The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has been revised and was launched at a media event in Johannesburg this week. The vehicle was announced in 2021 in Toyota’s bid to move ‘towards carbon neutral’ and change the behaviour of consumers by offering a hybrid version of two of its most popular cars, the Corolla and RAV4. Last year’s RAV4 GX is now discontinued.

What’s new under the hood

The RAV4 hybrids for 2022 include two new 2.5L variants: the GX-R and VX, which will replace the outgoing GX. These dual-source powertrains – or hybrids, combine both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor featuring Toyota’s new E-Four technology. The internal combustion engine has an output of 131kW and 221Nm of torque, while the front electric engine delivers 88kW and 202Nm and the rear a further 40kW and 121Nm. Combined, the all wheel drive delivers 163kW. Fuel consumption is a claimed 4.7L/100km.

Interior and exterior

The vehicle is stylish yet rugged and comes in a new colour – Tidal Blue – with prominent black finishes, black over fenders and a silver bumper. A hybrid exclusive is the large grille with two parallel cross bars and wide set fog lamps that frame the Toyota logo. Other highlights on the exterior include new projector LED headlamps, and 18″ Alloy wheels. We drove the GX-R in ‘urban khaki’ at the launch event, which I quite liked, however the tidal blue looks good too.

The interiors on the GX-R includes a leather trim on the steering wheel and gear lever and orange details on the stitching, seatback and console surrounds, which gives it a pop of colour but not overdone. It also has roof rails, rear spoiler, air conditioner, rain-sensing wipers, smart entry, seat heating and power seat adjustment for the driver.

The VX has a unique front grille with vertically mounted fog lamp bezels, and the interior leather has blue finishes. It has power seat adjustments for the front passenger and with driver memory function, and the panoramic view monitor with a digital rear-view mirror.

The drive

For the launch drive, I got to put in around 120km in the GX-R, driving from Rosebank to Cullinan and back. I found the drive to be silent and comfortable, because you’re using the battery to take off and depending on how you drive, you can keep using it for most of your journey. I tested the various modes like Eco, Normal and Sport on various roads and traffic situations and to be honest, it works best in eco and normal modes. The dial sits on the left to you and easily accessible should you need to switch between them.

What surprised me the most was how fuel efficient I was. Yes, this is the point of a hybrid but it’s been a while that I spent proper time in one for a long enough distance to see a difference.  Also I don’t consider myself an efficient driver so if the car is doing half (most) of the work, that is ideal. The cockpit shows you consumption in a circular graph and using 40-60% of the battery was pretty darn good I’d say. The whole journey for the launch event between my driving partner and I (we took a direct route back to Rosebank) only used 1/8th of the tank; I repeat one eighth.

The tech

The hybrids have a 7″ touchscreen infotainment with a 6-speaker audio system and controls on the steering wheel. It supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (which is what I used for the launch), and pairs over Bluetooth, features USB connectivity with up to 5x USB ports (with dedicated charging outlets) and 2x 12V accessory connectors.

Both models have a wireless charger as standard, but with a power button – I’ve not seen this before, which is great cos sometimes you just want to place your phone down without it charging (I do it screen down on other cars when I don’t want to charge). It features a semi-digital instrument cluster for monitoring consumption like eco driving, EV-mode usage infographics, and E-Four operation, among other info.

Other tech conveniences are reverse camera, rear park distance control and cruise control. On the VX as mentioned above it has a digital mirror. Toyota says the digital rear-view mirror uses rear-facing cameras to project a wide angle image onto the mirror surface. It can be accessed by the driver through a toggle of a button between traditional and camera views.

Final thoughts

While there is a lot of discussions around how electric vehicles could be the answer to high fuel prices, EVs are still a premium product reserved for the wealthy. I love Toyota’s approach in bridging that gap while we wait for EV prices (import duties to come down) and become mainstream. The RAV4 Hybrids are an excellent way to keep fuel costs down, I’ve experienced it first hand on the launch drive. If you drive a certain way, or simply hit that Eco button, you should prolong one tank of fuel and get a lot more mileage by being efficient. Simply put, if the price of fuel is a concern, this is an excellent vehicle to buy today, in 2022, along with the tech conveniences.

Pricing and warranty

2.5L GX-R CVT Hybrid – R644 100
2.5L VX CVT Hybrid – R723 300

Service plan: 6 years/90 000km
Warranty: 3 year/100 000km
Hybrid battery warranty: 8 years/195 000km