Hyundai Santa Fe VS Toyota RAV4
Hyundai Santa Fe
- Ride comfort and driveability
- Luxurious interior on Elite and Highlander
- Cloth seats on base grade Active
- Petrol four cylinder lacks grunt
- No front wheel drive variant
Hyundai Santa Fe
Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe. What is it with Hyundai naming its SUVs after sunny places in the United States? Also, the Santa Fe name may have suited what was once a cheerful and rugged looking little SUV when it first appeared in the year 2000, but over the years it has grown up into the big serious flagship of the brand.
So perhaps it needs a new name? And seeing as the car was tested so extensively in Australia for hot weather suitability and suspension tuning then maybe it should get an Aussie name? The Hyundai Gosford? No. The Hyundai Frankston. Nup. The Hyundai Mooloolaba? Nah. The Hyundai Freemantle? I’ve got it: the Hyundai Albury-Wodonga? Too long. Hyundai Byron Bay? Nah, that’s pretty much the same feel as Santa Fe. This naming thing is harder than it looks.
Okay, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, what is important is what’s changed – and a lot has, but then some things haven’t. Read on to find out more.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
An all-new Toyota RAV4 doesn't just happen. Over the life of the model, there have been four generations over 25 years, which suggests that Toyota invests a lot of time and effort in the development of its mid-sized SUVs.
Now there's a fifth-gen version. The Toyota RAV4 2019 model is more advanced, more high-tech, safer, smarter and more spacious than any version that has come before it.
So, what's it like? Presumably pretty good, right? Read on to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Hyundai Santa Fe7.9/10
The previous generation Hyundai Santa Fe was excellent, and this giant leap forward in design and technology has turned it into something better. Not overly large, but seven seats and great storage make it super practical, the new suspension makes it pleasure to drive, and a new look inside and out takes the Santa Fe’s refinement to the next level. It doesn’t matter what this SUV is called because it’s exceptional.
The sweet spot in the Santa Fe range is the Elite, not only does it come with luxuries such as leather seats, and a bigger touchscreen with sat nav, there's the added advanced safety equipment, too.
Is the new Santa Fe the new benchmark for big, mid-sized SUVs? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
This could well be the most complete Toyota model ever made. The brand has nailed the brief with this mid-sized SUV, and in a market where it has traditionally been one of the go-to players, customers now have even more reasons to look at the RAV4 than ever before.
We can't wait to see just how well it stacks up against its rivals in a comparison test. Stay tuned for that.
Hyundai Santa Fe9/10
This new-generation Santa Fe looks totally different to the previous model, inside and out. The front now has the same ‘upside down face’ as Hyundai’s smallest SUV the Kona with the LED DRLs placed high and the headlights low, either side of a super-sized version of Hyundai’s so-called 'cascading' grille. Running along the edge of the grille is chrome strip which looks so menacing that if you walked into a pub holding one the cops would be called immediately.
Like the Kona the Santa Fe’s design has more angles than a protractor. Apologies for the Dad joke, but just look at it – there are combinations of shapes and lines even Salvador Dali would find weird, but somehow it works, and the result is an SUV that’s stunning and different.
You might not be able to see it clearly in the images, but the bonnet is pressed with a ‘power bulge’ shape you really only find on muscle cars like the Ford Mustang. Also, hard to see is how the wheelaches are actually indented rather than bulging out. I like that high shoulder line which runs from the tip of the LED DRL to the tail-light accentuating the length of the SUV, then at the rear things get more high society and refined with sleek and clean lines.
It’s near-on impossible to tell the difference between the three grades from the outside. Which is good if you buy the base-spec car where the only giveaways are the 17-inch alloy wheels and the lack of bling on the grille which comes on the Elite and Highlander along with 18-inch and 19-inch wheels respectively. The body kit you see is standard on all Santa Fes including that subtle roof-top spoiler.
If you thought the outside had changed a lot from the previous Santa Fe, take a look at the interior images – not only is the cabin vastly different it’s next level stuff for Hyundai in terms of refinement. Again, there are some weird shapes such as the low dash with that rockpool-like area above the glove box, and the air vents which protrude like wasps nests, but the overall effect is sophisticated.
The Active’s grey/back cloth seats let the tone down a tad, but the leather ones in the Elite and Highlander grades are luxurious looking in Black, Dark Beige and Burgundy colours. There are stone, wood effect and carbon-fibre door and dash inserts on the top two grades, as well.
Body colours include the standard White Cream Mica and Stormy Sea Mica (blue). Then there are Typhoon Silver, Wild Explorer (grey), Magnetic force (another shade of grey), Earthly Bronze, Rainforest metallic, Horizon Red and Phantom Black.
The new Santa Fe looks a lot longer than before, but the dimensions show an increase in length of 70mm for a total of 4770mm end-to-end. Width has increased by 10mm for 1890mm across while at 1680mm tall (1705 with standard roof racks)the Santa Fee is 10mm shorter in height compared to the previous model.
This is perhaps the most masculine RAV4 ever - it's like the brand is trying to appeal to dads this time around, as well as mums.
And while it might look like it has take a step up in size, a lot of that comes down to the exterior design and the platform the brand has built the new model off.
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GXL 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GXL hybrid 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: Cruiser 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GX 2WD
Read More: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2019 review: snapshot
Read More: Toyota RAV4 Cruiser 2019 review: snapshot
Read More: Toyota RAV4 GX 2019 review: snapshot
The dimensions are as follows: the new model is 4600mm long in GX, GXL and Cruiser guise - which is 5mm less than the previous model. The Edge version is a touch longer at 4615mm. In terms of width, the new model is 1855mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) and 1865mm broader in Edge guise - so, 10mm and 20mm wider than the old model. As for height, the new model is 1685mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) or 1690mm (Edge), which is 30mm/25mm lower than the existing model.
That translates well to interior dimensions, too - there's plenty more space, and the cabin has a lot more design flare than it used to.
But the exterior design is the real talking point - the comments on our Facebook walk around video were divided, but I reckon in person it looks really beefy. The standout is the Edge model, which brings a different look - it gets a model-specific front bumper design, grille, skid plate, wheel-arch mouldings, fog-lamp surrounds and rear bumper. It also rides on distinctive 19-inch alloys.
Lower grade models also look pretty slick, and even the low-grade GX with its 17-inch rims looks pretty smart, especially in the bright blue hue.
You'll have to use your imagination to figure out what it would look like with side steps, or a body kit with a more outlandish rear spoiler... though we have no doubt someone will do it. And hey, if you wish there was another soft top version of the RAV4 like we saw way back in the 1990s, you'll be sadly disappointed - it's a hardtop only affair.
Check out the interior photos to see what you make of the fake leather trim... More on the interior below.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
All Australian Santa Fes are seven seaters. While this new-gen one has grown in length by 70mm and the wheelbase is 65mm longer, the interior dimensions have stayed much the same. In fact, legroom in the third row is 20mm less, while the second row gains just 1mm. Still, because the second row is on rails, when it’s pushed back to its furthest point I can sit behind my driving position with about a 50mm gap between my knees and the seat back, and I’m 191cm tall.
If I slide the second row forward to give myself about a hair’s breadth of room, I can then sit in the third row with the same amount of space. Not ideal, but not a deal breaker either when you consider the third row really is for kids or a good save if you need to ferry adults unexpectedly. You need to remember the Santa Fe isn’t as big as say a Toyota Kluger or Mazda CX-9, instead look at it as a large mid-sizer with a bonus third row.
Entry into that third row has been improved, too, with the second row sliding further forward to offer easier access with a push of a button. The entry is still not super easy for somebody of my height (and lack of coordination) but it’s better than the previous model.
A huge strength of the new Santa Fe is storage. Up front there’s a big centre console storage bin under the centre armrest, more storage under the dash and in front of the two cupholders, a big glove box and a shelf with a grippy surface above it, plus big bottle holders in the doors.
Second-row inhabitants have a two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, bottle holders in the doors and a storage tray in the rear of the centre console.
People in the backrow have two cupholders on the right-hand side and a storage bin on the other.
All Santa Fes have two fast changing USB ports in the second row, and one up front along with a regular USB port for media input, as well as a Qi charging pad. There's also an AUX port and a 12-volt outlet in the hidey hole under the dash and another in the boot.
Talking of the boot, the increase in length has given the Santa Fe more luggage space with cargo capacity increasing by 31 litres to 547 litres. There’s also storage under the boot floor for your muddy shoes and wet togs.
The cabin of the new RAV4 is a big step up in quality, but also in terms of space smarts.
There is good storage available throughout, with a cup holder count of four (two front, two rear in the fold-down armrest), bottle holders in all four doors, and reasonable loose item storage up front near the shifter, between the seats, and even a small Kluger-like shelf in front of the front passenger. Rear seat occupants get a map pocket, and it's not one of those nasty mesh ones.
Human room is really good, too.
Up front there's great seat comfort and pretty good levels of adjustment, though the front passenger seat is quite high in all models, and you can't get electric front passenger adjustment on any model.
The second-row space is exceptional - possibly class leading, in fact. I'm 182cm (six-feet in the old money) and with the driver's seat set to my position I had inches of legroom space, good toe wiggle room, good shoulder room and excellent headroom. If you're a parent with tall teens, this will definitely do the trick - and if you're kids are little, there's easily enough room for a pair of child seats (maybe even three, but we'll have to get CarsGuide Family reviewer Nedahl Stelio to conduct that test on the new RAV4!).
The luggage capacity is a big improvement, too - the boot size is now 580 litres, up 33L on the existing model, with the boot space dimensions extended by 65mm. The boot also features a reversible liner for the dual-level boot floor setup, and there's a cargo cover (or tonneau cover, if you prefer) for the storage space as well. Fleet buyers or dog owners will be able to get a cargo barrier at some point, too. My main complaint for the boot is the electric tailgate system is quite slow.
The GXL, Cruiser and Edge models are fitted with roof rails - helpful for adding a roof rack system.
Price and features
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
There are three grades in the Santa Fe range: the base-grade Active which starts at $43,000 (before on-road costs) for the petrol and $46,000 for the diesel; the middle of the range and diesel-only Elite for $54,000 and the top-spec $60,500 Highlander which is also offered just in diesel form.
The Santa Fe is Hyundai’s flagship and the enormous standard features list reflects this king-of-the-brand status.
The entry-grade Active comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, air-conditioning with rear temperature controls, cloth seats, 'Autolink', LED daytime running lights (DRLs), auto headlights, roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels.
There’s also an impressive amount of advanced safety equipment which you can read about below.
Stepping up into the Elite adds leather seats (power driver’s and passenger), an 8.0-inch screen with sat nav, front parking sensors, proximity key, paddle shifters, Infinity stereo system, dual-zone climate control, tinted rear windows with sunshades, power tailgate and electric folding mirrors.
The top-of-the-range Highlander has all of the Elite’s equipment plus a panoramic glass roof, auto parking, surround view camera, LED headlights and tail-lights, 7.0-inch virtual instrument cluster, heated front and rear (outboard) seats, Qi phone charger and a head-up display.
The Santa Fe’s new direct rival is the Mazda CX-8, both are a close match for size and price. Also consider the Kia Sorento – it’s the Santa Fe’s brother from a different mother and shares the same platform as the Hyundai. Nissan’s seven-seat X-Trail, or its French twin the Renault Koleos, are also absolutely worth a model comparison to the Santa Fe, too.
How much is a Toyota RAV4? Well, that depends on which model in the range you choose. Here's a price list - model by model - that should act as a guide to the trim levels. These prices are before on-road cost (also known as RRP), but not drive away prices. You may have to wait a little while for deals.
The line-up kicks off with the GX, the standard features levels are generous.
Standard gear includes auto LED headlights (hoorah - no xenon, projector or HID bulbs!), taillights and daytime running lights as well as LED front fog lamps, heated and folding electric exterior mirrors, auto wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels with temporary spare (optional full-size wheel available), fabric seat trim, a urethane steering wheel, air conditioning with rear vents, an 8.0-inch multimedia touch screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a sound system with six speakers stereo, AM/FM/DAB radio, one USB port, plus a GPS navigation system with SUNA live traffic is standard - yep, sat nav on every model.
There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto - yet. The brand has announced it will be fitting the iPhone iOs / Android mirroring tech to all models from the fourth quarter of this year, and every version sold before then can be retrofitted with the integration. No DVD player, though, and no CD player or CD changer. You'll just have to upgrade to the MP3 age, man.
Hybrid GX models add dual-zone climate control AC and smart key / keyless entry central locking with push button start. All GX models get an electric park brake and rear mudflaps.
The safety on offer is also solid, with all grades getting auto emergency braking with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee).
Next up the model range is the GXL, which adds roof rails, window tint at the rear, 18-inch wheels with a 17-inch temporary spare, front and rear mudflaps, "premium embossed fabric seats", a leather steering wheel and shifter, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, Qi wireless phone charging, keyless entry and push-button start.
The camera has active guidance lines on the display, plus you get three front USBs and two rear USBs.
Third up the ranks is the Cruiser grade, which is visually differentiated by a silver grille, chrome door handles, a "moon roof", 19-inch alloy wheels with a temporary 18-inch rims for the petrol versions (18-inch black alloys with a temporary 17-inch spare for hybrid versions).
The Cruiser's interior almost feels like it has been with the "premium package", with leather-accented seats, heated front seats, 10-way electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, leather-accent door trims, a 7.0-inch driver info display, ambient lighting, a reversing camera with a 360-degree monitor, a power tailgate and a nine-speaker JBL sound system with subwoofer.
Top of the range in the model comparison is the RAV4 Edge, which almost looks like a sport edition for outdoorsy people. It can be had in "Jungle Khaki" paint - none of the others can - and inside there is "Softex" fake leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, but the driver's seat weirdly loses the memory function. A panoramic sunroof is optional ($1300) in this grade.
No model comes with a heated steering wheel, nor is any equipped with a seat belt extender or Homelink smart garage door opening. But you will find a tool kit and a spare wheel under the boot floor in each instance - no tyre repair kit here.
On the topic of colours (or colors, if that's how you spell it where you're reading this), there is only one no-cost option colour in the range - Glacier White. The other options are Crystal Pearl (white - not available on GX or Edge), Silver Sky (not available on Edge), Graphite (grey), Eclipse Black, Atomic Rush Red, Eclectic Blue and Saturn Blue (dark blue - not available on Edge). There is no proper green hue, to speak of, but the Jungle Khaki paint for the Edge is close enough.
As for accessories, you should be able to get floor mats in every one of these straight off the showroom floor, and you should be able to get a bull bar, nudge bar or snorkel if you shop around.
Engine & trans
Hyundai Santa Fe7/10
There are two engines in the Santa Fe range – a 2.4-litre 138kW/241Nm four-cylinder petrol with a six-speed automatic transmission and a 2.2-litre 147kW/440Nm four-cylinder turbo-diesel with a new eight-speed auto. Both have been carried over from the previous generation Santa Fe and have the same outputs.
Only the Active grade gives you a choice of both engines, while the Elite and Highlander are diesel-only.
Drive is distributed to all four wheels via the HTRAC AWD system which offers four modes: Comfort, ECO, Sport and Smart (complete with dash graphic showing drive distribution). The first three are obvious but Smart analyses your driving style and puts together an engine, transmission and steering configuration to suit you.
Towing capacity remains the same at 2000kg.
Both engines have a timing chain rather than a timing belt – the chain has a lifetime service life which saves on maintenance costs of changing a belt.
If you love nothing more than deciphering specifications and ratings, you're in for a treat.
The GX, GXL and Cruiser can be had with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which is only available in front-wheel drive layout, but can be had with either a six-speed manual transmissions (GX only) or CVT auto gearbox (GXL and Cruiser). The 2.0-litre motor is good for 127kW of power and 203Nm of torque.
Stepping up in engine size, the GX, GXL and Cruiser models are also available with a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid, which teams a four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine (with 131kW and 221Nm) to an 88kW/202Nm electric motor. The total combined power output is 160kW for the 2WD. The figure jumps to 163kW for the AWD, which gets an additional on-demand 40kW/121Nm electric motor at the rear axle. As is Toyota's way, there's no combined torque figure. All hybrid models run a CVT automatic transmission as standard, and you can run on EV mode under light loads.
The top-spec Edge variant is the only model not available with a hybrid powertrain. Instead, it cops a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine with 152kW of power and 243Nm of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic transmission, and comes with all-wheel drive - the AWD system can split torque between 100 per cent front bias down to a 50:50 ratio front/rear, and rear-axle dynamic torque vectoring. It's not a proper 4x4 system, but Edge models also get a terrain select system with mud & sand, rock & dirt, and snow modes.
Towing capacity varies depending on the model - but it's safe to say that if you plan on fitting a tow bar and pulling a large load, you ought to get a version with AWD as the load capacity is bigger and better.
The GX/GXL/Cruiser 2WD (or 4x2) petrol models can deal with 800kg braked towing, while the 2.5L AWD Edge model has a maximum braked towing capacity of 1500kg.
The GX/GXL/Cruiser front wheel drive hybrid models offer a measly 480kg maximum towing, while the AWD hybrid models match the Edge, with 1500kg braked towing.
