Toyota RAV4 PHEV: long-term test review

First report: our man gets the lowdown on the plug-in hybrid Toyota RAV4 at the dealership

  • 4.5 out of 5

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    It’s early days but I’m already smitten with our RAV4. I like the chunky looks. The tech is blissfully straightforward and the prospect of running it around town almost entirely on electric power is great. Comfort, safety and space tick more boxes, but it isn’t cheap.

    • Mileage: 2,061
    • Economy: 54.5mpg
    • Back in late September when the UK was gripped by fuel panic, with queues forming at petrols stations up and down the country, I was lucky enough to take delivery of a brand-new Toyota RAV4 PHEV.

      A few days later most garages were dry, so with a full 46-mile EV charge and half a tank of fuel, I set off down to Toyota’s Motorline Gatwick dealership to get the inside line on how to squeeze the most out of the plug-in hybrid. I met with Parminder Randhawa, general manager of Motorline, who, unsurprisingly, enthused about the RAV4.

      “With my current car, I’ve done 1,800 miles and only filled it up once, with about a quarter of a tank still left,” he said. It turns out that Parminder’s commute is ideal to get the most from the RAV4. His home in Kent is 45 miles away from the dealership and he can charge at either end of the journey.

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      Those figures sounded promising. Looking around the dealership I certainly found clear infographics explaining just how the hybrid systems work. However, I was after a more personal tour of our Toyota, so I asked sales executive Martin Sears to show me around the RAV4 and point out some of its technology and gadgets. First, I enquired about the batteries, and it turns out the RAV4 has three: the standard 12V, plus a smaller hybrid unit under the rear seat that works like a usual hybrid, regenerating power through the car’s motion. Finally, there’s a high-voltage battery that is charged by plugging it in.

      I asked about the two EV buttons beside the gearlever. The auto EV/HV button uses both the high-voltage battery and petrol motor, while the pure EV button, as you might expect, switches to electric running.

      Yet there are other options. EV charge can be held by switching to EV/HV, and a long press on the PURE EV button can actually charge the high-voltage battery. This works best when driving over a long distance, so you get some EV miles around town when the speed limits dip and it’s more useful.

      Martin also explained the drive modes and power. Standard and eco are self-explanatory, with throttle variations, but if you stick it in Sport with the auto EV/HV button, it boasts 305bhp of AWD power with a sub-six-second 0-60mph time.

      I’ve already found the RAV4’s displays, screens and traditional-looking dials are very easy to follow, although the graphics do look a bit dated compared with rivals. I like simplicity, and the touchscreen and sat-nav required no additional lessons and most of the tech is common sense. I was delighted as Martin explained Toyota’s safety sensors and autonomous emergency braking with lane-trace assist. Adaptive cruise control seems simple enough, with straightforward steering wheel controls which should help boost my fuel economy on some longer motorway journeys nearer Christmas.

      The 46-mile range takes a charge time of 2.5 hours using the 7.5kWh fast charge cable and 7.5 hours with the three-pin mains cable (both included). That’s one reason why I’ve bitten the bullet and had a 7.5 kWh charger installed at my home (below). Find out how I get on in the next report.

      Home charging

      Like many urban dwellers, my London home has no driveway. But it does have parking restrictions, meaning I must park partly over the curb on my narrow road.

      So despite the lack of a government grant (with no driveway), I decided to buy a 7.5kWh Sync EV home charging box (£499). An electrician friend told me what additional parts to buy, then fitted it all at cost in a day (£250). The charger works with an app on my phone and the box sits about 1.5 metres from my gate.

      For safety reasons, I run the cable through a cover (£25, Amazon) to avoid tripping anyone passing by, although I only charge during daylight hours and my street is very quiet. The total cost was £957 to future-proof the house.

      Model:Toyota RAV4 PHEV Design 2.5 Automatic AWD-i
      On fleet since:September 2021
      Price new:£46,495
      Engine:2.5-litre 4cyl petrol-electric hybrid, 302bhp
      Insurance*:Group: 36E Quote: £721
      Mileage/mpg:54.5mpg (test)
      Any problems?None so far

      *Insurance quote for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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