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Toyota RAV4 driving

Toyota RAV4 review

The RAV4 is a mid-size SUV with plenty of space for the family. It’s built to last and likely to be completely dependable. Running costs are low, particularly for hybrid-powered models.


  • Low running costs
  • Very well made
  • Spacious interior


  • Petrol model’s fuel economy
  • Engine can be noisy
  • No seven-seat option


"It’s reliable, easy to drive and the popular hybrid models have particularly low running costs."

The Toyota RAV4 SUV provides lots of space, comfort and safety in a car that’s a convenient size. It’s reliable, easy to drive and the popular hybrid models have particularly low running costs.
A new generation of RAV4 was launched in 2019. It offers the same qualities as older models but every element of the car was rethought and redesigned to make it better. It’s slightly bigger and more spacious, and is only available with hybrid power.

What's the interior like?

"The RAV4 has enough space for five adults and a big boot. It’s a great choice for families."

The latest RAV4 looks rugged on the outside and feels it inside. The rubberised buttons and knobs on the dashboard are large and easy to use. The gear lever, too. All models come with lots of equipment, including a wide-screen digital display for the driver instead of conventional dials.

You and your passengers have lots of space. Five adults will fit easily on comfortable and supportive seats. There’s more than enough space, then, for children of all ages, including young ones in bulky child seats. The boot is big enough for four large suitcases and there’s extra storage space under the floor.

The older RAV4 isn’t quite as spacious and has a slightly smaller boot. But the differences are only slight. It still has more than enough room for use as a family car. It also comes very well equipped, with sat nav in most models.

Both generations of RAV4 feel like they’ll last a very long time. Even though both are only available with five seats, the RAV4 is a great choice for families.

What's it like to drive?

"The RAV4 makes nipping around town easy, yet it's comfortable on long journeys."

Both generations of RAV4 are very easy to drive. The steering’s light and there’s a great view from the driver’s seat. Both are small enough to make it easy to nip around town, yet they’re big enough to feel safe on the motorway. The interior is quiet and the seats are comfortable enough for long journeys. The hybrid model can be noisy under hard acceleration, but it settles down when cruising.

The latest RAV4 is only available with hybrid power – a petrol engine backed up by an electric motor. It will quickly get up to motorway speeds. It can also run on the electric motor alone for short distances, with zero exhaust emissions, which is a real bonus when driving in town. It’s only available with an automatic gearbox. If you live in an area where the road or weather conditions are often poor, it’s worth considering the four-wheel-drive models.
The older RAV4 is available with petrol, diesel and hybrid power. All provide good acceleration and the hybrid can run on the electric motor alone for short distances. The diesel engine comes with a manual gearbox while the petrol and hybrid models are automatic. Four-wheel-drive is available too.

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

"The RAV4 is better value than similar SUVs and has very good fuel economy for this type of car."

The RAV4 costs a bit more to buy than other SUVs of a similar size like the Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V but it tends to be better equipped. Not many cars of this type are available with hybrid power, which might make it worth the premium for you.

According to official figures, the latest RAV4 can achieve average fuel economy of nearly 50mpg. Drive carefully and you should get pretty close to that. Realistically, you’re looking at an average of around 40mpg, which is still really good for this type of car. CO2 emissions are low as well, so road tax won’t cost much.

The older RAV4 hybrid has better official fuel economy than the latest car, but this is because it was tested using an older, less stringent system. In reality you can expect similar mpg. The older RAV4 is also available with petrol and diesel engines. The petrol engine will only get around 30mpg and CO2 emissions are quite high, so the road tax is higher. The diesel, on the other hand, should return around 50mpg.

How reliable and safe is it?

"Both generations of RAV4 have achieved strong results in owner satisfaction surveys and five-star safety ratings."

Toyota’s reputation for building reliable cars is legendary. The latest RAV4 placed a very strong 12th in the J.D. Power 2020 UK Vehicle Dependability Study, with a score of over 90%. The older version achieved similarly strong results in the past. So they should be a pleasure to own.

Safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded both generations of RAV4 its maximum five-star safety rating, taking into account its lane-keeping system and automatic emergency braking. While the older RAV4 doesn’t have some of those features, it does offer lane-departure warning and lots of standard safety features.

Which one is best for you?

Best for emissions - RAV4 Hybrid

Best for family - Latest RAV4 (cars registered from 2019)

Best for adventure - RAV4 AWD

All RAV4s come very well equipped with air con and DAB radio. Most models have sat nav and a rear view camera too. Top of the range models add desirable features like heated leather seats and a sunroof. The latest RAV4 is also available with a ‘surround view’ camera system which shows a bird’s eye view of the car to make parking much easier.

As it’s a bit bigger, the latest RAV4 is marginally better for families, though the older model is hardly lacking in space. Neither generation is really a proper off-roader but the four-wheel-drive models provide extra reassurance that may be valuable if you live in the countryside.

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