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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2022 review: XSE 2WD

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 XSE hybrid fills the gap between the popular GXL and luxury Cruiser grades. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5

Why aren’t there sportier versions of Australia’s most popular vehicles?

Given how successful the XR6 and SV6 were in their respective Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore ranges, you’d expect similar souped-up and/or go-faster grades in the top-selling Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4.

Now, we know many offer turbo models already, but they’re skewered more towards the higher-end or luxury side, rather than setting pulses racing.

However, there is some light in this long and lonely tunnel for medium SUV buyers seeking some sporty spice, with the arrival of the Toyota RAV4 XSE hybrid.

Yes, it’s strictly a looks-only proposition, with no additional power or chassis upgrades to entice the keener driver. But, considering how accomplished the current generation is in pleasing enthusiasts as well as eco warriors, hope exists that it may add something fresh and exciting to a dull class.

Or, are we expecting too much from what is essentially a middle-of-the-road midsized hybrid SUV?

Let's check it out.

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

Remember: we have detailed reviews of other RAV4 hybrid versions on this site, but this one is specifically for the XSE hybrid 2WD.

Toyota expanded the RAV4 range late last year with the arrival of the Series II facelift, slotting the XSE hybrid in between the mid-range GXL hybrid and luxury Cruiser hybrid grades. There are no petrol-only models.

Changes were mainly cosmetic and include projector-style LED headlights, LED foglights and revised alloy wheel designs, as well as minor equipment and safety upgrades.

Projector-style LED headlights. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) Projector-style LED headlights. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Kicking off from $43,250 before on-road costs, you can spot XSE hybrid 2WD hybrid by its blacked-out roof, grille, bumpers, wheel arches, alloy wheels, mirrors and door mouldings, while the interior trim has also been darkened accordingly.

It’s a $2800 jump up from the $40,450 GXL hybrid 2WD, but the XSE equivalent does add a 7.0-inch driver display screen, powered tailgate, electric driver’s seat (but not for the front passenger side – more on that later), heated front seats, imitation leather upholstery (called Softex in Toyota-speak), black headliner and ambient lighting.

You’ll also find auto on/off LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry/start, front dual-zone climate control, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio, steering-wheel controls, reverse camera, digital radio, five USB ports, Bluetooth phone/audio streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, wireless phone charger, powered/heated external mirrors, electric windows, tilt/telescopic steering, 60/40 split fold rear seats, rear privacy glass, roof rails and 18-inch alloy wheels (shod with 225/60R18 100H tyres).

The XSE equivalent does add a 7.0-inch driver display screen. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The XSE equivalent does add a 7.0-inch driver display screen. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

On the safety front there are seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee), Lane Departure Alert, Lane Trace Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, speed signs recognition, automatic high beam, adaptive cruise control, Trailer Sway Control, front and rear parking sensors, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, electronic stability control, traction control, hill-start control, seatbelt warning and two rear-seat ISOFIX child restraint anchorage points.

Another $3000 buys the $46,250 XSE hybrid with all-wheel drive (AWD) that adds a second electric motor (to the rear axle) and a trail mode for more secure gravel-road driving, upping the combined power output by 3kW to 163kW.

Rav4 XSE sports revised alloy wheel designs. (Image: Bryon Mathioudakis) Rav4 XSE sports revised alloy wheel designs. (Image: Bryon Mathioudakis)

For similar money, sporty midsized SUV rivals like the Mazda CX-5 GT SP AWD (from $48,790) and Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport (from $42,690) can more-or-less match most of the XSE specification, but approach neither the power outputs nor the startling fuel economy of the Toyota’s series-parallel hybrid powertrain.

Only the Haval H6 Hybrid Ultra (from $44,990 driveaway) manages that, and with extra features like a sunroof, cooled seats and a seven-year warranty instead of five years, but it is far from sporty or comfortable.

The Forester 2.0 Hybrid S from $47,190 is neither powerful nor athletic, while plug-in hybrids with punch – like the MG HS PHEV FWD (from $48,990), Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV GSR AWD (from $52,490) and Ford Escape ST-Line PHEV AWD (from $53,440) – cost more than the RAV4 XSE.

