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Driven: Toyota RAV4 2.5 Hybrid GX

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First seen in 1994, the original RAV4 was a funky and stylish compact SUV that sought to attract a different type of clientele: those looking for reliability, practicality and affordability infused with a bit of character and unique style.

As the years went by, the RAV4 has morphed into a more mature and serious midsize SUV that competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5. The latest model, first seen in 2019, is quite the looker. Many referred to it as a baby Prado, with its upmarket styling and premium-feeling interior.

Now Toyota has expanded the model range, with a variant that is, quite possibly, the perfect vehicle for our times.

Petrol prices continue to increase, putting pressure on consumers at the pumps. Despite this, buyers want SUV's that offer plenty of room, lots of toys, increased refinement and stellar safety. This is where the latest model slips in. At R555 300, the RAV4 2.5 Hybrid GX could possibly be all the car you will ever need. Let us explain...

Starting with the basic car, the RAV4 is, as mentioned above, a good-looking SUV with plenty of room for a family of five. Rear passenger space is commendable, with plenty of knee- and headroom up for grabs. Those up front won't have anything to complain about either, with a height and reach adjustable steering wheel and multiple adjustments for the seats. The boot measures in at a commodious 580 litres, giving owners enough for a large shopping trip or holiday, with plenty of cargo space for luggage.

So it's practical, but what about equipment levels? For R555 300 I still want some luxuries...

And Toyota provides. You may not get the fancy 18-inch alloys seen on the VX model, but the Hybrid still receives classy 17-inch alloy wheels. What's more, LED headlamps are standard. Not only do they look good, but the lighting system illuminates the road superbly at night. Naturally, fog lamps are standard too.

Convenience features, such as front and rear parking sensors (with a reverse camera) are all part of the basic price. Toyota hasn't skimped on safety, either: seven airbags, stability control, ABS and brake assist all aid in keeping you safe. Climate control, cruise control and a touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity is also standard.

That's impressive. But it's a 2.5-litre SUV and petrol is expensive...

Quite right. Petrol is ridiculously expensive. But this is the entire point of the Hybrid model. Yes, it may have a fairly large 2.5-litre petrol engine, but it has an electric motor too.

The engine itself, produces 131 kW and 221 Nm of torque. The electric motor, says Toyota, produces 88 kW and 202 Nm of torque (at maximum state of charge). This delivers a total output system of 160 kW.

The power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT automatic gearbox. When driven frugally and in a relaxed manner, the box adds to the refinement and relaxed persona of the RAV4. But here's the kicker. This large, well-equipped SUV is capable of returning just 4.7 L/100 km (claimed). Over our time with the car, we never saw the consumption go higher than 6.0 L/100 km.

Verdict

The RAV4 Hybrid is one of those few near-perfect cars. It does everything exceptionally well, and at a price point that won't make you wince. Yes, R555 300 is a lot of money, but when you consider the practicality, frugality, safety and all the features, it is incredible value for money. What's more, Toyota has a stellar reputation for reliability and excellent resale value. This may be the most sensible buy in its class...

Looking to buy a RAV4 Hybrid? Click here.


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