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Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GXL hybrid 2WD

EXPERT RATING
8.3
It's taken 25 years for the Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid to arrive. Is it worth the wait?

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Toyota knew all those years ago, didn’t it? It knew that one day most of us would like SUVs, not for their off-road capability but for their looks and the way they make us feel when driving one. You know, all high up and secure.

Yep, you can tell it knew this even a quarter of a century ago because the brand launched the RAV4, one of the original compact SUVs, which unlike a LandCruiser, was designed more for the city than off-road.

And now we've reached peak SUV, where sales of SUVs have overtaken those of regular cars, with almost none of them going anywhere near dirt.

Nothing represents this stage in the evolution of the SUV more than the vehicle I’ve reviewed here – the RAV4 GXL Hybrid 2WD.

So, while this isn’t the best SUV for going off-road, could it be the best SUV for everything else

Toyota RAV4 2019: GXL 2WD HYBRID
Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency4.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$38,140

Is there anything interesting about its design?  8/10

This new-generation RAV4 looks tough, modern and premium. I love its new aggressive face, those crisp edges running through the door panels and the sleek tail-lights.

'Our' test car's optional 'Electric Blue' paint ($618) looks pretty ordinary on the Toyota website, but quite fetching in real life.

Really, the only cosmetic differences between the GXL and GX below it is the higher grade's roof rails and tinted rear windows. While the only indication it’s a hybrid is the Toyota badge with blue ‘aura’.

'Our' test car's optional 'Electric Blue' paint ($618) looks pretty ordinary on the Toyota website, but quite fetching in real life. 'Our' test car's optional 'Electric Blue' paint ($618) looks pretty ordinary on the Toyota website, but quite fetching in real life.

The RAV4 GXL hybrid’s cabin might not be up to a Volvo interior design level, but it’s clean and functional styling is pleasing.

Sure, there are more than a few hard-plastic surfaces, but the fit and finish of every panel and part is superb, as we’ve come to expect from Toyota.

This new-generation RAV4 arrived in 2019 and while it may look much bigger than the previous model, it’s not. The GXL Hybrid is 4600mm long, 1855mm wide, and 1685mm tall.

What does that mean for space inside? Hold your palominos, we’re getting there.

How practical is the space inside?  8/10

Each week I road test a new car and together with my family we use it to do all the things you probably do with yours – school drops off, shopping, commuting, weekends away, that kind of thing.

With that real-world use, it doesn’t take long to see just how practical the week’s test car is. How did the RAV GXL Hybrid 2WD stack up?

Highlights are the boot, cabin storage, legroom and utilities such as USB ports.

The cargo capacity is large at 580 litres, the load lip is low, the opening is wide and tall.

With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 580 litres. With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 580 litres.

There’s also great cabin storage in the form of a shelf above the glove box with a grippy rubber surface for wallets and purses, a deep centre console box, a large area in front of the shifter, plus two cupholders up front and two in the back.

For charging and media you’ll find five USB ports, a wireless pad and a 12-volt outlet.

As far as people space goes, there’s stacks of room. Even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with about 20mm to spare. Headroom is also excellent back there.

Entry in and out could be better, while the doors are tall and wide, they don’t open as far out as a Nissan X-Trail’s or Mazda CX-5’s.

  • One of the RAV4's highlights is the legroom. One of the RAV4's highlights is the legroom.
  • There’s stacks of room in the back seat. There’s stacks of room in the back seat.
  • The doors are tall and wide, but don’t open as far out as a Nissan X-Trail’s or Mazda CX-5’s. The doors are tall and wide, but don’t open as far out as a Nissan X-Trail’s or Mazda CX-5’s.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  9/10

As a guide, RAV4s cost between about $30k and $49k, so the RAV4 GXL 2WD Hybrid with its list price of $38,140 sits at the mid-point of the range.

Standard features on the GXL Hybrid include LED headlights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, sat nav, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, a wireless charger, six-speaker stereo, rear privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, proximity key, premium fabric seats, roof rails and 18-inch alloys wheels.

At the centre of the cabin is a 8.0-inch touchscreen. At the centre of the cabin is a 8.0-inch touchscreen.

