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Test drive: LLM motoring editor Lisa Curtiss reviews the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

By Lisa Curtiss  |  December 19, 2020

Another excellent example of a compact SUV suitable for both urban and country life is the new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. This perennially popular car is loved for its go-anywhere performance, rugged SUV stance and agile and fun hatchback handling. Little wonder it’s been one of the world’s biggest selling models of this type since its launch.

Viewed kerbside, the RAV4 looks sturdy, powerful, and, with its pretty high ground clearance, and large wheels, all-terrain capable too. Important for an SUV, the latest model has improved visibility with a lower bonnet and mirrors, and larger rear windows which open up the driver’s field of vision.

The cabin is a harmony of soft touch surfaces, high quality fabrics and artistic design flourishes. A larger, open centre console is in keeping with a welcoming, functional SUV interior. In addition, extra special attention was paid to providing plenty of useful and easily accessible storage for the driver and front passenger.

Space-wise, the latest RAV4 boasts best-in-class load space and comfort. With all seats in place, the cargo area is 580 litres, 79 litres more than the previous generation car. The new model is shorter to enhance manoeuvrability, yet the wheelbase has been increased creating a more spacious cabin.  It’s also 10mm wider and the same lower too, which helps give the model a more stable and purposeful stance.

Out on the road, focus on driver comfort, control and convenience is evident. The new TNGA chassis the RAV4 is built around allows for a more engaging driving position, without detracting from the commanding view of the road that’s a defining quality of an SUV. The driver’s hip point has been lowered and the range of steering wheel adjustment increased. This, together with a generous seat adjustment range and precise positioning of the pedals and arm rest make it easy to achieve an ideal driving position.

Passenger comfort has been improved too. There’s more space and it’s now easier to get in and out of the doors too – handy for those negotiating awkward child seats. And the load space behind the rear seats has been made larger and more user-friendly thanks to a fully flat floor and increased length.  With the rear seats folded down, the new RAV4 can even accommodate a 29-inch mountain bike without any wheels having to be removed.

There is a height-adjustable, two-level deck board that can be reversed when dirty items need to be carried. The rear seats have a 60:40 split-folding function and there are storage nets on each side of the boot. Other clever details include a hand grip on the tailgate that can serve as a hanger and a power-operated tailgate with hands-free function.

For an SUV, the RAV4 Hybrid is a refreshingly engaging and agile drive. Its low centre of gravity, light weight and strong, rigid and balanced chassis delivers excellent handling, stability and driver rewards. It’s a safe car too thanks to an enhanced Toyota’s Safety Sense system. Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Pre-Collision System, Road Sign Assist System are just some of the highlights.

It’s also equipped with a significantly improved and more capable electric AWD-i system which enables better fuel economy during urban driving, quieter performance at high speeds and better traction in slippery conditions – handy for this time of year. The new 2.5-litre Hybrid Dynamic Force engine combines fuel and emissions efficiency and quiet operation with more power and greater responsiveness. It’s supple, smooth and refined.

Whether for taking the kids to school, doing the weekly shop or escaping the city for a welcome weekend coast or countryside escape, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a great choice.