The Best of 2019, Toyota Rav4 Hybrid. There is nothing more sensible.
It has been a good year. From Urus to DBS, from Zoe to X6M. We have been fortunate to drive quite a few automotive jewels. And among the hype of the electric, the silent noise of the Taycan, the turbo on the 911 and the stilted staccato that has been the arrival of Tesla’s Model 3, we tend to forget the Leader worldwide. Toyota. 2019 has brought the latest iteration of the Supra, which don’t get me wrong, is fabulous, but as with most of the cars we test, is not a representation of the daily driver.
However, the Rav4 is. The unassuming mid-sized SUV. Packing as much real estate as the Prado of yore, it has positioned itself as a major player in the ubiquitous SUV segment. And given the interior, specs, aesthetics and engine, had this been a non-hybrid, it would have scampered under the radar completely unnoticed.
But this IS a hybrid. And it comes courtesy of the quintessential hybrid manufacturer. That of the Prius: Toyota. And that makes all the difference and more.
Truth be told, the word that defines the expectations of the vast majority of drivers is reliability. Sure they want something nice, and comfy, and fast, and luxurious. But if running late in the morning is peppered with the uncertainty of whether the car will start, they will hate their car, and themselves for choosing it, every day of their lives.
From the get go, the Rav4 appears much larger than the older model. Quick review of specs confirm that over the years, this model has come from the utilitarian 4.15m of Gen1 to the 4.6m of today. That is a whole segment and a half from where it started. And on the scales it is a whole 500kg heavier. That is an entire, and average, family of four, with luggage, a dog, a canoe, skiing equipment and the vlog equipment every modern Instagram family never leaves the house without.
The wow factor is the package, not any individual feature
Aesthetically, it is what it is. There is no wow factor at all. It looks more muscular, more angular, more aggressive, more… car-like. It is attractive in a very next-door and forgettable way. Can’t really transmit the feeling, which is a first, but it’s just like a Big-Mac made out of Wagyu beef. Great on the inside, but it is a McDonalds.
As for the interior, it is much the same. We got the top of the line trim and while having everything you can imagine, our opinion is not only that it lacks in ergonomics, but also in character. And what is unforgivable in a new model is having the infotainment screen as an appendage attached to the dashboard. BMW does it, Toyota does it, it’s just no. Think it through, make it properly integrated. Touch screens are not something new anymore. Forgivable on a Lotus, not on the massive behemoth Toyota has become.
That said, everything works as advertised. The A/C is outstanding, the sound system competent, the displays legible and clear, the steering rotates… it’s all good. The seats are ample, the seating position comfortable, visibility pristine and the overall combine is commanding.
Rear seats are also very nice, with head and leg room for someone human-sized, and the luggage space is well proportioned. Common extras such as the automated tailgate and a variety of charging ports, as well as a phone charging surface in the front are present and working without a hitch.
Yeah, yeah, but why “Best of 2019”?
So far, it does not look like a “Best of 2019”, does it? Well, here we go, and it is where Toyota truly blew my mind. And that is the engine-drivetrain combo. This sorcery that combines petrol and electricity, on a gearbox and transmission that must have negative friction, handles a combined fuel efficiency of 5.4l per 100km. Let’s remember, we are looking at 1.7 tons, on a 4WD setup, and with the aerodynamic appearance of a Japanese cheesecake.
Sure, the number may not be that impressive unless compared with something else. And we can do that. For example, the Toyota Camry hybrid. A fix in the taxi fleets and possibly the most sold hybrid in the planet. We tested it as well. And it gave… drumroll… 5.4l. Exactly the same. Which is impossible, yet it is.
Therefore, the 65l fuel tank will give you well over 850Km of range. Used to the endless queue at the fuel pump, the less time I spend on that, the better. Not to say anything about the reduced cost of it. Plus, given the price over the purely fossil option, which is $35k against $38k for the hybrid, make the choice an absolute no-brainer.
It may be simplistic to focus on just this factor to determine the RAV4 as my choice for 2019, but that’s not just it. It is the combination of everything working fine, the car being cost effective, the freedom of the brand’s reliability, the availability of parts, the reduced visits to the interred gasoline depot, the spaciousness and the ability to climb over the odd speedbump, kerb, pothole or supermarket zebra crossing and the generally pleasant aesthetic of the car have totally won me over. There are 50 cars I like more than this. The RAV4 Hybrid is what I would buy.
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