The 2021 Toyota RAV4 is really bringing the heat.
Bolder and brighter (at least in the case of our electric blue car), it’s holding the top spot in the mid-sized SUV sales rankings in Australia – and SUVs overall.
It’s also the first RAV4 to offer a hybrid in Australia, and boy hasn’t that been a runaway success.
Toyota has gone on record saying the majority of RAV4 buyers opt for petrol-electric power, and demand is so high we’ve heard of wait lists extending over six months.
Is Australia’s favourite SUV worth waiting for?
The Toyota RAV4 starts at $32,695 before on-road costs which will get you into the entry-level GX Manual, climbing to $48,915 before on-roads for the range-topping RAV4 Edge AWD.
On test we have the 2021 Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid eFour (AWD), priced from $42,915 before on-roads or just over $48,000 drive-away according to the company’s online configurator.
The GXL Hybrid competes on price with mid- and high-level versions of rival models, namely the Mazda CX-5 Touring AWD ($42,490), Ford Escape ST-Line AWD ($40,990), the Subaru Forester Hybrid L ($40,490) and the all-new Hyundai Tucson Elite 1.6T AWD ($43,000).
At the base level, the RAV4 GX comes standard with:
- 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and satellite navigation
- 4.2-inch multi-information display
- DAB digital radio
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors
- 60/40 split-fold rear seats and centre arm rest
- Dual-zone climate control (hybrid only)
- LED headlights (parabolic, auto-levelling in petrol; projector in hybrid)
- Automatic high-beam
- Automatic headlights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Five USB ports
- Leatherette-wrapped steering wheel
- Front/rear carpet mats
- Space saver spare tyre
- Rear mudflaps
- Dual exhaust outlets
- Electronic parking brake
Moving up to the RAV4 GXL on test adds:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- ‘Premium’ grille and bumper trims
- Privacy glass
- Leatherette-wrapped shifter
- Self-dimming rear-view mirror
- Dual-zone climate control
- Keyless entry and start
- Wireless phone charging
- Reversing camera with active guide lines
- Front mudflaps
- Roof rails
For the safety conscious, the Toyota RAV4 line-up is comprehensively equipped when it comes to driver assistance and active safety features.
Highlights across the range include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane-keep and lane tracing assists, as well as blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on testing conducted in 2019.
It scored 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 85 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 83 per cent for safety assist.
The following safety features are standard across the range:
- Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Lane-departure warning
- Lane-tracing assist (excludes manual GX)
- Adaptive cruise control (high speed-only on manual GX)
- Traffic sign recognition
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Driver’s knee airbag
- Trailer sway control
There’s also a surround-view camera system featured as standard equipment on high-grade Cruiser and Edge variants.
At first glance, there are some slight spacecraft vibes which isn’t a bad thing.
The overall design is very sleek with clean lines which elongate the dash, making the car feel larger.
However, in the middle of all those lines are two great big knobs for the climate controls. Granted, they serve a purpose, but they just stick out a bit too far and take away from the otherwise classy interior.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen display worked well, was very easy to navigate.
However, the screen resolution is a lower quality than we’ve experienced from rival brands. Infotainment systems seem to be something Toyota just can’t seem to nail.
On a brighter note, the cabin has ample room and the boot is an absolute dream. Enough room for a big full-sized pram, as well as groceries and the school bags.
The overall exterior look of the car is deceptive because the ability to have a rear-facing baby seat in the second row (there are two ISOFIX and rear anchor points) and still have an abundance of space for the front passenger is worth raving about.
Speaking of the RAV4’s load-lugging abilities, the boot measures 580L with the rear seats in place, which is one of the largest capacities in the segment. Toyota unfortunately doesn’t quote a figure with the second row folded, but it’s still a very large and practical space.
A space-saver spare wheel lives under the boot floor. Only the base GX is available with a full-size spare as an option.
The GLX Hybrid on test has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a battery pack and two electric motors which puts out a combined 163kW. With two-wheel drive the RAV4 Hybrid quotes a power output of 160kW as it loses the electric motor on the rear axle.
Toyota doesn’t quote a system torque figure for its hybrids, but the petrol engine offers 221Nm at 3600rpm.
The other options in the range are a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 127kW and 203Nm, while the flagship RAV4 Edge is exclusively offered with a 2.5L petrol engine with 152kW and 243Nm.
The hybrid models all feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as standard, whereas the 2.0-litre models offer the choice of a six-speed manual or CVT and the Edge’s 2.5-litre petrol is solely offered with an eight-speed auto.
The RAV4 is a comfortable car to drive. The suspension alone is really impressive as Toyota has managed to isolate most of the road bumps from being transmitted into the cabin.
The suspension (MacPherson strut up front and trailing wishbone at the rear) really absorbs most of the poor surfaces we tested the vehicle on. For its intended purpose, Toyota has nailed the brief when it comes to producing a well-sorted and comfortable riding car for Australian roads.
The overall grunt the car had on flat ground was impressive; however it was slightly sluggish when go up hills. But it gets there in the end.
Steering is very responsive and light, and you’ll notice slight body roll in the RAV4 when pushed a little in corners.
Being a higher-riding car on softer suspension, it should come as no surprise.
Overall the RAV4 offers a very smooth ride with an engine that packs enough punch when you need it, giving you confidence whether you’re in town or on the highway.
In the driver’s display there is a sub-menu where the a breakdown of the hybrid power flow.
These gauges show real-time graphics indicating when you’re using petrol, hybrid and electric power, as well as when the battery is charging thanks to the regenerative braking with an additional basic charge level readout.
You can also select EV mode which prioritises battery power at low speeds, however it does override itself if you really kick it in the guts.
The RAV4 is a very economical car, with Toyota claiming fuel use of 4.7L/100kms.
Thanks to its 55L fuel tank you shouldn’t be visiting a petrol station all that often.
During our time with the RAV4 we saw an indicated average of 4.9L/100km with a mix of highway and urban driving. For reference, the non-hybrid engines quote averages of between 6.5-7.5L/100km depending on variant.
All RAV4 models are compatible with 91 RON fuel which brings the bowser cost down again.
Toyota offers capped-price servicing which is $215 for the first four services, with 12-month or 15,000km intervals, whichever comes first.
Additionally the RAV4 comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and access to Australia’s largest dealer network.
Overall we are very impressed with the RAV4 GXL Hybrid.
For the price point it’s an extremely capable SUV for Australian families.
With excellent fuel economy, an array of standard safety features and plenty of space inside, it’s a great all-rounder and a safe buy if you’re willing to wait for one.
Practical and punchy are a pretty good duo in our eyes.
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