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Still ahead of the game: Toyota's all-hybrid new RAV4 compact SUV

Toyota has launched the fifth generation of its trail-blazing RAV4 model. We check out the innovations, including an all-hybrid powertrain.


Toyota's RAV4 is based on a great concept and it was way ahead of its time when first introduced in 1994.

Back then, no-one had heard of compact SUVs or crossovers. But the RAV4 was essentially one (the name is derived from "Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive").

It was funky looking, had a good ground clearance and a light but strong chassis capable of coping with a variety of off-road experiences.

The long and short wheel base options, and roll bar-protected drop-top versions, gave it great versatility. It wasn't one of your lumbering, go-anywhere, pull-anything 4x4s, being much too light for that.

But it was nimble, efficient and, and drove much more like a compact car than the then-traditional 4x4s.

Fast forward to the year 2000 and the compact SUV market was starting to develop. And Toyota had an advantage with the RAV4, particularly when the second-generation car was introduced that year.

A third generation came along in 2005, and a fourth in 2012. By the third generation, the RAV had fully grown up into a sophisticated family vehicle that was maybe not as fun to drive as the original but was far more practical and efficient.


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What's new?

Last year saw the introduction of the all-new fifth generation of the RAV4, a model designed to bring improved performance, capability and safety to the RAV4 family.

With its low centre of gravity and significantly increased body rigidity, based on the first use of Toyota's new GA-K platform in an SUV, the new RAV4's platform directly contributes to improved handling, ride comfort, a spacious interior, class-leading load space, better ground clearance and a strong, eye-catching design with higher ground clearance.

What does it look like?

This is a further evolution in the RAV4's look, sharpening up the lines and making it look sleeker and more stylish.

The exterior look is strong, with a solid form that extends from the front of the vehicle along the sides to the rear, giving the sense of a strong mass and authentic SUV capabilities.

At the front the emphasis is on width and strength with extra volume added to the lower bumper section.

There is a similar effect at the rear where the horizontal line created by the tail lights and back window angles sharply downwards at each edge, drawing the eye towards the rear wheels and expressing the "polygon" influence on the design.


Under the bonnet

Toyota has rung in some changes for the new car, dropping the old 2.2-litre D-4D diesel powerplant option.

In the UK, the choices are now between a 2.5-litre petrol hybrid two-wheel drive and a 2.5-litre petrol hybrid all-wheel drive. Essentially the all-wheel drive version gets an extra electric motor linked to the rear wheels.

The full system maximum output of 219bhp/163kW in the all-wheel drive model (215bhp/160 kW with front-wheel drive) compares to 195bhp/145kW for the fourth-generation model. The official 0-62mph time is 8.1 seconds (FWD model).

This is Toyota's fourth generation self-charging hybrid system. The new battery pack is 11 per cent lighter than before and transmission losses have been reduced by 25 per cent compared to the previous system.

The system makes use of Toyota's new 2.5-litre Hybrid Dynamic Force engine, a four-cylinder unit with direct and indirect injection that targets best-in-class fuel consumption and emissions for the new RAV4.

Official combined cycle fuel economy is from 49.22 to 51.21mpg (FWD model), with CO2 emissions from 102g/km (FWD Icon model).


Performance is also supported by a new transaxle structure with a pre-load differential. For the driver, says Toyota, the results are better acceleration from stationary, improved efficiency at higher speeds and better control when decelerating.

There are improvements to the all-wheel drive system, including the introduction of a new automatic limited-slip differential control called Trail Mode.

Safety and tech

Features that are available as standard or as options, according to model grade, include a power-operated panoramic roof, heated seats and up to five USB ports around the cabin for the connection or charging of multiple devices.


A key feature is the second generation of the excellent Toyota Safety Sense system and an E call emergency contact function.

The active safety systems of Toyota's Safety Sense system ways of avoiding collisions or mitigating the effects of an accident by warning the driver, preparing safety systems for optimum operation and, if necessary, triggering automatic braking or steering assistance.

It's standard on all RAV4 models and includes a single-lens camera and millimetre-wave radar, both with enhanced performance to expand the scope of hazard detection and functionality. The unit has also been made smaller, so the driver gains an even wider field of vision.

Second generation Toyota Safety Sense includes upgraded versions of the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Road Sign Assist and Automatic High Beam.

It also introduces Lane Tracing Assist, which provides more advanced driving support.

The functionality of the Pre-Collision System has been extended so that as well as vehicles it can now detect pedestrians on the road ahead during low-light driving as well as in daylight. It also has the added capability of recognising bicycles in the vehicle's path.

Where vehicles are concerned, the system can determine collision risks at speeds from zero to 112mph. If it calculates an imminent risk of collision, it will alert the driver and prepare the brakes (Pre-Collision Brake Assist) for maximum stopping force.

If the driver fails to act, it will trigger Autonomous Emergency Braking, which can reduce vehicle speed by up to 25mph, potentially bringing the car to a stop and avoiding an impact.

Toyota has installed a host of other hi-tech and safety solutions into the new RAV4. These include intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control, Road Sign Assist (reads signs and shows them on the information display), Lane Tracing Assist, and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist.

A whole host of premium extras are also available including the like of Panoramic View Monitor, JBL audio system, and a panoramic roof.

What's the spec like?

The new RAV4 comes in four models: Icon, Design, Excel and Dynamic. Standard features on the front-wheel drive only Icon model (from £29,635) include 17-inch alloys, roof rails, LED headlights and a rear view camera.

All the other models feature a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive, with the AWD version costing around £2k more. Design starts at £31,190, Excel from £33,610 and range-topping Dynamic from £34,400.

Facts at a glance

Model: RAV4 Icon

Price: £29,635

Engine: 2.5-1 litre ptrol-electric hybrid

Transmission: CVT FWD

Screen: 8" multimedia touch

Wheels: 17" alloys

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