Independent, Expert EV Reviews & Advice Since 2006

Toyota RAV4 PHEV Review

The Toyota RAV4 PHEV has an official EV driving range of 46 miles, fuel economy of 282.5 mpg, and it’s a blueprint for how all plug-in hybrids should work.

  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
  • Toyota RAV4 PHEV
Green Car Guide Rating: 9/10

Key stats

  • Model/Engine size:  Toyota RAV4 PHEV Dynamic
  • Fuel:  Petrol-electric plug-in hybrid
  • Fuel economy combined (WLTP):  282.5 mpg

Summary

  • 46 mile electric range
  • Starts in EV mode and stays in EV mode – unusual for a plug-in hybrid
  • EV mode delivers all-wheel drive
  • Practical, spacious and good to drive

Background

Toyota is best known for petrol-electric hybrids, which are very efficient, but they can’t drive any decent distance on electric power. So the company has now used its knowledge of hybrids to bring us the Toyota RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid, and the result is a blueprint for how all plug-in hybrids should work.

Toyota RAV4 PHEVToyota RAV4 PHEV

Design & Engineering

The Toyota RAV4 PHEV has a 4-cylinder, 2.5-litre petrol engine together with a 134 kW electric motor on the front axle and a 40 kW electric motor on the rear axle, both of which are powered by an 18.1kWh lithium-ion battery which sits under the floor. There’s also ‘intelligent’ all-wheel drive (AWD-i).

Because the battery sits under the floor the interior space in the boxy RAV4 is almost identical to the Hybrid RAV4; there’s lots of rear legroom and the floor is just 35mm higher; the boot is 520 litres in size (including useful storage space for cables under the boot floor), or 1,604 litres up to the roof with the rear seats folded.

The RAV4 PHEV also has a braked towing capacity of 1,500kg.

Toyota RAV4 PHEVToyota RAV4 PHEV

Toyota RAV4 PHEV Driving Experience

Plug-in hybrids have had a bad press because some people buy them for low tax incentives and don’t drive them on electric power. This is obviously bad for local air quality and for climate change. But even if you want to drive a plug-in hybrid on electric power for the maximum amount of time, the design of the plug-in hybrid system and controls in many PHEVs means that many people will end up driving on petrol power for too much of the time. The RAV4 PHEV addresses the bad design of many PHEVs in a number of ways.

Firstly, when you start the car, it’s automatically in EV mode. It sounds obvious that all PHEVs should do that, but they don’t, so this is the first good point.

Next, if you’re in EV mode in many PHEVs, the petrol engine comes on very easily. Not so with the RAV4, if you’re in EV mode, the car locks you in EV mode (up to 84mph): second brilliant feature.

Some 4×4 PHEVs can’t drive in electric mode and 4×4 mode; however the RAV4 can drive in electric mode and still deliver the grip of 4×4: the third excellent engineering solution.

Then there’s the PHEV control system. One PHEV that we tested recently required seven – yes, seven – presses of the touchscreen to lock the car on petrol power, for example when driving on the motorway prior to entering a city. With the RAV4 there’s just one press of a physical button next to the gear selector to swap between EV and hybrid mode (or you can press a button for the car to choose EV or petrol by itself, or even to charge the battery from the petrol engine). Fantastic.

Then of course there’s the electric driving range. Most PHEVs can manage 20-30 miles in real-world driving. The RAV4 has an official combined range of 46 miles (or 60 miles in city driving), but it was consistently displaying a range projection of 49 miles. Most PHEVs start with a displayed EV range projection of, for example 30 miles, and end up delivering 20 miles in the real-world. However the RAV4 PHEV started with a projection of 49 miles, and ended up delivering around 60 miles of electric range.

How does this work? Well, Toyota has more experience than any other manufacturer with hybrids, which need to capture the maximum amount of energy from braking, ie. recuperation. The company has evidently thrown all the knowledge it has gained from hybrids into the RAV4 PHEV, and it has resulted in the most energy efficient plug-in hybrid system that we’ve ever tested – and we’ve tested every single PHEV that you can buy.