Like we said earlier: finding a gutsy, racy midsized SUV without blowing well into the $50K-plus bracket is not easy – let alone one with hybrid efficiency.

Advantage: RAV4.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

There is little doubt that the RAV4’s chunky, Jeep-esque design has helped it finally break away from the fey soft roader image of earlier iterations, appealing to a very broad spectrum of buyers.

The Toyota’s aesthetic appeal also seems to transcend social structure, probably by dint of providing advanced hybrid specification. That’s evident in its phenomenal sales success.

The XSE hybrid’s two-tone roof and glossy wheels do provide a striking point of difference vis-a-vis other RAV4s. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The XSE hybrid’s two-tone roof and glossy wheels do provide a striking point of difference vis-a-vis other RAV4s. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

More specifically, the XSE hybrid’s two-tone roof and glossy wheels do provide a striking point of difference vis-a-vis other RAV4s, while the series as a whole has aged remarkably well over against flashier younger rivals like the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson, offering a distinct style that melds both form and function.

Few would argue that the current RAV4 taps into the current consumer mindset with consummate ease. A future classic in the making.

How practical is the space inside?

Immensely, since the RAV4’s aesthetic and functional harmony carries over inside.

Big windows, lofty seating (perhaps too much so for taller front-seat passengers), bags of space, heaps of storage, high-quality materials and a practical dashboard all come together beautifully. Easy to get in and operate, few vehicles are quite as user-friendly with little or no familiarity.

The attractive and generously bolstered front seats provide generally excellent all-round comfort, with ample support and position flexibility.

In the XSE’s case, the driver’s seat is electrically actuated, and includes lumbar support and height adjustability, for an even better experience. Combined with the tilt/telescopic steering column, finding the perfect driving position shouldn’t be too hard at all.

The attractive and generously bolstered front seats provide generally excellent all-round comfort, with ample support and position flexibility. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The attractive and generously bolstered front seats provide generally excellent all-round comfort, with ample support and position flexibility. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Aiding that is a steering wheel that’s as good to hold as to behold, offering clear and concise spoke-sited switchgear, as well as a good view of the equally clear and informative instrumentation that brings both analogue and digital speedo visuals.

The same applies to the superbly logical climate control system (still with physical buttons, thankfully!), central touchscreen and intuitive multimedia. It isn’t the biggest, most modern or attractively designed, but almost everything you may need or want is probably there, and without the foibles or operating confusion that mar some more-contemporary efforts. It should be more than good enough for most consumers. 

The RAV4’s thoughtful packaging continues on to the back seat area, as highlighted by the wide-opening doors, roomy interior (with space for feet beneath the front seats), three-abreast seating ease, well angled backrests, sufficiently supportive cushions, face-level ventilation, a centre armrest with cupholders, overhead grab handles and lighting and access to USB ports.

It isn’t the most premium environment, with lots of hard plastics, but the back seat does exactly what you’d expect from a Toyota midsized SUV. Accommodate without fuss.  

The RAV4’s thoughtful packaging continues on to the back seat area, as highlighted by the wide-opening doors, roomy interior (with space for feet beneath the front seats). (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The RAV4’s thoughtful packaging continues on to the back seat area, as highlighted by the wide-opening doors, roomy interior (with space for feet beneath the front seats). (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

However, there are a few cons to offset all the pros, with one specific to the XSE.

Staying in the back, the bench is fixed, as there are cooling vents and other electrical gubbins lurking underneath. While the position as chosen by Toyota works fine for most people, some competitors do offer sliding and reclining rear seats.

Still with seating, the front passenger’s one is manually operated with no height adjustability (or lumbar support). Taller riders may end up with scalps scraping the ceiling. This may be a deal breaker for some families.

Equally annoying is the XSE’s choice of upholstery. It’s perplexing why car manufacturers equate imitation leather with sportiness and/or luxury. Historically, the similar PVC or vinyl seat coverings were long regarded as strictly basement spec, good for being hard-wearing and a cinch to clean but not much else. Even in mild weather, they make the RAV4 feel clammy. Bring back softer, breathable fabrics please. This cheap, chemically-rich material is enough to undermine comfort. Unless you’re Catwoman.

