Test Drive by Graham Breeze
With a history of hybrid launches already in the bag it was only a matter of time before Toyota gave the duel-fuel treatment to the impressive RAV4.
It was back in 1997 that Toyota revealed a Prius with the electric option and Yaris and Auris soon followed suit so it was always on the cards for RAV4 to join the growing club with the launch of the most powerful version yet with a combined system output of 195bhp.
Entry level Business Edition models are front wheel drive but the rest of the range gets the four wheel option including the Business Edition Plus on test which Toyota claim produces an average fuel consumption of 57.6mpg and impressive CO2 levels of 115g/km.
Whenever the vehicle is being driven the electric motor is always operating. The petrol engine will stop and start at any vehicle speed to maintain the best possible balance between performance and efficiency. The hybrid is the most powerful version of the RAV4 yet made in Europe
I've said it before but there is still something spooky about pulling away in silence. The RAV4 on test cruised along for almost a mile without drinking a spot of petrol and then comfortably raced from 0-62mph in just 8.4 seconds and had a top speed of 112mph - so hybrid certainly doesn't mean a loss in performance.
This Toyota has a big following, there's even a RAV4 club out there where enthusiasts share tales of joy about their prized motors, so bosses have had to be careful not to alienate buyers by changing the brand too much.
So despite a new front end and higher hoodline, smart skid plates and attractive rear bumpers the RAV remains instantly recognisable as a Toyota, though for me they should never have taken the spare wheel off the back door.
The hybrid version gets all the interior changes too, including a new instrument cluster and large information display containing all the infotainment you'll ever need and a satellite navigation system.
Hybrid means a lot of extra weight to carry, and in this case it's an extra 300 lbs, so handling is not as good as on the regular RAV4 - though the difference is not enough to turn you off a purchase.
Inside the RAV4 is a genuine five-seater, though some rivals boast more rear seat space. You can't fault the boot though, with a wide opening door revealing more space than you will probably ever use.
You get follow-me-home headlights, hill start assist, all-round, ABS, traction control, stability control, hill-start assist, dusk sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a power tailgate, heated door mirrors, leather steering wheel and gear-knob and rear privacy glass.
It's a very competitive world in the SUV sector but like-for-like there's not much to compare with this Toyota which hits the road at £27,650.