Economy challenge: Toyota's RAV4 hybrid smashes the commute
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When given the task to achieve Toyota’s claimed fuel economy in the RAV4 Limited Hybrid, I assumed that the 4.8 litres/100km would be a walk in the park — but not quite.
Toyota’s mid-sized SUV is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with a hybrid system that feels built into the powertrain, rather than tacked onto the side like other systems.
This makes for an EV-feeling ride that should, in theory, use a teaspoon of fuel to propel itself along.
Last week, Driven’s editor Dean set the challenge of matching Toyota’s combined fuel economy claim over a distance of 100 kilometres. To achieve this distance from the North Shore, I took the RAV out to a game of basketball in Huapai, before hitting the regular commute into Auckland’s CBD along the painful Northern Motorway.
This made for a total trip of around 100 kilometres, and included highway, b-road, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. The perfect test, right?
As I reset the fuel meter and hit the road in Eco mode, I assumed that regular steady driving without any serious throttle punches would lead to a perfect fuel score.
Unfortunately, I quickly realized that my theory was flawed as I watched the economy figure settle in the mid-5-litres/100km early on.
The North-Western Motorway was free-flowing both ways, but I wasn’t able to shake the 5.3 litres/100km figure that was staring me down throughout the trip.
This figure also haunted me throughout the trip into work the next morning, and despite the incredibly slow pace of the packed motorway, the silent hybrid system wasn’t able to drop the figure below 5.2-litres/100km.
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While I was able to match Dean’s fuel economy figure, I wasn’t able to match it, but I had a plan for the next morning.
Thanks to the nature of the exception hybrid system in the RAV, I figured that I might be able to match Toyota’s figure if the rules were slightly bent, and I cut down to the test distance to a respectable 17 kilometres.
It was 87 less than what Dean set the challenge at, but not a more appropriate commute distance for the average Auckland resident.
With Toyota’s 4.8-litre claim in sight, I reset the fuel switch, and proceeded to take the East Coast Bay’s road towards the city, while keeping things as steady as possible. By the time I reached the Esmonde Rd onramp, I was sitting at 4.0-litres/100km and flicked into EV mode thinking that I had smashed Toyota’s claim, and only slightly bent Dean’s rules.
Unfortunately, the cluster hit me with a “Hybrid battery low” warning whilst still waiting in line, and the engine burst into life, taking the fuel figure with it.
I ended up rolling into the car park with a 4.8-litres/100km which matched the official figure, meaning that it is possible, but not the easiest to achieve.