  • 2022 Toyota Rav4 XSE Hybrid I Boot 2022 Toyota Rav4 XSE Hybrid I Boot
  • 2022 Toyota Rav4 XSE Hybrid I Boot 2022 Toyota Rav4 XSE Hybrid I Boot

Finally, there’s no remote rear-seat backrest release, as per rivals like the CX-5. It would be a small but handy addition, to an otherwise considered cargo area set-up that practically has it all: easy load/unloading capability, a long flat floor with a hidden lower level, plenty of girth and latches to secure objects to. Capacity varies between 542 litres and 580L depending on floor height, while a space-saver spare wheel lives beneath there.

Suavely designed, solidly built, beautifully finished and adequately refined inside, the RAV4 continues to make for a great family conveyance. Especially if low running costs are paramount.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Along with appearance, packaging and Toyota's reputation, here’s yet another telling reason why you might want an XSE hybrid.

The Euro 5-rated powertrain is the now-ubiquitous A25A-FXS – a 2487cc 2.5-litre double-overhead cam 16-valve in-line four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle petrol engine, boasting variable valve timing, direct-injection and stop/start technology. On its own, the combustion engine makes 131kW of power at 5700rpm and 221Nm of torque between 3600-5200rpm.

Mated to an 88kW/202Nm electric motor, power shoots up to 160kW, while the e-CVT electronic continuously variable transmission offers a trio of modes – Eco, Normal and Sport. They change steering, brake and throttle effort as well as the transmission shift pattern and drive torque distribution according to the driver's fancy.

The combustion engine makes 131kW of power at 5700rpm and 221Nm of torque between 3600-5200rpm. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The combustion engine makes 131kW of power at 5700rpm and 221Nm of torque between 3600-5200rpm. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Being a series/parallel full hybrid system, the engine is combined with a pair of motor generators, to provide electric-only drive or a combination thereof, to both the front wheels as well as to a (small) 1.6kWh Nickel Metal Hydride battery pack, charging it on the go or via recaptured energy from the regenerative braking system. This is what Toyota means by a “self-charging” hybrid system.

Pure electric power is provided for under 2km, during very low speeds, when coasting along off-throttle or under very light throttle at certain speeds. The 0-100km/h sprint time is 8.4 seconds, on the way to a top speed of 178km/h.

Tipping the scales at 1690kg, the XSE Hybrid 2WD boasts a power-to-weight ratio of nearly 95kW/tonne helps, making it quite a muscular performer... that's also a teetotaller.

How much fuel does it consume?

Over a range of urban, freeway and highway testing, we managed 6.6 litres per 100km – and that was with the air-con on constantly.

The official combined average is 4.7L/100km, for a carbon dioxide emissions average of 107 grams/km.

With the 55-litre fuel tank accepting regular 91 unleaded petrol, an average of over 1170km between refills is possible. For a large, boxy and rapid family SUV, this is seriously impressive economy.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The RAV4 scored a five-star rating in the Australasian New Car Assessment Program during its launch year in 2019.

Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, front side, curtain and driver’s knee), Lane Departure Alert, Lane Trace Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, speed signs recognition, automatic high beam, adaptive cruise control, Trailer Sway Control, front and rear parking sensors, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, electronic stability control, traction control, hill-start control and seatbelt warning.

The RAV4 scored a five-star rating in the Australasian New Car Assessment Program during its launch year in 2019. (Image: Myron Mathioudakis) The RAV4 scored a five-star rating in the Australasian New Car Assessment Program during its launch year in 2019. (Image: Myron Mathioudakis)

Note that the RAV4’s AEB can detect and brake for cars between 10km/h and 180km/h, and for pedestrians and cyclists between 10km/h and 80km/h, while the lane-departure alert with steering control system is operational between 50km/h and 180km/h.

A pair of ISOFIX points as well as a trio of top tethers for straps are fitted to the rear seats.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Toyota offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty – with the option of extending that to seven years – as well as roadside assistance. Service intervals are at 12 months or 15,000km.

