Is Toyota's RAV4 Hybrid the perfect all-rounder?
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Great main photo, isn’t it? Our blue Toyota, on an adventure, using the RAV4’s roof racks for a pop-up tent, camping over a lake, ducks visiting and the sun setting over a postcard view. If only!
Of course it’s made a little easier due to our long-term RAV4 being the same car used in the press pics, making for a better main photo than it sitting in a garage or home driveway, which is exactly where it’s been for the past three weeks, save for a couple of runs for essentials.
No school runs, for which its spacious rear seats, ISOFIX booster seat mounting points and power tailgate with large boot are ideal.
No runs up the new Huntly bypass, radar cruise control keeping things calm whether it’s in a 100km/h zone or smartly reactivating from standstill in gridlocked Auckland city.
In fact it’s been all go-go-go since collecting our white RAV4 Hybrid GX long-termer just before Christmas, before swapping into this top-spec Eclectic Blue Hybrid Limited in February.
So the silver lining of the lockdown is the chance to take a breath and spend some quality time with this example of NZ’s number one-selling SUV, to highlight some of our favourite features, and in the interest of balanced reporting, some slightly less-so aspects about the RAV4 Hybrid.
But not before we used a fraction of its 1500kg towing capacity to load up a driving simulator cockpit in a box trailer, via the $1122 optional removable tow bar, empty our storage unit after a recent move, and get better set up for the lockdown.
Marlborough | Blenheim
$120.96 p/w $483.85 p/m
1: It’s NZ’s number one selling SUV for good reason. We’ve covered off the value price and thrifty economy from the 2.5L hybrid previously, but it’s the general useability of the RAV4 that also makes it so warm and fuzzy.
Think where all the basics should be and they’re right there: indicators, wipers, audio controls, boot release, fuel flap button.
Reach for the AC controls and it’s the two large, protruding rubber-ringed dials. Easy, intuitive and natural.
2: Ninja mode. Being hybrid, there’s the option to manually choose EV, but provided there’s enough charge, a 5.30am start on EV allows the RAV4 to crawl out silently, without waking sleeping wife, kids or neighbours, and that’s rather thoughtful.
Not that there’s been many of those starts recently, but sometimes it’s good to slink along in silence.
3: I know looks are subjective—I personally love the style, while my wife doesn’t—so I’ll “look” past that, and remind us that this RAV4 won our 2019 AA Driven Car of the Year People’s Choice award, and there’s no denying its incredible evolution over its 25 years.
The black 18-inch alloys certainly set off the blue, while its trapezoid theme runs inside and out, from the grille to the air vents.
4: The ability to manually choose driving modes, Eco, Normal and Sport is fairly common, less so the EV switch, which switches to silent fuel-saver mode when conditions allow (speed, battery voltage) . . . although it does it automatically anyway.
The changes are subtle enough not to dampen the driving, but significant enough, in Eco mode for example, to save a few hundred mls of petrol per 100km.
THE LESS GOOD
1: That voice in your head that tells you to slow down, or you’re entering a dangerous crash area, or approaching a railway crossing is actually a verbal warning in the RAV4.
It is difficult to find to deactivate and most intrusive when on a hands-free call; took us a few months to locate and turn it off.
2: The inability to input some controls while on the move. Surely if a modern car is smart enough to recognise a passenger is in the car, it’s also smart enough to allow them to make changes to input a nav destination?
3: The wait times. Even before Covid-19, supply of hybrid batteries was an issue and with wait times previously improving from six months down to four, it’s back up to around six months.
So it’s just a matter of planning ahead for a purchase.
The reality is that the good far outweighs the bad: it’s well priced, well-specced and economical, and available in a choice of nine models with and without AWD and hybrid technology.
Our biggest complaints are that we’re not able to use it more during lockdown and that its return date is looming.