Value in all the right places

For fleet operators, fuel costs are an ongoing concern. Plugging in a vehicle for fuel savings through electrification may be impractical or unreliable in some contexts, and in these situations a conventional hybrid is often a better solution. But if you haven’t driven a hybrid since testing an early-generation Prius, you may be under the impression that adding a battery requires significant sacrifices in driving enjoyment.

By nearly all counts, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid can be considered one of the best options in the compact SUV segment.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is proof positive that it’s time to let go of these presumptions. Since its redesign for the 2019 model year, the RAV4 Hybrid has an even better drive feel than the gas-powered variant. The electric motor’s 88lbs-ft of torque is available from a 0rpm, giving an energetic feel to the throttle, even from a standstill.

Does the amount of fuel saved over the life of a vehicle make up for the higher up-front cost? According to Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption guide, the gas-powered all-wheel-drive RAV4 averages 8.2L/100km combined and costs $2,132 per year to fuel under their parameters of driving 20,000km per year at a cost of $1.30 per litre. (It should be noted that fuel costs are much lower at the date of publishing, but this is expected to be temporary.)

Under the same parameters, the RAV4 Hybrid all-wheel-drive averages $1,560 per year. That’s a cost savings of $572 per 20,000km, or $2,860 per 100,000km. With a price difference between the two of $4,260 at the base model, the answer depends on how far you drive your fleet vehicles and how long you keep them. That said, the RAV4 Hybrid is a better choice for city environments, where it averages 5.7L/100km versus 9.2L/100km in the gas-powered version. My result of 7.6L/100km came after a week of winter weather and extensive highway driving, both of which put any hybrid at a disadvantage.

Another indication that the RAV4 Hybrid is a strong contender for lon-gevity is the eight-year, 160,000km warranty on hybrid com­ponents and 10-year, 240,000km warranty for batteries that Toyota has put forward on its 2020 hybrid models.

All RAV4s have 1,059 litres of space behind the second row and 1,977 litres behind the first row.

The vehicle tested here, which is the sport-oriented XSE model, sits on the premium end of the line-up and is available exclusively as a hybrid. Priced at $43,516 with freight and PDI, this model includes all-wheel drive and a sport suspension.

With its top-notch build quality and materials, the RAV4 is one of the more attractive products in its segment and feels well-fitted for its price point. Despite the need to incorporate a battery, there’s no sacrifice in cargo space: all RAV4s have a segment-competitive 1,059 litres of space behind the second row and 1,977 litres behind the first row. One potential drawback, however, is that the second-row seats don’t fold fully flat, making the full use of cabin storage less practical than some competitors.

Feature offerings and pricing, for the most part, are competitive. The Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of technologies is standard equipment on all models, which includes lane tracing assist, lane departure alert with steering assist and road edge detection, pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams. Blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is packaged separately but is also included on every model.

For the XSE model, a birds-eye view monitor is added, along with an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite radio functionality and on-board navigation.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also standard equipment, as are heated front seats and heated and power-adjustable exterior mirrors. A heated steering wheel becomes available at one grade level above the base model. For heated rear seats, it’s necessary to upgrade to the Limited model, though this is not unusual within the segment.

For the XSE, a bird’s-eye view monitor is added, along with an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite radio functionality and on-board navigation, the latter being either unavailable or at an extra cost
at lower grades. Wireless phone charging, ventilated front seats and a hands-free power liftgate are part of the XSE feature set. There is one unavailable feature that buyers could regret going without: the RAV4 is built at Toyota’s manu­facturing facility in Cambridge, Ontario, which is not equipped
to install a panoramic sunroof.

By nearly all counts, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid offers driving enjoyment and value in all the right places and can be considered one of the best options in the compact SUV segment.