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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2021 review: Cruiser

The Toyota RAV-4's makeover was long overdue when it arrived last year, and still looks fresh.

Who would have thought I’d be admiring a Toyota RAV4? It used to be a real box on wheels, but not anymore. The current RAV4 has a cooler, more modern shape and this particular model is the Cruiser Hybrid AWD, with hybrid power, utilising Toyota’s hybrid technology. If you’re not into that, there are others in the range with petrol engines only.  

It’s second from the top of the range and costs $46,290 before on-road costs, competing with cars like the Subaru Forester Hybrid and other mid size SUVs that haven’t got a hybrid option yet, like the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5

Here’s how it did for this week’s family review. 

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✅ How does it look?

The exterior is modern and fresh, with a slanted back end and smooth front end with large grille. It feels very 2021, and reminds me of the car version of Bear Grylls. You know, smooth, likeable, practical, can take him anywhere.

The Toyota RAV4 exterior is modern and fresh. The Toyota RAV4 exterior is modern and fresh.

Inside the car has unique styling that sets it apart from competitors, especially this textured rubber finish on knobs and shelves that adds to the rugged feeling of the car. 

The upholstery is leather accented and the steering wheel is leather, too. The centre console is nicely designed but is let down slightly by the multimedia screen jutting out the dash - it would be more seamless if it was integrated into it.

There’s a digital dashboard that makes everything feel quite fresh though and overall it feels great to sit in the RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid on the road.

The current RAV4 has a cooler, more modern shape. The current RAV4 has a cooler, more modern shape.

✅ How spacious is it?

The RAV4 has generous space in the front, with enough leg and headroom for taller people and it feels breezy in the cabin, even with the sunroof. 

There’s enough room in the back for my two children, aged six and eight, to comfortably fit with plenty of space for school bags and toys. I can easily fit in there at 161cm (5’3”) and there’s loads of headroom for taller people while longer legs won’t have any trouble behind even a tall driver. 

  • The RAV4 has generous space in the front. The RAV4 has generous space in the front.
  • You’ll be able to fit three car seats across the back row. You’ll be able to fit three car seats across the back row.
  • The boot is huge, with 580L of space. The boot is huge, with 580L of space.
  • The boot will easily fit a double pram or suitcases or school bags and groceries. The boot will easily fit a double pram or suitcases or school bags and groceries.

You’ll be able to fit three car seats across, too. I did it with two boosters and a baby capsule, though it is a tight squeeze ,and we’d always recommend you check with your particular car seats. 

And the boot is huge, with 580L of space that will easily fit a double pram or suitcases or school bags and groceries. It’s bigger than the Subaru Forester and Honda CR-V but smaller than a Volkswagen Tiguan which has a sliding second row, that this car doesn’t.

✅ How does it drive?

There’s a silent start, as with all electric motors, but the petrol engine kicks in quite quickly soon after you take off. It drives really well with a seamless transition from electric motor to petrol engine power - though the engine is a lot louder and you do notice it as soon as it's running!

It’s happy to coast along on the battery for a while but there is the 2.5L four-cylinder petrol engine when you really need power on highways. 

And remember, it’s not a plug-in hybrid, so you don’t need to worry about cables or forgetting to charge overnight.

It drives really well with a seamless transition from electric motor to petrol engine power. It drives really well with a seamless transition from electric motor to petrol engine power.

In this type of hybrid, the engine is charging the battery, and those batteries power the electric motors (one on the front axle, one on the rear) when the system thinks it’s appropriate.

So, it basically just uses less fuel than a regular engine because it’s dipping into stored energy. Claimed fuel consumption is 4.8L/100km which is amazing for a family sized SUV and I averaged 6.1L/100km, driving mainly around Sydney suburbs, not a lot of highway driving this week. 

The steering turns easily so parking the car is fine and there is a reverse parking camera, however it could be a higher resolution - especially when the whole car is about forward thinking technology, I would expect a better camera here. 

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

The front seats are power adjustable and the park brake turns on and off by itself, which I always appreciate. The tailgate is power operated, too, although it takes a long time to open and close, and sometimes you just want to be able to slam it shut. 

There are two cupholders in the front, a spot for charging your phone, that also has that textured rubber finish which helps stop your phone sliding around, a centre storage bin and bottle holders in each door.

Rear passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest plus bottle holders in the doors, and directional air vents, which is necessary in summer. 

✅ How safe is it?

✅ What’s the tech like?

The RAV-4 is fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to cover all your multimedia needs. You can make calls, send texts, listen to books, podcasts, music and navigate via maps - all with the touchscreen. 

The RAV-4 is fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to cover all your multimedia needs. The RAV-4 is fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to cover all your multimedia needs.

✅ How much does it cost to own?

The Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid costs $46,290, before on road costs. Fuel consumption is a claimed 4.8L/100km and I averaged 6.1L/100km this week, with mainly suburban driving, which is what drives the fuel cost up. 

It’s covered by Toyota’s five year/unlimited km warranty, seven years warranty on the engine and gearbox (if you keep it serviced by the book) and seven years of roadside assist.

Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km.


The Wrap

The Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid is a great family car. The hybrid technology makes it a good choice for those worried about going completely electric. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, at least. 

It looks cool, has enough interior space and a large boot plus good safety and technology. 

I gave it a family rating of 8.1 out of 10, my kids gave it the same, they love anything remotely electric. 

Likes

Exterior design
Hybrid motor
Large boot

Dislikes

Price point
Sluggish power tailgate
Reverse camera needs higher res

Scores

Nedahl:

4.1

The Kids:

4.1

$46,290

Based on new car retail price