In-depth reviews

Toyota RAV4 SUV - Engines, drive & performance

A fun chassis and smooth performance in town

The RAV4 sits on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TGNA) platform, which is also used in the Toyota Prius, C-HR and Corolla models. It brings big benefits in ride and handling, with more sophisticated suspension than the old model, so the RAV4 is capable of turning into corners with a surprising amount of vigour and poise, with plenty of grip while resisting dramatic levels of body lean.

The hybrid version is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine along with an electric motor and a battery. This combination makes performance reasonably brisk, with both 215bhp in the front-wheel drive version and 219bhp in the four-wheel drive serving up 0-62mph times of 8.4 and 8.1 seconds respectively, which are competitive for the class.

Most drivers won't be able to tell the difference on road, so we'd recommend sticking with the two-wheel drive version unless you live in an area with particularly harsh winters or lots of dirt tracks.

Despite the stats, the hybrid powertrain means the RAV4 is unlikely to satisfy enthusiastic drivers in the way a Ford Kuga or Mazda CX-5 can. That's because its design and CVT gearbox mean you feel a little detached from the action at times. The steering is precise and has a decent weight but the RAV4 is more about comfort than thrills.

It offers an excellent level of refinement when compared to its rivals and while rougher road surfaces are noticeable, they have minimal impact on the well-insulated interior. A town environment is where the RAV4 is at its best, though, with the whirring electric motor barely audible at lower speeds. This makes it a relaxed car to drive, with the engine shutting off entirely when stationary in traffic.

When the 2.5-litre petrol engine starts up, it can be a bit noisy. During our test, the engine did occasionally come on to charge the battery while the car was stopped. If you push the accelerator hard, the engine will fire up sending the revs high to help you gain momentum.

At motorway cruising speeds, the RAV4 settles into a quiet hum, with the wing mirrors creating a small amount of wind noise to go with a small amount of tyre roar. At higher speeds, the well-tuned chassis does a great job of soaking up bumps and road imperfections, even with larger 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to our Dynamic spec test car.

The RAV4 PHEV is fitted with the same 2.5-litre petrol engine and two electric motors, giving it a total of 302bhp. The front and rear electric motors drive both axles almost all of the time, with the engine acting as a generator and only occasionally sending power to the road. A CVT automatic gearbox means no matter where power is coming from, it always feels seamless.

Acceleration from 0-62mph takes six seconds but the plug-in hybrid isn't a car you'll want to drive fast. Instead it's best to enjoy the refinement, while the steering also feels good and the ride is perfectly settled once up to speed. Around town, the extra weight of the battery and firmer suspension means it feels a little more fidgety than other versions of the RAV4.

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2021
i20
Deals
9 Apr 2021

Best new car deals 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

New Toyota GR86 unveiled
2021 Toyota GR86 - front 3/4 view
Toyota
6 Apr 2021

New Toyota GR86 unveiled

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
13 Apr 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Tips and advice
10 Nov 2020

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?
Tips and Advice
23 Mar 2020

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
24 Feb 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Best car interiors
Best cars
10 Mar 2020

Best car interiors

Best electric cars
Best cars
24 Dec 2020

Best electric cars

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
1 Feb 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Hot hatches
9 Apr 2020

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks