It might not be desirable in the old-fashioned sense, but the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is highly sought after. We find out if Toyota’s fuel-sipping SUV is worth the wait.
- Damned good on fuel
- Cheap to service (for the first five years at least)
- Well-dialled, comfortable ride quality
- Infotainment feels a little old-fashioned
- Slightly outshone by the all-wheel-drive GXL Hybrid
- Low towing capacity
While fuel prices seem to be on the mind (and tongue) of every Australian, the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is in its happy place. Already suffering from long waiting lists – thanks to the pandemic and component shortages – the appeal of this RAV4 will only grow more intense as fuel prices at the bowser stay high.
And among the range, this two-wheel-drive hybrid in GXL specification could be the most pragmatic of the bunch. Sure, the range starts with the GX petrol from $34,300 plus on-road costs (or $36,800 for the GX Hybrid), but going up to GXL ($37,825 petrol/$40,450 hybrid plus on-road costs) isn’t what I would call a massive jump forward in cost.
For the extra money, GXL picks up keyless entry with push-button start, premium cloth seat materials, leather-accented steering wheel and gearshifter, wireless charging pad, dual-zone climate control, new 18-inch wheels, privacy glass, roof rails, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
While Cruiser grade normally sits above, Toyota has split the difference with a new XSE specification for the RAV4.
Back to our GXL. Being a two-wheel-drive model, it misses out on the 40kW/102Nm electric motor on the rear, which works out to cost an extra $3000. That means you’ve got less electric power on tap, which is noticeable even though peak overall output only goes up by three kilowatts. Any semblance of off-road ability – however mild that it might be – is also gone.
But if you’re chasing mainly fuel efficiency – along with a few touches of technology and convenience – then this GXL should be at the top of your list.
|Key details||2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid GXL 2WD|
|Price (MSRP)||$40,450 plus on-road costs|
|Colour of test car||Atomic Rush|
|Options||Metallic paint – $675|
|Price as tested||$41,125 plus on-road costs
$45,351 drive-away (Sydney)
|Rivals||Mitsubishi Outlander | Kia Sportage | Mazda CX-5|
As is often the case with Toyota’s range of vehicles in Australia, GXL feels like it sits in a happy intersection of price, value and inclusions. It’s worth pointing out that there is definitely nothing wrong with the GX grade, but Australian buyers often want a few niceties included in their brand-new car purchase.
And this is where GXL lands the right punches: dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, LED projector headlights, and smart key entry.
This grade of RAV4 gets more exterior embellishments, and the interior fabric is a little different as well. It’s billed as a ‘premium cloth’, with a more interesting and textured feel coming from the embossed patterns.
Manual adjustment on the seats means they are comfortable enough, but not salubrious either. A little bit of thigh support adjustment would be grand, I reckon.
For my money, the interior of the RAV4 works well for its intended purpose. There are nice touches of grippy rubber around the cabin, which I tend to prefer over a champagne-on-a-beer-budget choice of fake chromes, faux wood and piano blacks.
Leather-esque wraps over the steering wheel and gearshifter help elevate the experience a little, and storage is well accounted for as well.
The shelf along the dashboard – stolen from the Toyota Kluger playbook – is handy, which extends to a small space on the driver’s side of the steering wheel. Nice attention to detail. The space in front of the gearshifter is handy for when you need to empty your hands and pockets, and also houses a wireless charging pad.
There is a single USB point and 12V outlet up front, but wait – there’s more! Peek inside the reasonably big centre console and you’ll find twin 2.1-amp USB power outlets.
Similar to the front row, the back seats of the RAV4 are comfortable, and there is good space on offer here as well.
The Kia Sportage might be a bit larger in the second row, but the RAV4 is far from cramped. There are USB power outlets and air vents here – important considerations for family usage – and enough room for adults to sit comfortably.
Up to 580L of boot space is available in the RAV4 Hybrid, which is the same as 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre non-hybrid variants. It’s a good number, and plenty enough to absorb all of the gear that a family normally finds themselves hauling around. One can make the storage space floor flat with the load lip, via a two-position false floor, which turns that cargo area into 542L above the floor.
Beneath that adjustable dual floor you’ll find a space-saver spare wheel.
|2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid GXL 2WD|
|Boot volume||580L seats up|
Infotainment and Connectivity
An 8.0-inch infotainment display – which is shared with every other model in the range – is a little bit old-fashioned already, especially when compared against the kind of hardware you’ll find in a Kia Sportage. However, it’s effective. The operating system is basic, and has a variety of buttons and dials to help navigation.
I should clarify here: the system is fine, but this is one part of the new car scene that seems to be moving forward with bigger, faster and fancier systems all the time. Take one look at a high-specification Sportage, for example.
