Toyota RAV4 SUV (2019 - ) review
The RAV4 is a long-established name in the world of SUVs, and aims to take the fight to cars like the Honda CR-V, Skoda Kodiaq and Mazda CX-5. This latest version comes only as a hybrid model.
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.5
The RAV4 will appeal to many as a safe, reliable SUV with generous equipment levels, but there are some elements of it that aren’t up to the standards of its rivals. Some buyers will be put off by the lack of a diesel option, but others will like the environmental credentials that its hybrid-only engine line-up provides.
- Strong safety features
- Excellent reliability
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Unremarkable handling
- Hybrid-only won’t suit everyone
Interested in buying a Toyota RAV4?
How good does it look?
Introduced at the start of 2019, this fifth-generation of RAV4 is all-new, with bolder, more angular looks, including a high ride height and a relatively low roof and bonnet. It comes in four different trim levels, all of which come well-specced, with alloy wheels, front fog lights, LED headlights, rear camera and rear parking sensors as standard.
The entry-level Icon model comes with 17-inch wheels, while the Design model ups that to 18-inches and adds front parking sensors. The Excel has fancier headlights and headlight cleaners, while the top-of-the range Dynamic features black 18-inch wheels and two-tone metallic paint.
What's the interior like?
The RAV4’s cabin looks suitably modern, with all models getting an 8.0-inch touchscreen and a 7.0-inch driver’s display screen. However, the Toyota infotainment system looks dated and is clunky to use. We found the satellite navigation hard to read and prone to taking some unusual route choices as well.
Build quality is very good, with everything feeling well screwed together, but some of the materials used feel rather cheap. It’s certainly nowhere near the feeling of quality in something from Volkswagen. The seats are comfortable with plenty of adjustment for the driver, although taller front passengers may wish their seat went lower. The rear seats will recline for extra comfort in the back.
How practical is it?
Practicality is a big deal in a large SUV, and the RAV4 doesn’t disgrace itself. There’s lots of room for five occupants, with plenty of head and legroom for three in the back. There are two cupholders between the front seats, generous door pockets, a small shelf in front of the passenger, and a cubby hole in front of the gearstick. There’s also a decent-sized storage box under the centre armrest.
The boot size has been increased by almost 80 litres compared to the previous-generation RAV4, and at 580 litres is around the same size as the Honda CR-V. It’s bigger than the Hyundai Tucson, but far below the massive amount of space you’ll get in the five-seat version of the Skoda Kodiaq. Fold the rear seats down in the RAV4 and you’ll have 1,690 litres of space. It’s certainly not small, but neither is it particularly remarkable for this type of car.
What's it like to drive?
The RAV4 has a surprisingly jittery ride that doesn't compare particularly well to other cars in this class. While we didn't find it too bad on our initial drive of the car, on smooth roads in Europe, on UK roads it's much more patchy and unsettled, which is a shame.
There’s a Sport button next to the gear stick, but don’t be fooled. It’s not a car that encourages you to drive in a particularly spirited fashion, with steering that feels rather woolly and vague, and soft suspension that rolls if you turn in to a corner with any serious enthusiasm, and dips its nose when you hit the brakes. There’s also quite a lot of wind and road noise at motorway speeds, which means the experience isn’t as quiet as you might expect.
Overall, it's not as enjoyable to drive as the Mazda CX-5, and lacks the feeling of solid capability that you get in Skoda’s Kodiaq.
How powerful is it?
The latest RAV4 is only available as a petrol-electric hybrid, with a 2.5-litre engine producing 218 horsepower in front-wheel drive cars, or 222 horsepower in all-wheel drive models. The Icon is only available in front-wheel drive, while all other trims are available with either.
There’s no diesel option, which is usually the default choice for larger cars. Diesel engines have inherently more low-down grunt, which the RAV4’s electric motor tries to make up for, but you’ll still hear the petrol engine howl if you try to make any sort of quick progress, as it flies high in the rev range, straining for more power. The automatic gearbox – technically a continuously variable transmission, or CVT – works well enough, but by its nature sends the revs high in the search for grunt, and it’s rather noisy, although the actual result is punchy enough for decent progress.
The all-wheel drive model features a second electric motor to power the rear wheels, and will allow for limited off-road driving. Don’t expect
How much will it cost me?
The RAV4 doesn’t have any immediate close rivals, save perhaps for the Honda CR-V hybrid, although that has less power than the Toyota. But as their prices are similar, we’ve compared the RAV4 two-wheel drive Design model with the CR-V SE hybrid. We also looked at another car RAV4 customers might be interested in: Skoda’s Kodiaq 2.0 TDI diesel SE Technology (five seat), which again has less power, but it’s more powerful diesel engine is only available in high-spec trims.
What we’ve found is, according to industry estimates, the Skoda is cheaper to buy and will get better fuel economy, as well as costing less in depreciation, but it’ll cost slightly more than the Japanese cars to service, maintain and repair. The CR-V lags behind both in fuel economy and has relatively poor resale value, so despite cheap servicing and repair costs is likely to be more expensive than both its rivals. The Skoda will be slightly cheaper than the Toyota overall.
One major thing to consider concerns company car tax. Because the RAV4’s CO2 emissions are much lower than its rivals, it could cost business users much less in tax, which suddenly makes the Toyota much more attractive.
How reliable is it?
Although the newness of the latest RAV4 means it’s not possible gather meaningful, model-specific data on it, Toyota has, for many years, had an excellent reputation for reliability, and it’s often one of the main selling points for the brand. JD Power’s 2018 Vehicle Dependability Study put Toyota in ninth place of the main manufacturers. However, that score dipped dramatically in the 2019 study, and Toyota plunged down the rankings with a lower-than-average score for the industry. Hopefully, that will just prove to be a blip. Should anything go wrong with your RAV4, Toyota offers an impressive five-year, 100,000 mile warranty.
How safe is it?
All models of the new RAV4 include an impressive array of safety kit, packaged together under the name of Toyota Safety Sense. This includes automatic emergency braking that can detect pedestrians and cyclists (during the day), as well as lane departure alert, which helps keep the car from inadvertently drifting out of its lane. A blind spot warning system and a rear cross traffic alert system is included on the Excel and Dynamic models.
There are Isofix child seat mounting points on the two outer rear seats, as well as front, side and curtain airbags, and a knee airbag for the driver. At the time of writing, the latest RAV4 hadn’t been crash tested by safety organisation Euro NCAP, but we'd be surprised if it doesn't score the maximum five stars when it is.
How much equipment do I get?
Even the entry-level Icon model gets plenty of standard equipment, including push-button start, adaptive cruise control, automatic wipers and headlights and DAB radio.
The Design model also gets keyless entry, front parking sensors and an electric bootlid, as well as satellite navigation, while the Excel adds power folding door mirrors, heated front seats, electric driver’s seat and full leather upholstery, as well as a heated steering wheel.
The top-of-the-range Dynamic comes with heated sports seats. Both the Excel and Dynamic models are available with optional JBL sound system and a panoramic roof.
Disappointingly, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available anywhere in the range, which is highly unusual these days.
The RAV4 will appeal because of Toyota's reputation for reliability and impressive array of standard kit, or you’re particularly after a hybrid SUV. If you’re a business user, it could save you thousands of pounds in tax compared to rivals, and it boasts enough features to make it an attractive proposition to plenty.