The interior of the Toyota RAV4 does not impress with its design or finishing materials, but it has been carefully worked out in the areas that are important for daily use: comfortable “hugging” seats, sufficient space, ease of use of switches and various controls. The rear part of the cabin offers ventilation and an armrest, and in the maximum configuration it can also be heated. The trunk offers 580 liters of space, plus it can be expanded to 1690 liters.

Technology: when the main thing is a hybrid

The Toyota RAV4 crossover is built on the TNGA model platform, in this particular case, a variation of the GA-K platform is used: for medium-sized cars, a load-bearing body, fully independent wheel suspensions, the ability to install an all-wheel drive system, etc. It seems like everything is normal. However, upon deeper examination, it turns out that the mass crossover actually has many interesting technical solutions for techno-fans.

For example, the M20A-FKS 2-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine (173 hp and 203 Nm) stands out for its high compression ratio of 13:1 and Dual VVT-i intake and exhaust timing. This engine is mated to a Direct Shift CVT continuously variable transmission with a fixed starting gear. In fact, this is a pair of gears that work to move off and off-road without risking the variator belt. And if you also add all-wheel drive, it will be all-wheel drive with directional torque distribution between the right/left wheels – that is, in fact, traction vector control.

It all starts as expected: a modular platform, a load-bearing body, independent wheel suspensions. But then it continues with an unexpected “riot of technological imagination”: even the 2-liter version has many interesting technical features. And now add hybrid versions…

The hybrid is based on the already existing 2.5-liter A25B-FXS engine: also 4-cylinder and atmospheric with an even higher compression ratio (14:1), developing 178 hp and 221 Nm of torque. But for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid version, these figures do not mean anything yet, since the gasoline engine is assisted by a front 3NM electric motor with an output of 88 kW (120 hp) and torque of 202 Nm. However, it is not possible to add horsepower and newton meters directly, since the engines operate in slightly different modes. Therefore, the total power for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is stated – in the case of the front-wheel drive version, it will be 218 hp.

And now let’s move even further, to the AWD-i all-wheel drive version. After all, in this case, another electric motor is added to rotate the rear wheels – that is, AWD-i all-wheel drive is realized not through the driveshaft, but through separate motors for the front/rear wheels. The 4NM electric motor develops only 40 kW (54 hp) and 121 Nm of torque. But the gearbox in the rear wheel drive significantly increases traction – and we already have 1300 Nm of torque on the wheels. As for the total power of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWD-i, it is 222 hp.

Finally, in the design of any Toyota RAV4 hybrid (with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive), it is necessary to note the e-CVT transmission: in fact, it is a planetary gear that combines a gasoline engine and a front electric motor. It is also worth noting the battery pack located under the rear seat – it is enough for 1-2 km of slow city traffic, and the battery is also used to accumulate energy during braking/recovery and supply this energy to the electric motor (or electric motors) during dynamic acceleration.

Behind the wheel: good hybrid, good suspension

I’ve talked so much about the hybrid that I need to start with it. Especially since the hybrid powertrain proves to be the best! The car starts dynamically, gains speed in one continuous line, and accelerates briskly on the move. There are no pauses for gear shifting or environmental delays in pressing the accelerator pedal. Hybrids have always been attractive because of their almost electric vehicle-like response times, thanks to the pickup from the electric motor. At the same time, the gasoline engine can provide high speed driving and long distances.

However, while the hybrid shows good efficiency in the city – after all, the electric motor takes over part of the work during acceleration, and you can drive through traffic jams on electricity – on the highway, the magic of hybrid efficiency disappears. For example, the Toyota RAV4 test crossover consumed 7.5-8 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers in the city, which is quite good for a 222-horsepower car. But on the traditional “highway hundred”, it takes 6-6.5 liters per 100 km – this is compared to a conventional 2.5-liter crossover.

However, in addition to the hybrid, I also want to note the suspension. However, there are nuances here: I have some experience and observations on different versions of the Toyota RAV4, and I like the hybrid versions, with front or all-wheel drive, the most. There is a feeling of a heavy car (1.7-1.8 tons) – but there is also a feeling that the suspension was specially made very elastic for this weight. It is not too soft, but very energy-intensive, which makes it easy to overcome medium and even large bumps without unpleasant bumps or sway.

The steering wheel is quite neutral, it does not provide much return force for the driver’s hands. However, in combination with such an “omnivorous” suspension, it is not particularly necessary. You simply steer the car on the required course, plus or minus the required course, not really paying attention to the number of bumps under the wheels – the suspension will cope anyway. Plus, due to the considerable weight and energy-intensive suspension, there is a feeling of unhurried but stable driving like a large SUV. So, probably the biggest criticism of the chassis is not the steering wheel, but the early activation of ABS on slippery roads.

The hybrid powertrain provides 222 hp of power and acceleration to “hundreds” in 8.6-8.7 seconds; at the same time, fuel consumption in the city also fits into “eight” or even less. Good results, although the passport promised even better – acceleration in 8.1 seconds, top speed of 180 km/h, fuel consumption of 4.8-5 liters per 100 km (highway/city). However, note that the test drive took place in winter – in warm weather and on summer tires, the dynamics will be slightly better and fuel consumption will be lower. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid with AWDi all-wheel drive, in addition to the standard three modes (normal, eco, sport), also offers a TRAIL mode for off-road use, which involves the constant activation of the rear electric motor to rotate the rear wheels. The EV MODE button makes the electric drive only work – but only if the battery is sufficiently charged; in this case, fuel consumption can be greatly reduced over short distances.