No gross vehicle weight is specified, but the RAV4 range spans from 1515kg (kerb weight) for the entry-level petrol up to 1745kg for the AWD hybrid.
If you're concerned about manual transmission issues, clutch and gearbox complaints, automatic transmission problems, or battery concerns, check out our Toyota RAV4 problems page.
Hyundai Santa Fe7/10
Fuel economy has been improved in both engines – but only slightly. According to Hyundai the 2.4-litre petrol uses 9.3L/100km (down from 9.4L/100km) and the 2.2-litre diesel uses 7.5L/100km (down from 7.8L/100km) over a combination of open and urban roads.
The trip computer in the Active petrol reported an average of 12.3L/100km for the launch drive, while the Elite diesel's read 9.9L/100km. That’s not great mileage, especially when compared to comparable offerings from Mazda, a company which is taking big steps to improve the efficiency of its combustion engines.
The petrol engine isn’t fussy about fuel and will happily drink 91 RON regular unleaded.
The 2.0-litre petrol model claims official combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres for the manual, and 6.5L/100km for the auto. We've leave you to figure out the km/l numbers!
Fuel economy for the 2WD hybrid is 4.7L/100km, while the AWD uses a claimed 4.8L/100km -two new petrol benchmarks for the segment. It's like an eternal eco mode!
Fuel use for the Edge's AWD 2.5L engine is 7.3L/100km - this engine is only in the Edge model, yet it still undercuts most of its rivals with similarly-sized engines and AWD.
The fuel tank capacity is 55 litres in size across all models, but it's fair to say your mileage will vary based on the drivetrain.
On test, I was extremely impressed by the dash-displayed average in the AWD hybrid models I drove - 5.5L/100km in the car that we drove through the city and outskirts of Adelaide to the hills; and 5.8L/100km for the version that did a longer freeway stint.
The Edge model saw a return of 10.5L/100km displayed, while the GX 2.0L manual indicated 8.3L/100km, and the GX 2.0L CVT was showing 9.2L/100km.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
CarsGuide’s test pilot Matt Campbell drove the new-generation Hyundai Santa Fe in Korea early in 2018, but the SUV he steered reflected an engine and suspension that won't be seen in Australia. So, this was our first opportunity to drive an Australian Santa Fe and see how it feels on local roads.
You may already know this, but Hyundai has an engineering team in Australia that ‘tunes’ each new model to cope with the type of roads we drive on and to suit local preferences. For example, Australians like their suspension on the firm side for a sportier feel, not soft and wafty like they do in the US of A.
Not all car companies carry out this type of local tuning. Many are taken ‘straight out of the box’ and put into the showroom, but we’re not going to name names here. You should know, though, that Hyundai put this new-gen Santa Fe through intensive testing on Aussie roads, changing the shock absorbers in the front 27 times and the rear 22 times along the way. Steering, too, was calibrated specifically for Australia.
The local launch saw us drive about 300km through the wilds that lay inland from Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast, over a combination of dirt roads, motorways, winding coarse-chip bitumen and the not-so-great surfaces of country town streets. What was missing were the types of city and urban roads where many Santa Fes will probably spend their entire lives.
Still, it was more than enough to learn the new suspension set-up has resulted in a Santa Fe which feels comfortable but sharp at the same time. Big dips are absorbed well with next to no bounce coming out of them, while the body stays composed on patchy surfaces.
I drove the mid-grade Elite first and found the Kumho Crugen tyres (235/60/R18) a bit noisy on coarse-chip roads despite the sound deadening which Hyundai says has been added to the Santa Fe’s underbody.
Steering was light enough for me to carry out a three-point turn using just my pinky finger – which is what you want for parking and piloting through supermarket car parks.
That steering is quite direct, meaning you don’t have to turn the wheel far to change direction.
There’s a good feeling of connection between the wheels on the road and your hands on the steering wheel. This, combined with the composed, comfortable, but firm suspension, adds a lot of confidence and surety. It’s the difference between running in gum boats and sneakers.
The Elite has a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine (there’s no petrol alternative in this grade). It’s smooth, with plenty of grunt, and while it's not as quiet as Mazda’s equivalent, it’s more refined and quiet than most – so fear not, this diesel engine is not ‘truck like’ at all.
The new eight-speed automatic is excellent. A weakness in the previous Santa Fe was the six-speed auto and having another two gear ratios is welcome – especially for highway driving.