The engine and transmission are under a seven-year warranty, while the hybrid battery pack is up to 10 years as long as the owner undertakes an annual inspection “… as part of routine maintenance according to the vehicle logbook.”

And why wouldn't you? The first five annual scheduled services are capped at just $230 each, with the work carried out detailed online at Toyota's website. This is one of the brand's biggest advantages over the competition.

What's it like to drive around town?

If you like driving then you'll probably realise fairly quickly that the RAV4 is naturally enjoyable machine to punt around, instantly putting it in the upper echelon of medium SUVs.

While that 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain combo isn’t the quietest when revved hard, it is smooth and always willing, leaping off the line energetically, and maintaining a strong level of acceleration well past the legal speed limit.

Which means it’s both ideal for zipping in between traffic gaps and pulling out for fast overtaking manoeuvres, packing quite a wallop between 80-120km/h. Yep, the RAV4 is deceivingly rapid.

The constant shifting between combustion engine and electric motor is almost imperceptible barring the fact that the latter is obviously quieter, allowing for silent and smooth progress in heavy traffic, that in turn makes the experience less stressful. As with all Toyota hybrids, a realtime animation diagram can be displayed to show you just how discreet the system is.

Keep in mind, however, that if you mash the throttle once all that road congestion clears, there will be quite a bit of thrashy engine noise accompanying all that extra speed being amassed, courtesy of the CVT auto attempting to maintain peak engine rev efficiency. It isn’t too loud or harsh, just present.

But while you won’t mistake the XSE for a premium luxury SUV, it’s easy to get into a flowing and relaxing rhythm, thanks to nicely weighted steering that – like the rest of the car – is as equally at home in the cut-and-thrust of urban traffic as it is tearing through a tight set of turns away from the big smoke. The RAV4's handling is terrifically resolved.

The XSE does possess an athletic dynamic attitude to match its sporty styling, since the chassis delivers a rewarding drive. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis) The XSE does possess an athletic dynamic attitude to match its sporty styling, since the chassis delivers a rewarding drive. (Image: Byron Mathioudakis)

Featuring struts up front and wishbones out back, its suspension feels planted and controlled in most situations, for fast, effortless progress regardless of prevailing conditions. In this sense, the XSE does possess an athletic dynamic attitude to match its sporty styling, since the chassis delivers a rewarding drive.

Better still, even on the 226/60R18 wheel and tyre package, the Toyota continues to impress with a ride that manages to provide absorbency across craggy urban streets while minimising body lean when hoofing along through fast corners.  

About the only hiccups here are braking feel – sometimes the pedal can seem a little wooden and unnatural (though stopping performance is absolutely fine) – as well as noticeable droning over some highway surfaces. But neither are deal breakers; just things to get used to.

Finally, with 190mm of ground clearance, the XSE hybrid 2WD is fine for driving over gravel roads, and is enabled by expertly tuned traction and stability controls that intervene gently to help keep you heading in the right direction at speed – even over loose and slippery surfaces.

That said, we'd pay the extra $3K for AWD. Or, much better still, step 'down' into a GXL hybrid AWD for around the same money (at $43,450 plus ORC) and buy a glossy black roof wrap to mimic the XSE's. Because... guess what? Despite the sporty look, it doesn't move the RAV4's already-sorted dynamic game on one bit.

And you won't have to put up with hot and sticky vinyl-like seats. You win. Toyota wins. Everybody wins.

The XSE hybrid 2WD is yet another member of the very talented and likeable fifth-generation RAV4 family. But it isn't the optimal version.

Why? Despite go-faster looks inside and out, it's no more a sports SUV than any other current RAV4, with no engineering or performance upgrades to set the XSE apart. Frisky and fun though it is, don't expect a latter-day Falcon XR6 or Commodore SV6.

You may as well buy the cheaper GXL hybrid, save $2800 and still enjoy a high degree of driver enjoyment for a midsized SUV, and without those clammy Softex seats to boot.

$43,250

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Urban score

4/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.