Toyota RAV4 SUV review
"The hybrid-only Toyota RAV4 will appeal to company-car drivers and its striking design helps it stand out in a busy class”
- Low CO2 emissions
- Bold new looks
- Functional interior
- Poor infotainment system
- Limited model range
- No seven-seat option
Verdict - Is the Toyota RAV4 a good car?
The Toyota RAV4 has transformed from a rather dull wallflower into a striking mid-size SUV with hints of the bold Toyota C-HR crossover. Not only does it look far more interesting, but the RAV4 is now only available as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid, and both versions should prove affordable to run. It's practical, easy to drive and comes with a long warranty, but its interior and infotainment system both feel somewhat dated.
Toyota RAV4 models, specs and alternatives
Aside from picking a colour and trim level, your only choices when buying a RAV4 are whether to go for front or four-wheel drive, or the plug-in option, although the latter is considerably more expensive. Fuel economy of over 45mpg is possible for the hybrid, which is sure to impress private buyers, and company-car drivers will appreciate the low CO2 emissions figures across the RAV4 range, which place the car in the mid-range Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) bandings.
The plug-in hybrid RAV4 is in another league again when it comes to efficiency figures, managing up to 282.5mpg with CO2 emissions of just 22g/km. You'll need to keep its battery topped up to achieve anything close to this but it's impressive nonetheless. Alternatively, the Japanese firm now offers a RAV4-sized electric SUV called the bZ4X if you want zero-emission driving with a Toyota badge.
The slightly anonymous design of the previous RAV4 has been replaced by boxy wheel arches, a squared-off nose with an aggressively large grille, and an abundance of angular slashes and edges in the bodywork. In standard trim, silver bodywork accents give the car a typically rugged SUV look, with higher trim level models getting a blacked-out roof and door pillars.
Toyota smartened up the car’s styling in 2022, with a new headlight design, a refreshed grille and blockier fog light surrounds. In 2023, the lineup was reduced to just two trim levels: entry-level Design and higher-spec Excel models, with the previous lowest-spec Icon and sportily-styled GR Sport trim having been discontinued.
While the design of the current RAV4 is potentially divisive, it's certainly more appealing and less anonymous than the old car. The RAV4 did need to stand out more than it did before, particularly when the car’s numerous rivals - including the Skoda Karoq, Ford Kuga, BMW X3, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan and Peugeot 3008 - make for a very competitive class.
While not as daring as the exterior styling, the inside of the RAV4 is perfectly suited to family life thanks to sturdy materials and excellent quality, along with neat touches like rubberised rotary controls. The entry-level trim has plenty of features and the old 8-inch infotainment display has thankfully been dropped in favour of a faster, more usable 10.25-inch screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration has been standard for a while now, so hooking up a smartphone is no trouble.
The Toyota wins back points for practicality, with a powered hatchback, fitted with the Design trim and above, revealing a sizeable 580-litre boot. A stretched interior also means adults will be able to travel more comfortably in the back, even if the RAV4 is smaller than the huge Skoda Kodiaq and lacks a seven-seat option. What might sweeten the appeal of the RAV4 further is Toyota’s class-leading ‘Relax’ warranty, which provides cover for up to 10 years and 100,000 miles.
See how this car scored on our sister site DrivingElectric.