While it might not drop any jaws, the infotainment display in the RAV4 is stacked with features, including some things that are often reserved only for higher-specification models: digital radio, native navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but via a wired connection.
In front of the driver is a more basic 4.2-inch infotainment display, which spits out the trip information you desire. Watching the flow meter of energy as it transfers between wheels, battery and engine is always interesting, and you’ve got the fuel consumption and speed readouts at the ready.
Some graphs and dials that judge your driving habits also help in fostering efficient driving characteristics.
Safety is another strong point for the Toyota RAV4, which is always important. Along with a five-star ANCAP safety rating – which was earned in 2019 – there is a wide range of standard safety equipment.
Toyota calls its active safety equipment ‘Safety Sense’, which includes autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert, traffic sign recognition, and automatic high beam.
There’s also blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera. For a panoramic-view camera system, one will need to spend up into either a Cruiser or Edge specification.
|2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid GXL 2WD|
|ANCAP rating||Five stars (tested 2019)|
|Safety report||Link to ANCAP report|
Of course, operating costs are where the strengths of this RAV4 Hybrid mostly boil down. Consuming around 5.0–5.2 litres per hundred kilometres around town and on the highway, the RAV4 Hybrid has a clear advantage over any non-hybrid petrol-powered SUV.
When it first arrived on the scene, this was a night-and-day advantage. However, frugal diesel-powered SUVs and hybrids from other brands are eroding this advantage away somewhat.
But still, as it stands, this is a major strength of the RAV4. Consuming 91-octane regular petrol is an advantage at the bowser for costs, and the servicing costs are equally impressive.
And continuing that theme along even further, this two-wheel-drive GXL Hybrid is likely to sit in the sweet spot of value versus inclusions. I’d be considering the all-wheel-drive variant, personally, for the extra electric torque and mild off-road ability, but GXL is a compelling specification.
|At a glance||2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid GXL 2WD|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months / 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$690 (3 years), $1150 (5 years)|
With visits required every 12 months or 15,000km, servicing costs are capped at an annual rate of $230. This means you’ll have forked out $690 after three years and $1150 for five years, which is cheap.
It’s worth noting here that after this point, servicing costs go upwards at quite a stark rate. So don’t expect it to be a maintenance bargain for the full decade.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||4.7L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||5.2L/100km|
|Fuel type||91-octane regular unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||55L|
This two-wheel-drive model has an electric motor going to the front wheels, which combines with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that runs on the more efficient Atkinson cycle for 160kW, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) taking care of gear ratios.
And on the whole, this is still a wonderfully easy and compliant way to get around town and through the countryside.
Using both power sources, the RAV4 can accelerate to 110km/h quickly enough for joining a highway. The throttle is tuned really nicely, with a seamless nature in the way the car splits between electric and petrol propulsion (221Nm petrol/202Nm electric). And, of course, it can blend the two nicely. One really needs to pay attention to the slight change in noise – and a tiny change in the acceleration feel – to notice changeover times.
There is also a nice balance of ride comfort and body control, without feeling overly sporty or loose. And for a medium-sized SUV destined for town duties and the occasional road trip, there is little room for critique in the quality of the ride.
The steering is lightly weighted and easy to wrangle at low speeds, but firms up with a good feeling at higher speeds. And when you’re on those higher-speed country roads, the ride quality feels particularly good. The RAV4 could soak up bumps impressively well without transmitting any harshness or loss of control into the body.
There are a few driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – to choose from. There’s no Trail mode, because there is no all-wheel drive. And casting my mind back to the time I drove an all-wheel-drive RAV4 GXL Hybrid – which was actually decent off-road – I feel like missing that extra little bit of electric punch from the rear motor is noticeable.
|Key details||2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid GXL 2WD|
|Engine||2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power||131kW @ 5700rpm petrol
|Torque||221Nm @ 3600–5200rpm petrol
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||95.5kW/t|
|Tow rating||480kg braked, 480kg unbraked|
Even though the Kia Sportage took home the trophy in the 2022 Drive Car of the Year awards – for the medium SUV segment and overall – one should not discount the quality of the RAV4. After all, it too took home the prize as Drive Car of the Year in 2020.
The fuel economy is something of a masterstroke packaged up in a vehicle that is comfortable, practical and pragmatic. Its fuel economy is similar to what you might get in a diesel-powered SUV on the open road, but it’s the gains around the city and suburbs that are the most poignant.
Where the Sportage scores points is a little extra second-row space and a big dose of wow factor on the inside.
The RAV4 feels as pragmatic as ever – especially in this specification – walking a fine line between cost and inclusions. It might not be the latest and greatest on the block any more, and its infotainment arsenal doesn’t exactly blow down the doors, but considering its core purpose of cheap and comfortable commuting, the RAV4 barely puts a foot wrong.