Price: how much does a Toyota RAV4 cost

The number of variants of the Toyota RAV4 seems endless: about 20 versions in total, formed by the intersection of different engines, transmissions, and equipment. It’s simply impossible to describe everything in so many versions, so I’ll give just a few examples: the most affordable, the middle, the most expensive.

At least UAH 1.1 million ($28.5 thousand) is required to buy a Toyota RAV4. It will be a car with a conventional 2-liter engine, front-wheel drive, 6-speed manual, and LIVE equipment: LED headlights, a 10.5-inch central touchscreen, a rearview camera, heated seats, a 7-inch color dashboard display, air conditioning, stabilization system, etc.

For an amount of UAH 1.23 million ($32 thousand), you can already take a Toyota RAV4 with a similar 2-liter engine, but with a variator and in the improved ACTIVE configuration: heated steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, 17-inch gray alloy wheels, Toyota Safety Sense security system, etc.

By the way, the hybrid version of the car starts with the ACTIVE package – the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid ACTIVE crossover with front-wheel drive is priced from UAH 1.38 million ($36 thousand), and the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid version with AWD-i all-wheel drive and a slightly improved ACTIVE+ package is priced from UAH 1.57 million or almost $41 thousand.

For similar amount – from UAH 1.5 million or $39 thousand – you can take the almost maximum version of the Toyota RAV4 with a 2-liter engine, AWD all-wheel drive, and CVT automatic in the LOUNGE package: 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, synthetic leather seats, electric seat adjustment, wireless charging, and more.

Let’s go further – for example, to the versions of Toyota RAV4 Hybrid with AWD-i all-wheel drive and in almost maximum STYLE or ADVENTURE configurations, which will cost from UAH 1.72-1.76 million or $45-46 thousand. In addition to the above, the list of equipment for these cars includes the following: original bumpers, 19-inch alloy wheels, searchlights, synthetic leather seats with color accents, and contactless trunk lid control.

The maximum variant of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid AWDi is the PREMIUM version priced at UAH 1.8 million or almost $47 thousand, which additionally offers the following: perforated leather seats, front seat ventilation, heated rear seats, JBL audio, etc.

Finally, the Toyota RAV4 PlugIn Hybrid stands apart: maximum power (306 hp), the ability to cover long distances exclusively on electric drive (up to 75 km is promised), the maximum PREMIUM configuration – and the corresponding price tag of 2.3 million UAH or almost $60 thousand.

The RAV4 crossover has a lot of interesting equipment to offer. For example, the interior “digital” mirror – forget about the blocked view to the rear through the trunk filled to the ceiling! Of course, there are all the “small” comfort options that are actually so important for every day use, such as heated steering wheel and windshield. Toyota Safety Sense includes lane departure control, sign recognition, automatic braking and much more – and is available from the second trim level. And the rearview camera is present even in the starting version of the car. Note how step by step the “sliced” versions are – every $2-3 thousand opens access to new car features: all-wheel drive, improved equipment, switching from a conventional 2-liter engine to a 2.5-liter hybrid. And what do competitors offer?

In general, I have already named the main competitors at the beginning of the article – now let’s look at them in detail. The situation with new cars Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan will become clear when they arrive in Ukraine and prices are announced. The situation with the Honda CR-V is clear now: a great hybrid and equipment, but an immediately high price tag. The crossover Mitsubishi Outlander is slightly cheaper and can offer a 7-seater interior, but it has a limited selection of versions, no front-wheel drive options, no fuel-efficient hybrid or diesel engine.

The three main rival cars are Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5. Everything is simple with a Mazda car: a pleasant “driving” character, as well as quite pleasant prices now. However, there are no economical engine options, and it’s just the age of the model. Nissan’s crossover is the most modern and technologically advanced, its hybrid wins in terms of power and dynamics, there are many more comfort options in the cabin, plus a 7-seater is offered. However, according to my personal impressions, it is inferior in terms of chassis behavior; and the lack of the usual 4-cylinder engines may not appeal to traditionalist buyers. It seems that Hyundai is the most dangerous rival: a low starting price tag, the usual atmospheric, technological and powerful hybrid, and a well-designed interior. However, it is inferior to Toyota in terms of the number of versions and liquidity.

Toyota RAV4 test drive results

So, what is the secret to the popularity of the Toyota RAV4? Probably the fact that this crossover tries not to lose in any key discipline and wins where it succeeds. Its interior, or dynamics, or fuel consumption are not the best in the class – but they definitely deserve an “above average” rating. The cost of the Toyota RAV4 is not the lowest in the class, but it is definitely acceptable, as shown by the car’s sales.

In addition, a big advantage for buyers is the ability to choose the most suitable option without overpaying. Another big advantage for buyers is the liquidity of the car, which is based on faith in the brand’s reliability. In addition, I would like to note a very wide network of dealers, which means accessibility for the purchase and further operation of the car. At first glance, these are not such bright and noticeable advantages as design, maximum equipment, and high power; right? However, it is the sum of various advantages (noticeable or not), strengths and efforts not to lose weaknesses that is the recipe for the popularity of Toyota RAV4, which has been working properly for many years.

Toyota RAV4 test drive: secrets of popularity

The car is provided by компанією Drivovo: cars by subscription