And there’s more. You can also select EV mode and Sport mode (or Eco mode), as well as EV mode and Trail mode (an automatic locking system for the limited-slip differential). And by the way, the RAV4 has decent off-road rubber in the form of Yokohama tyres. There’s also 190mm of ground clearance.

Does the RAV4 drive like most people would expect a hybrid to drive, ie. in an unresponsive way? No. There’s lots of power in EV mode from the two electric motors, and there’s lots of power from the petrol engine – which isn’t a tiny engine, it’s a 4-cylinder, 2.5-litre unit – meaning that it offers an excellent driving experience, and this larger engine actually means that it’s more efficient at motorway speeds than a smaller engine. The revvy nature of the old Toyota hybrid system appears to have been banished.

The steering is also well weighted (ie. not too light), the ride quality is comfortable, and the handling is good (for a car that weighs almost two tonnes). It’s also quiet and refined. The RAV4 has automatic transmission, but you can change gear manually if you prefer.

As well as the physical buttons for controlling the hybrid system and the drive modes, there’s also physical buttons for the heating and ventilation, and there are shortcut buttons around the central touchscreen (physical buttons may be unfashionable but they allow you to press a button once rather than multiple times on a touchscreen, so are more user-friendly and safer). There’s a reversing camera, and there wasn’t even any annoying interference from a lane departure warning system.

An interesting interior design feature is a rubber grip effect on the door handles, which is also carried through to the temperature controls and the volume/tuning dials.

Toyota RAV4 PHEVToyota RAV4 PHEV

Toyota RAV4 PHEV Economy and Emissions

The Toyota RAV4 PHEV has an EV driving range (WLTP combined cycle) of 46 miles, and combined fuel economy (WLTP) of 282.5mpg. In real-world driving the RAV4 was delivering 49 miles of EV range, but on a long journey it delivered 60 miles of EV range, due to capturing lots of energy from braking. Real-world fuel economy just on the petrol engine on a long journey was 50.3mpg. Average fuel economy using petrol and electric was 88.3mpg. The RAV4 should deliver a petrol range of over 400 miles from the fuel tank, which is the same 55-litre capacity tank as in the hybrid model.

Using the 6.6kW on-board fast charger the RAV4 can be charged in around 2.5 hours using a 7kW home charger.

Toyota RAV4 PHEVToyota RAV4 PHEV

Price and Model Range

The Toyota RAV4 PHEV in Design spec costs £46,495, Dynamic costs £47,395, and Dynamic Premium costs £50,895. There’s also the RAV4 Hybrid (ie. not a plug-in hybrid).

Toyota RAV4 PHEVToyota RAV4 PHEV

Conclusion

The Toyota RAV4 PHEV addresses virtually all of the problems of many other plug-in hybrids. It starts in EV mode and stays in EV mode, it’s easy to change between EV and hybrid modes, and it has a real-world range of around 50 miles – and potentially more thanks to its very efficient brake energy recuperation system. It’s also an excellent car all-around, being good to drive, practical and spacious, with all-wheel drive capability – even in EV mode. Very few plug-in hybrids gain a Green Car Guide rating of more than 8 out of 10 when faced with so many excellent pure EVs, but the Toyota RAV4 PHEV is awarded a 9 out of 10 rating.

Car facts and figures Toyota RAV4 PHEV Review

  • Test economy: 88.3 mpg
  • EV driving range (WLTP combined cycle): 46 miles
  • CO2 emissions (WLTP): 22 g/km
  • Vehicle tax rate (VED):  TBC
  • Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability (2021/22): 7%
  • Price:  From £46,495
  • Insurance group:  34E – 35E
  • Power:  302 bhp (System), 182 bhp (Engine), 134 kW (Electric motor front), 40 kW (Electric motor rear)
  • Torque: 227 Nm (Engine), 270 Nm (Electric motor front), 121 Nm (Electric motor rear)
  • Max speed:  112 mph
  • 0-62 mph:  6.0 seconds
  • Weight:  1,930-1,995 kg
Paul Clarke

Review by:
Paul Clarke, GreenCarGuide Editor