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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Singapore Review 2022 - 2.5 Premium (A)

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

From Borneo Motors Singapore comes the highly anticipated Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which is an updated version of the petrol engined predecessor, and will deliver fuel economy figures of above 20km/l via a front wheel drivetrain, and boasts the same level of active safety equipment in the form of Toyota Safety Sense, along with other utility features such as rain sensing wipers, automatic high beams, lane departure alert, cross traffic alert. To back up the RAV4's adventurous frame, the car also comes with folding rear seats for flexible storage configurations. As a self charging hybrid, the RAV4 Hybrid pairs a 2.5L petrol engine to an 88kW electric motor, pushing out a combined 215bhp.

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Toyota Nails the Hybrid Drivetrain

Toyota has been making hybrid drivetrains for some time now and the experience shows - with the latest generation of hybrid drivetrains found in the Camry, Harrier, and now the RAV4 proving to be one of the best in the market. The electric motor gels seamlessly with the 2.5L power plant and doesn't miss a beat when alternating between petrol power, electric power, or when running on a combination of both. In fact, you'll hardly notice when the electric motor kicks in, and if you have your music turned up, it is even harder to notice. Although still running on a CVT, it is worth noting that the new E-CVT transmission from Toyota features a physical first gear, and really helps to eliminate the typical CVT drone associated with these types of transmissions, especially when moving off the line. When pushing the car at higher speeds, you'll still get some CVT drone, but its negligible, and greatly reduced from good insulation around the cabin. Overall, the E-CVT is a great addition to Toyota's cars and dramatically improves the driving dynamics of the car - a move that is welcome if Toyota is to break out of its traditional "uncle" demographic. The RAV4 Hybrid is specified for 215bhp on paper, but it should not be mistaken for a performance car, although, if you have adequate charge in your battery, you'll find that moving off the line in the car feels effortless when running on electric power. While I would not go so far as to describe the performance as sporty, I would say that movement is spritely - a big plus for a car of this size.

From an economy standpoint, I managed a noteworthy 20.5km/l despite some harder driving during the media test drive and despite lots of idling during the photo and video shoot. Under more calculated driving, I would estimate a real world economy of about 22km/l - a figure that would be remarkable for a car of this size, and for a car that isn't a total slouch. Truth is, fuel economy isn't necessarily achieved just by making a hybrid car, and many manufacturers have fallen short in this regard, creating hybrids that require extremely rigid driving perimeters in order to achieve an economy that is close to the paper specified fuel economy. With the Toyota hybrid drivetrains, like the one in this RAV4, the car is more accommodating to different driving styles, and applies electric power in a manner that is intelligent and calibrated. In essence then, most drivers should be able to extract a decent fuel economy figure from a Toyota drivetrain, across a wider range of driving styles.

Stiffer But Better

We all expect large Japanese SUVs to be comfortable - but we also expect them to soft and squishy, with no real handling characteristics to speak off, and with the expectation of a fairly boring drive. It comes as a great surprise then, that the RAV4 breaks the trend, offering a very comfortable and pliant ride without being all roly-poly through the corners. Despite sharing a drivetrain, the RAV4 begins to feel vastly different from the Harrier once you start putting the car round some corners. While the Harrier seems to be positioned as a more premium offering from Toyota, its comfort is derived in the more traditional sense of being soft. The RAV4 however, sports noticeably stiffer shocks, and as such is comfortable in a different way. For starters, the car keeps more level through the corners with a more connected steering feel. Also, over humps and imperfections, the RAV4 seems to "iron" out the imperfections rather than just sort of bouncing over them. I like the way the RAV4 feels in this context, and delivers a more continental car feel. If i were to be perfectly honest, the RAV4 is more comfortable than some entry level continental SUVs in the market today. As I am a continental car owner myself, I would say that the RAV4 then better suits my perception of comfort, and I would choose the RAV4 over the Harrier any day.

Practical & Spacious

In case the boxy appearance of the RAV4 isn't abundantly clear already - Yes, the RAV4 is a very practical vehicle. While the original RAV4 was built to be a proper off-roader that would take whatever road conditions were thrown at it, the RAV4 hybrid is a front wheel drive vehicle that isn't exactly built for off-roading, but nonetheless looks equipped to take on anything life throws at it. Of course, its demeanour will also appeal to buyers who are more outgoing and adventurous in nature - people who might be more inclined to go on a picnic, hang out at the beach, or do some hiking, as compared to say watching a movie at the mall. To further accentuate this disposition, you'll find some utility features in the car, such as a little storage shelf near the driver's door that is lined with anti-slip rubber. You also get a longer one on the passenger side that runs across the length of the glove compartment. Storage space in the car is also pretty generous and you'll find it pretty easy to find a spot to stash away your belongings. The RAV4 also comes with a wireless phone charging pad, that comes with an on-off switch - a lesser seen but very useful feature. If you don't need to charge your phone all the time, it is nice that you can turn off the charging pad, so that your phone doesn't feel like a heat pad when you slot it into your pocket when you get out of the car. There are also these rubber linings found on the interior door handles and the air-conditioning knobs - a feature that i rather liked, but I am skeptical if it will last in Singapore's humid weather. I initially found it rather odd that the RAV4 came with heated seats but not ventilated seats, seeing as we live in sunny, humid Singapore - a place where ventilated seats would be high on my options list. However, it rained pretty biblically during our photoshoot and I soon discovered the joys of having toasty warm seats against my wet clothes.

In the rear, things are utilitarian in a good way, and you get exactly what it says on the brochure with no surprises. The doors are squarish and open wide to reveal a practically shaped aperture, which will make it easy to load kids and car seats. Toyota have kept with the hidden ISOFIX points instead of exposing them like most continental cars do today, and I can't really understand why. It really does make a difference to the user - having to dig between the seats to locate the exactly location of the mounting point. This is one area that I think the car could have done better, but its not a deal breaker by any measure. Rear passenger comfort is going to be good in the RAV4, as the boxy shape of the car doesn't eat into headroom, and get ample legroom with an almost flat floor in the 2nd row. Personally, I really enjoyed the recline angle on the seats, and when coupled with the ride quality of the car, could potentially be very sleep inducing for the rear passengers.

Who Should Buy This Car?

Considering that the RAV in RAV4 stands for Recreational Active Vehicle, it does seem to set the context that buyers of the RAV4 will be looking for a utility car that can support their outgoing and sporty pursuits. In that sense, the difference in setup from the Harrier gives me the impression that Toyota understand their buyer demographics well, and have responded rather appropriately. That said, people are still going to compare the RAV4 to the Harrier - and to that, I say that if you are coming from another Japanese or Korean car, and are looking to upgrade into either of these cars, you might be more accustomed to the type of comfort offered by the Toyota Harrier, which has more premium touches than the RAV4 anyway and should satisfy your sense of upgrade. However, if you are a person who has regularly driven continental cars, and are looking for a utility vehicle to get things done, serve you well, the RAV4 is a better option in my opinion, and truly offers buyers an absolutely well rounded vehicle. If you aren't hard up about premium brands, the RAV4 hybrid could be that practical, comfortable, and economical car all at once for you, while still maintaining an above average standing among cars in Singapore.

Still not sure which car you would prefer? Test drive both the Toyota Harrier & the RAV4 Hybrid. Sign up here for a test drive or viewing and be entitled to exclusive SG Family Man perks (only applicable through the use of this form).


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