Batteries, sadly, included: Toyota Rav4 Hybrid first drive, CAR+ April 2016

Published: 14 March 2016

► We drive the all new Toyota Rav4 Hybrid
► Boring engine, unresponsive steering
► It's good. Nothing more, nothing less

Toyota started both the global compact SUV epidemic and the great hybrid plague, so this car ought to be all sorted like a box of liquorice sweeties. Let me declare a pair of conflicting interests first though: the three-door Rav4 Mk2 was one of the best cars I’ve owned, so I’m biased in favour; but I dislike hybrids because they produce neither astounding CO2 nor good mpg, so I’m also biased against.

The car doesn’t disappoint on either count. As a piece of kit it’s likeable, so easy to drive you hardly notice, the flyweight steering epically untalkative, the 2.5-litre engine (most powerful Rav4 yet!) duller than an underwater thud. But it rides nicely, body control is par for the market and the widely reviled regenerative brakes have been unfairly maligned.

The hybrid drivetrain, here plying its trade across both axles (you can get a 2wd version – Rav2?) is its usual muddle, achieving unamazing figures of 55.4mpg and 118g/km CO2, principally by never running on electric power but still carting half a boot’s worth of batteries around just in case.

Its unglamorous CVT assistant further mucks up the power distribution, going all thrashy if you dare to hustle it. Luckily, you won’t feel like hustling it, as the gearstick has the tactility and heft of a Kia-Ora straw. That’s a shame, because other materials inside, while hardly premium, feel tough and modern, leather seats included.

It’s not so much a poor relation to the Lexus NX as a relation who never buys his round. As for its position in the compact SUV premier league, think Everton – it won the title a couple of decades back, and is still a Europa League contender. But no more than that.

The specs: Toyota Rav4 Hybrid Excel awd 2.5 CVT

Price: £31,490 
Engine: 2494cc 16v 4-cyl, 150bhp @ 2000rpm, 152lb ft @ 4400rpm, with 141bhp e-motor (194bhp total) 
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive 
Performance: 8.4sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 57.6mpg, 115g/km CO2 
Weight: 1710kg/steel
On sale: Now 
Rating: ***

Read more from the April 2016 issue of CAR magazine

By Greg Fountain

CAR's former managing editor, editor, caption chiseller, noticer of ironies