The winner of the coveted Chasing Cars Best Midsize SUV prize earlier in 2022, small adjustments to the RAV4 Cruiser cement this crossover in our esteem
There is an enormous 12-18 month wait time on the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, but 1000km behind the wheel of the refreshed-for-2022 Cruiser grade confirms why that’s the case: this crossover is deeply accomplished, having been a worthy winner of our coveted Best Midsize SUV prize in January of this year.
The idea of waiting a year or more for a RAV4 would have been inconceivable a decade ago but the fifth generation of this Mazda CX-5 rival has entrenched itself with Australian buyers, with 37,751 of the supply-affected model being delivered locally in 2021 – with the upmarket Cruiser grade accounting for more than half of those sales.
A round of small changes for 2022 give the RAV4 a slightly fresher look outside thanks to spruced-up LED headlights and new wheel designs, while thoughtful additions in the cabin include (finally) power adjustment with variable height for the passenger seat, as well as seat cooling for the front pews.
There are new RAV4 grades for 2022 as well, designed to expand the immensely popular hybrid powertrain offer: a mid-spec XSE (from $43,250) is hybrid-only and slots into the yawning gap between the GXL and Cruiser, while the AWD version of the petrol-electric powertrain has been added to the top-of-the-range Edge grade ($52,700).
Of course it’s not just RAV4s in the midsize SUV segment, there’s also the Subaru Forester Hybrid S ($47,190), Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI R-Line ($55,990) and Kia Sportage GT-Line diesel ($52,370). But only one of those vehicles offers a hybrid powertrain, and given the electrified option makes up over 70 percent of RAV4 sales, it’s going to be hard to overlook Toyota’s midsizer on the showroom floor.
Our test car featured Saturn Blue metallic paintwork ($675) and black 18-inch alloy wheels that don’t give it much visual punch at the soccer pitch, but the Cruiser isn’t about standing out – there are other variants for that – this is a pragmatic and well-packaged family SUV.
Much of our previous RAV4 hybrid testing has been biased towards urban driving, so we decided to take this box fresh example (that arrived with 12km on the odometer!) on a road trip from the Chasing Cars Sydney office to some of the best driving roads the ACT has to offer.
With its 160kW 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid system and CVT automatic transmission the front-wheel drive Cruiser Hybrid is nippy around town with its electric torque fill, but cruising down the Hume Highway at the posted 110km/h limit is not where the RAV4 feels most at home.
It may not look like it on paper, but the $3000-dearer all-wheel drive hybrid feels torquier at high speeds, with its additional rear-mounted electric motor adding noticeably more muscle to the package. The AWD hybrid adds just 3kW in additional power but its torque figure is not disclosed by Toyota – though we estimate it at 50Nm.
The benefits of the AWD hybrid option just keep coming, even at low speeds, where the extra traction alleviates the FWD hybrid’s tendency to spin the front wheels in the wet – and both cities at either end of our road trip have had plenty of rain in recent weeks.
Aside from the 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine’s din on extended climbs, the RAV4 offers good NVH insulation, with no thwump from the suspension, wind noise or much roar from the 225/60R18 Bridgestone Alenza tyres. The hybrid system also allowed the RAV4 to coast down extended gradients and start up in delightful silence.
<img src="https://www.chasingcars.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Toyota-RAV4-Cruiser-Hybrid-2022-4.jpg" class="alignnone"
After getting off the Hume at Goulburn, skirted east around Lake George through Currawang and Bungendore to Canberra. These flowing country roads were a joy in the 1547kg RAV4 Cruiser, its chassis is balanced, the steering well-weighted and the ride remains composed over big bumps.
It’s easy to flow down a road in a RAV4 and the Cruiser still has plenty of talent in reserve to handle a surprise tightening corner. The Cruiser wasn’t as involving to drive as a sportier Peugeot 3008 GT PHEV on the next day’s more challenging loop through Stromlo Forest Park and along Cotter Road but it was competent and cohesive with a decent turn of pace.
For hardcore off-roading the RAV4 isn’t the best vehicle with 190mm of ground clearance (though arubaly even the segment-leading Subaru Forester with 30mm more clearance isn’t that well-equipped) but the Cruiser retained its composure on the few kilometres of dirt road it encountered.
ANCAP rated the RAV4 range five-stars in 2019 with features blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and front AEB with car, pedestrian and cyclist detection standard. However, on the freeway the Cruiser’s relaxed adaptive cruise control tuning and weak lane-trace assist felt a little immature after newer competitors such as the Kia Sportage.
Where the RAV4 quickly picks up points are in its everyday practicalities and inclusions that make it easy to live with on a daily basis. There are clever cubbies everywhere, and even in 2022 with new vehicles around the RAV4 still just gets its right.
And the Cruiser really is the one to buy. Despite being $3950 cheaper than the RAV4’s nominal flagship, the Edge, the Cruiser gets more equipment. It is the only RAV4 grade to score genuine leather seating in either (practical) black or more interesting nutmeg tan. The front seats remain temperate year-round thanks to new three-stage heating (up from two-stage) and three-stage ventilation.