The base-grade Active rolls on Hankook Ventus Prime tyres (235/65 R17). I spent just 25km driving this grade but the difference in ride and comfort between it and the others is almost indiscernible. If anything, those tyres, with their taller sidewall, are likely to give a slightly softer ride.
The Active grade gives you a choice of petrol and diesel engines. I drove the petrol and immediately missed the mumbo of the diesel, which boasts almost double the torque and more power. That four-cylinder petrol with the six-speed just isn’t as suited to this even bigger Santa Fe. If Hyundai was to bring out a V6 petrol, as it did with the previous generation, it would be a tempting, albeit, thirstier Santa Fe.
The top-spec Highlander has the largest wheels with the lowest profile tyres – Continental ContiSportContact 5 which are an excellent (and about twice the price of the Hankooks). The Highlander is diesel-only like the Elite. Again – great grunt and a comfortable ride, but there’s still some road, engine and wind noise filtering into the cabin.
All Santa Fes are equipped with Hyundai’s new 'HTRAC' (Hyundai Traction) all-wheel drive (AWD) system and the many kilometres of winding dirt and gravel roads gave it a workout. HTRAC is an on-demand system which distributes torque to the four wheels where it’s needed. I was impressed – even at 80km/h on loose gravel the Santa Fe cornered like it was on tarmac – pushed a bit harder there was some slippage, but the system quickly brought things under control.
The Santa Fe is not an off-road vehicle in the same way a Toyota LandCruiser is. It doesn’t have a four-wheel drive system with a low range, but its 185mm ground clearance and AWD will take you further than you might have thought.
In the video at the top of this page we had to drive through soft sand to get to the water’s edge on the beach and we actually passed a ‘hardcore’ four-wheel drive which had become bogged.
The all-new RAV4 lives up to our expectations.
The brand has some form when it comes to vehicles that have been built off the "Toyota New Generation Architecture", or TNGA, which underpins the new Corolla, Camry, C-HR and Prius. So we expected the RAV4 to be good to drive, more fun than the last one and more confident and refined, too. And it is.
The drivetrains are perhaps the most impressive piece of the puzzle - and yes, the hybrid is the standout. The way the petrol engine, CVT transmission and electric motors work together to ensure the best propulsion in any given circumstance is, quite frankly, excellent.
There is easily enough performance for the vast majority of families, too - sure, you won't be bragging about a scorching "0 100 acceleration" time, but the hybrid RAV4 gathers speed with less effort than you might think, as the battery can give you a boost when you plant your right foot.
And it doesn't sound bad, either, aside from a little bit of whirring from the drivetrain at lower revs. There's a little bit of road noise to contend with - the bigger the wheels, the thinner the tyres, the more noise you'll notice - but it's never deafening, even in the back seat.
The braking confidence of the hybrid model is good too - there's very little of that 'wooden' feel that some hybrid brake pedals exhibit, and it pulls up strongly.
I thought the 2.0-litre base petrol engine might feel undercooked - but it isn't. It's really quite vibrant. I sampled it with the six-speed manual (which was an absolutely charmer - admittedly one that will only account for about two per cent of sales) and the CVT auto, which is going to be vastly more popular.
It isn't a 'regular' CVT - like the Corolla it has the brand's 'Launch Gear' system, a conventional mechanical first gear that then steps across to a variable ratio when it reaches 'second' gear. It worked an absolute treat, and I was impressed by the amount of power available, and likewise the refinement of the engine. It's better than you think it might be.
The 2.5-litre non-hybrid in the Edge model has a bit more of a raucous nature to it. The eight-speed automatic does a real good job, and some people will prefer that to a CVT auto for obvious reasons. It was gusty and eager, and on the rainy test loop we drove it, the mechanical all-wheel drive system did a great job at stopping it from spinning up the front tyres, pushing power to the rear axle with a pleasant (yet very minor) drivetrain thunk.
But with the drivetrain tech being so finessed in the hybrid, it's hard to see why you would choose the top-spec Edge over one of the more affordable petrol-electric versions... aside from the look, of course.
As for ride comfort, things are mostly pretty good. There's a bit of jitter at higher speeds over less-than-perfect surfaces, but it was comfortable enough on the highway, and even better around town - an important stipulation, given most people will spend a lot of time running around in their RAV4.
The electric power steering is very nice - predictable and accurate, with some feel to proceedings that other SUVs in the segment simply can't match. It's engaging to drive, and a huge improvement over its predecessor in that regard.
