Toyota switches its popular mid-sized SUV onto a new platform and hybrid-only tack
Toyota’s current-generation mid-sized SUV, the RAV4, made a clean break with its more than 25 years of history when it went on sale in the UK at the beginning of 2019. Following so many of its rangemates, it switched into Toyota’s latest ‘TNGA’ modular vehicle platform technology. Its dimensions changed only slightly, becoming one of few new cars to become shorter at the kerb than its immediate predecessor.But the mechanical change most will likely have noticed happened under the bonnet. Having been available in all of its previous forms with conventional petrol engines, and since the ‘XA20’ second-generation version also with a diesel for those who wanted one, the new RAV4 switched to petrol-electric hybrid power exclusively. While buyers in other markets can buy conventional petrol-engined versions of the car, then, in the UK the RAV4 comes with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, atmospheric petrol engine and a combination of electric motors, depending on what version you opt for. Both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available. Entry-level cars offer 215bhp and front-wheel drive, while ‘Hybrid AWD-i’models come with power increased slightly to 219bhp (because they add a second electric drive motor for the rear axle).It’s the range-topping RAV4 PHEV that we’ve elected to test, though, whose more powerful electric motors and drive battery combine with its combustion engine to produce up to 302bhp – which is enough to get your attention. Being capable of almost 50 miles of lab-tested electric running on its 18.1kWh drive battery, and emitting as little as 22g/km of CO2, the plug-in hybrid also moves the RAV4 into quite rarified waters as a tax-saving company car. It’s one of a still-very-limited number of family cars that might cost a fleet driver less than 10 per cent of its showroom value in annual benefit in kind tax, but might also cost his fleet operator less than £50,000 at list price. The regular RAV4 Hybrid can be had for much less, but no version of the car other than the PHEV promises to beat an advertised 50mpg, or emits less than 130g/km of carbon dioxide.The regular RAV4 comes in a five-tier model trim range that opens up with the sub-£32,000 Icon version and tops out with the near-£39,000, four-wheel-drive Black Edition. Alloy wheel sizes range from 17- to 19in; and while entry-level cars miss out on equipment such as heated electric seats, LED headlights and front parking sensors, they do get adaptive cruise control and plenty of active safety kit as standard.The RAV4 is built in St Petersburg, Russia for the UK market, with range-topping plug-in versions assembled in Japan instead.