The petrol version of the GXL 2WD costs $2500 less but think of the fuel savings. Well, we’ll get to the fuel economy further down.

As for the RAV4 GXL Hybrid’s rivals, there's really only the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

See, while there are many mid-sized SUVs out there, such as the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Tucson, you can’t have those with anything other than a combustion engine only.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

Powering the GXL Hybrid 2WD is a 2.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor with a combined power output of 160kW. Torque from the combustion engine alone is 221Nm.

A Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) sends drive to the front wheels.

Combining an electric motor with a 2.5-litre petrol engine results in 160kW of power. Combining an electric motor with a 2.5-litre petrol engine results in 160kW of power.

Braked towing capacity of the 2WD Hybrid RAV4 is 480kg. The AWD Hybrid can do 1500kg, so keep that in mind if you have visions of pulling boats or caravans.

How much fuel does it consume?  9/10

There’s a reason why you’re looking at the hybrid version of the RAV4: petrol consumption. Whether it’s because you want to be environmentally kind or save money, it’s all about using less petrol.

I spent a week in the GXL Hybrid 2WD and covered approximately 160km. My fuel test was mainly on urban roads where I typically see higher fuel usage.

I used 6.2L/100km of the recommended 91 RON unleaded which is outstanding, even if the claimed (combined cycle) fuel economy figure is 4.7L/100km.

What's it like to drive?  7/10

First. Wow. I hadn’t driven a new generation RAV4 before this and compared to the previous generation this SUV’s on-road manners have been refined in every way – ride, handling, sound insulation, the lot.

Second. Meh… That’s the feeling I get when driving a hybrid. Sorry, but hybrids of this kind, while efficient and clever, aren't the most rewarding cars to drive.

That said, the RAV4 GXL Hybrid 2WD performed faultlessly, never feeling underpowered or awkward with its dance of swapping between petrol engine and electric motor.

Yes, as it seems with all hybrid cars, regenerative braking gives the brake pedal a bit of a wooden feel, the CVT auto has as much personality as a filing cabinet, and there are the associated powertrain electric noises.

But I quickly became used to the driving experience and even… enjoyed it at times.

The suspension offers a comfortable and composed ride, better even than a prestige SUV I piloted not long after, while handling was also impressive for an SUV that’s not really sporty (other than in its looks).

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  9/10

The RAV4 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in May, 2019.  

You have to hand it to Toyota – every RAV4 regardless of the price and grade comes with AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, road sign recognition, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and a reversing camera. That is outstanding compared to many of its rivals.

RAV4s with a CVT such as ours come with 'Lane Trace Assist' which works with the adaptive cruise control to keep you in your lane and a safe distance from the car in front.  

Along with that brilliant advanced safety tech there are seven air bags, and for children and babies there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the second row.

A space saver spare wheel can be found under the boot floor, as you can see in the images.

Under the boot floor you'll find a space saver spare. Under the boot floor you'll find a space saver spare.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  9/10

The RAV4 GXL 2WD Hybrid is covered by Toyota’s five-year/unlimited km warranty, and this can be extended to seven years if you get logbook servicing from an authorised Toyota dealer.

Speaking of which, servicing is needed every 12 months or 15,000km and is capped at $210 per visit.

Pricing Guides

$39,975
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$29,450
Highest Price
$50,500

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cruiser (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $39,140 2019 Toyota RAV4 2019 Cruiser (2WD) Pricing and Specs
Cruiser (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $50,500 2019 Toyota RAV4 2019 Cruiser (4x4) Pricing and Specs
CRUISER 2WD HYBRID 2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $41,640 2019 Toyota RAV4 2019 CRUISER 2WD HYBRID Pricing and Specs
CRUISER AWD HYBRID 2.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $44,640 2019 Toyota RAV4 2019 CRUISER AWD HYBRID Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.3
Price and features9
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption9
Safety9
Ownership9
Driving7

The RAV4 GXL Hybrid 2WD is more than just a super fuel-efficient SUV. It’s outstanding in terms of value for money, safety, practicality and, yes, even the driving experience (for a hybrid). The new tough looks clinch the deal for me.”

Are you pro hybrid, anti hybrid, or somewhere in-between? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Richard Berry
Senior Journalist

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