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Toyota RAV4 Design hybrid (2020 - 2021)

The RAV4 is steeped in history and has been a popular and successful model for Toyota throughout its years. The latest fifth-gen car boasts an exceptional range of safety features too making it a safe, practical, stylish and economical family SUV.

Starting price:

Why we love it:
  • Stylish good looks with bundles of cabin space
  • Comfortable and economical to drive
  • Well equipped with a wealth of safety tech
Where it could be better:
  • CVT gearbox can be vocal if pushed too hard
  • Quite pricey to buy these days
  • Some cabin surfaces may prove prone to scratches
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Toyota Rav4

It was way back in 1994 that Toyota first introduced the world to a new style of vehicle that offered a combination of go-anywhere capability with the rugged styling of an SUV, but also delivering handling akin to a hatchback.

It was called the RAV4 and back in the day was originally offered in three-door guise with a five-door model being introduced a year later. Fast forward almost three decades and we are in the fifth generation of the popular car which, while still covering all the practicality bases very well, now boasts improved performance, capability and safety.

All cars feature either a plug-in hybrid or self-charging full hybrid electric powertrain, but customers can select between front or all-wheel drive, along with a choice of trim levels called Icon, Design, Excel and GR Sport.

We opted for the FWD RAV4 with self-charging hybrid technology in Design specification for our test drive.

Toyota Rav4

The five-door RAV4 looks modern and dynamic when approached from any angle. It boasts SUV-like design cues without being too aggressive in the process. Eye-catching features include Parabola LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, a silver grille, body-coloured rear spoiler, shark fin antenna, silver front and rear under-runs, black roof rails, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Moving inside, the cabin has an impressive range of on-board technology to explore with the main focal point being a 10.5-inch colour touchscreen infotainment set-up which is the access point to the likes of the navigation system, smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, audio, Bluetooth, rearview camera and much more besides. 

There are separate controls for all the climate functions, a chunky gear lever plus buttons for the drive modes.

The seats and steering wheel are manually adjusted, but it’s a simple enough process and once settled, the driver is treated to excellent all-round visibility. If you want the added luxury of powered seats, you need to move up through the RAV4 trims to Excel and GR Sport where you also gain heated front seats and black leather upholstery on the Excel trim. Our car featured black cloth upholstery which looked smart and should prove hard-wearing.

It’s quite a simplistic cockpit layout which is good news in our book as there is less driver distraction and all controls are easy to operate on the fly with the vital data, including speed, drive mode and fuel gauge all displayed on a 12.3-inch tft screen behind the steering wheel.

On The Road

Toyota Rav4

Handling & Performance

All RAV4 models feature a self-charging hybrid electric powertrain with a 2.5-litre petrol-hybrid engine offering 215bhp matched to a fully automatic e-CVT gearbox. The car can reach 62mph from a standing start in 8.4 seconds and goes onto a top speed of 112mph. While the handling may not be quite so dynamic as some close rivals, it is still very rewarding to drive. 

Comfort levels are exceptional and it’s a car that cruises at 70mph on motorways. The high seating means driver visibility is excellent and that’s a real bonus as many RAV4s will be seen on the dreaded school run where you need eyes in the back of your head.

The latest generation RAV4 is lighter than its predecessor with designers cleverly reducing the weight of numerous components and, where possible, positioning them lower inside the vehicle. This results in a lower centre of gravity, which in turn, leads to improved handling with superior balance.

This is noticeable when faced with twisting country lanes where the RAV4 has great grip levels and shows very little sign of body movement. There are drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the driving characteristics of the car, along with an EV mode.

The cabin is well insulated protecting occupants from any tyre rumble or engine noise, while the highly effective suspension set-up helps cushion the ride delivering a most refined driving experience.

Toyota Rav4

Space & Practicality

The Toyota RAV4 is a stylish five-door SUV that stretches 4,600mm in length, is 1,855mm across and 1,685mm tall with a wheelbase of 2,690mm.

The cabin is spacious with lots of light flooding in for a bright and cheery atmosphere and there is ample leg room in the back for a couple of adults. Add a third and it all gets a little too cosy, but it is fine for a trio of youngsters.

With its wide-opening doors and elevated seating, it would be ideal for anyone with any mobility issues and it is also simple to access child seats, with Isofix fittings to the outer rear seats.

The boot is accessed via a powered tailgate and can swallow 580 litres of luggage. This limit increases to a generous 1,690 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.

In addition, there are plenty of storage compartments scattered throughout the car, including a locking glovebox with a dashboard shelf above it, door bins, a front console box, sunglasses holder, front and rear cup holders, a single seat back pocket and some handy trays. 

The RAV4, as tested, has a braked towing capacity of 800kg. This increases to 1,650kg on the AWD versions.



Toyota Rav4

Running Costs

The Toyota RAV4 line-up costs from £36,080 for the entry-level Icon model with front wheel drive and rises to £46,265 for the GR Sport grade with all-wheel drive.

Our test car in Design trim and 2WD was priced at £38,880 and, according to WLTP-testing, could deliver a combined 49.5mpg with carbon emissions of 129g/km. We were seeing very close to that official fuel economy figure during our week of testing.

The CO2 figure would result in a first-year road tax charge of £210 dropping to the standard fee for a hybrid car of £170 after the first 12 months.

While our RAV4 was priced below £40k, every model above it in the line-up creeps over the threshold and that means it falls into the government’s premium car category, so owners will need to pay out an extra £370 for five years starting from year two.

For company car drivers, the vehicle has a Benefit in Kind tax rating of 30 per cent and it sits in insurance group 26.

Another major selling point is the highly impressive Toyota warranty package. The RAV4 is sold with a standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty, but this can be extended free-of-charge to 10 years and 100,000 miles provided the car is serviced regularly at a Toyota approved workshop.


Toyota Rav4

The RAV4 is steeped in history and has been a popular and successful model for Toyota throughout its years. The latest fifth-gen car boasts an exceptional range of safety features too making it a safe, practical, stylish and economical family SUV.

Factor in the wealth of trims, plus two or four-wheel drive and there should be a car to suit all requirements.

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By Maxine Ashford
Sep 19, 2023

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