And if you're interested in how the tech performed, the blind spot monitor came in handy because there's quite a blind-spot over your shoulder when you driving, and while the lane departure warning is a little eager, the lane assist system that keeps you centred on highways is quite handy.
If you're wondering about off road specs, here are the details: approach angle - 17.5 degrees; departure angle - 20.0 degrees; break-over / ramp-over angle - not listed; ground clearance mm - 195mm for petrol models, 190mm for hybrids.
How does that translate to off road capability? Luckily, for this launch review, we had a chance to sample the RAV4 in the rough stuff at JAKEM farm outside Adelaide - and look, the tracks that were chosen were probably doable in a Corolla, for the most part, but there was a section of moguls where we managed to get a feel for the hybrid version's active torque split and torque vectoring system (for the rear axle) and it was pretty capable, even on big wheels. The off road drive modes help in that regard, allowing the VSC (stability control system) more leeway, and the Edge model has a centre diff lock, too.
That could be the biggest downfall of the RAV off-road - the rim sizes are big. You might want to fit some 17 inch alloy wheels or steelies with off road tyres, instead of the 18s and 19s that are on higher-grade versions. Sure, they mightn't look quite as tough under the Edge's wheel arch extensions, but the grip improvements could be worth it if you're serious about adventure.
We didn't get to test the wading depth of the RAV4 - and the brand doesn't state a figure, as such. But the 11.0-metre turning radius meant it was easy to pivot through tighter corners off road. The front suspension was a marginally more resolved than the rear over choppy surfaces, but honestly, I wouldn't be thinking of this as a successor to the FJ Cruiser - even if it does have funky design on its side.
One omission is a downhill brake assist system, or hill descent control. You can get that on some rivals in this segment.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
The new-generation Santa Fe has not been awarded an ANCAP star rating yet, but given the amount of advanced safety equipment, we are expecting a high score.
We'd like to point out, however, that while all Santa Fe's have curtain airbags covering the first two rows, they only cover the windows of the third row.
All Santa Fes come with AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, along with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, plus active cruise control.
The blind spot warning also includes collision avoidance, which will steer you back into your lane if the system senses that you veer into the path of another vehicle coming up the side.
The Elite and Highlander grades are also equipped with a system called 'Rear Occupant Alert' which uses motion sensors to detect babies or dogs accidentally left in the vehicle before sounding the horn. Both grades also have a child-lock system called 'Safe Exit Assist' which prevents the rear doors unlocking if an approaching car is detected. Amazing and life-saving stuff. There’s also a self-parking feature and surround view camera.
Under the rear of the car is a full-size spare wheel.
At the time of writing, the hasn't yet been an ANCAP safety rating awarded to the new RAV4 - but the company has stated it anticipates a five-star score under the strict 2019 criteria.
A lot of that comes down to the features available in the new model - and there's plenty of safety tech fitted across the entire range.
All grades are fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB) with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
That spec list is strong, but it doesn't have rear AEB which you get on every CX-5, and there's no head-up display, either. That, combined with an unknown safety score, mean the model range can't quite get a top score here.
All models have a reverse camera along with front and rear parking sensors, but there's no semi-autonomous park assist like you'll find in a Tiguan.
Every RAV4 has seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee), and there are dual ISOFIX baby car seat attachments, and three top-tether hooks, too.
Where is the Toyota RAV4 built? Australian-delivered models are sourced from Japan.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
The Santa Fe is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. A lifetime service plan is offered and works out to be about $400 a year, with a complimentary (1500km) first service.
Free Roadside assistance is also offered for the first year and a roadside assistance plan is offered for up to 10 years.
Toyota recently introduced its new customer promise - a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, which can be extended to seven years extended warranty provided your car has "logbook servicing" - and that doesn't necessarily have to have been carried out by Toyota's own dealer workshops, either.
The brand also has a capped price servicing plan for the RAV4, and no matter the model, the service cost is the same - $210 per maintenance visit, and these are due every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first. That's incredibly good value.
If you're concerned about potential problems or common faults - possibly around battery defects or or issues - Toyota will do a "battery health check" at the five-year point, and will monitor the battery health every year thereafter, with the warranty for that part of the hybrid model drivetrain spanning 10 years.
Our Toyota RAV4 problems page is the best destination if you want to understand reliability ratings find out common complaints, and it should even give you an idea about resale value, too. Oh, and while you might find the info online, it also pays to check the owners manual for info on oil type, capacity and consumption.