Also, for 2022 the front passenger seat finally gains height adjustment – in fact, it picks up full electric adjustment but it still misses the adjustable lumbar the driver enjoys. Still, the front passenger seat was a no-go zone for tall adults in pre-facelift form, so this is still a great addition – and the Edge does not get this feature.
The small $2500 jump from the XSE to Cruiser is well justified in our view by the cooled leather seats, a powerful, bassy nine-speaker JBL stereo and tilt-and-slide sunroof sweetening the deal.
Scratchy plastics can be quite easily found below the interior beltline in the RAV4, though on the XSE and above every trim features ‘leather’ door trims (though it feels more like vinyl). But the build quality is stellar, with no rattles and a solidity to every surface you touch.
Typical RAV4 details such as the scalloping out of the dashboard on the passenger’s side that makes a perfect spot for storing odds and ends such as phones, wallets, keys or snacks on longer trips.
The RAV4 features two cup holders that are deep enough to hold slim 1.0-litre bottles and the door bins can take a flexible 1.5-litre bottle. Beneath the soft leatherette-appointed central armrest there’s another deep bin with two USB-A ports and a 12-volt socket.
Ahead of the Cruiser’s gear shift is a wireless charging pad and another USB port for connecting your phone to wired Apple CarPlay or Android Auto that runs on a responsive (but now small for the class) 8.0-inch touchscreen with helpful shortcut buttons and standard navigation on the GXL and above. We note that a Tiguan gives you wireless smartphone tech.
The simple-to-use HVAC controls still feature with the buttons and physical controls hooked up to ice cold air conditioning.
Toyota outfits the RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid with a 7.0-inch semi digital driving cluster, and it’s very serviceable – though you can’t put a map in the centre like you can in a Tiguan. The Hybrid Cruiser can be told apart from the petrol inside by the lack of tachometer, instead you get Charge, Eco or PWR charted on the dials.
Toyota made no changes to the RAV4’s rear quarter for 2022, so the Cruiser still features rear adjustable air-vents, soft-touch materials on the door tops and a fold-down armrest. Space on offer is excellent, and even with the Cruiser’s sunroof there is plenty of room for someone up to (and above) 188cm back here.
Only a sliding rear bench to balance boot space with occupant comfort would make the RAV4’s boot and rear quarters better. As it sits, the boot has 580 litres of space with the floor in its lower of two positions, and 542 litres with it sitting higher. A power tailgate (from GXL up), four tie-down points, a netted cubby on the driver’s side and a space saver spare are included.
The RAV4 Hybrid in 2WD form has a rated fuel consumption of 4.7L/100km on the combined ADR 81/02 cycle – 0.1L/100km better than the AWD version. The RAV4 can be fuelled on 91-octane or E10 blend which is great given current petrol prices.
We’ve previously run a RAV4 long-termer that would easily get down into the 5L/100km range, though we know that when box-fresh the RAV4 likes to drink a little more petrol. That rang true on this test with the Cruiser returning 6.9L/100km over 1000km.
This is an aberration we chalk up to the brand-new nature of this tester, as an XSE with 1000km tested a week prior used 6L/100km.
Servicing the RAV4 is required every 12 months or 15,000km and over five years/75,000km it will cost $1150 to maintain the Cruiser with each visit to the dealer capped at just $230.
The Mitsubishi Outlander is slightly more affordable to maintain over the same period ($995), but the Volkswagen Tiguan’s five-year care plan is dearer ($2200) as is the Subaru Forester’s capped-price servicing figure ($2431).
There is no doubt that the Cruiser Hybrid remains the ideal RAV4 specification – in fact, the thoughtful additions for the light 2022 update cement this fact. It is a justifiable step beyond the new XSE tier, while the much dearer Edge Hybrid actually loses features when compared to this ‘goldilocks’ spec.
The RAV4 isn’t perfect though, and the inadequately sophisticated tuning of driver assistance features as well as the semi-digital dials are areas for improvement, but there are few other vehicles on sale that are as cohesive and well-rounded as this Toyota.
It’s not really a surprise that so many people want a RAV4 in Australia, though of course that means there’s a long 12-18 month average wait for one of these midsize SUVs.
So should you try to jump the queue and get a new XSE or Edge Hybrid that doesn’t have a legacy order book? Well it’s worth contacting your dealer, but in our view the Cruiser is still the most comprehensively equipped grade in the range.
Toyota has expanded its updated 2022 RAV4 line-up with a Hybrid version of the adventure-flavoured Edge – taking the number of RAV4 Hybrid variants to nine
Nathan Ponchard reviews the top-shelf Volkswagen Tiguan: the sporty 162TSI R-Line that blends luxury and performance.
Jumping on board the hybrid bandwagon as Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid rockets to the top of the SUV sales charts, the Subaru Forester Hybrid hopes to offer meaningful competition.
Variant tested CRUISER (2WD) HYBRID
Key specs (as tested)
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Toyota RAV4: delays confirmed for May 2022 due to production cuts, Australian orders likely affected
Toyota RAV4 2022: updates coming to Australia in October with bigger touchscreen and more safety features
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