By Patrick James on 2016-04-10 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Toyota RAV4 Excel
IF you were asked which Toyota would be one of the most powerful hybrids to date, I would guess few would name the RAV4.
But now the new model range expanded to include its first full hybrid model, a new two-litre diesel engine, revised exterior and interior styling and new equipment grades and features.
It looks sharper than ever on the outside, it is not quite so impressive inside.
With more than a million Toyota hybrids already sold in Europe, and hybrid costs dropping from the early days, the move was a bit of no-brainer for its best selling SUV.
The system combines a 2.5-litre petrol engine combined with a powerful electric motor for the front-wheel drive model, while the all-wheel drive version uses a second electric motor at the rear which provides automatic electronic all-wheel drive to give increased traction.
The combination gives a combined power output of 194bhp making it a rapid motor, capable of hitting 62mph in just 8.4 seconds, but still delivering claimed of around 55mpg for the all wheel drive. It is quick, but the continuously variable transmission (CVT) can be noisy when pushed hard.
Even better for running costs are the the CO2 emissions of 118g/km, making it a good company car option for Benefit in Kind and low road tax.
Like many in the segment, it looks good, better than ever with upper grille that anchors new headlamp units, with integrated LED daytime running lights. The central Toyota emblem is bigger to house the Adaptive Cruise Control system.
There is also a restyled underguard just in case you go off road and it is rounded off with new-design 17 and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The re-designed interior is a bit of a curate's egg. There are still some harsh plastics which you would not expect on a car costing more than £32,000.
This is offset by a more premium soft touch finish on the dash, which is dominated by a central touchscreen screen which controls major functions.
The rest of the instrumentation features blue back lighting. All the seats are supportive and there is good head and leg room throughout while large windows give good all-round vision.
Equipment levels are good, the entry level features the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system with touchscreen, six-speaker audio system with DAB radio, reversing camera, cruise control, sunglasses holder, shark fin antenna and leather steering wheel cover.
Move up the range and move up with the goodies. The Excel model driven here has leather upholstery, roof rails and front and rear parking sensors.
It always has been a practical vehicle. There is a second inner tray added to the console box and a reshaping of the centre console cupholder so that it can take cups with handles. There are other cubbyholes and pockets for added practicality.
Stowage space is good with the boot accommodating 501 litres, increasing to 1,633 with the seats folded. This is less than the diesel because of the space taken by the large electric motor battery space.
On the road the car handles well enoughand feels reasonably sure footed. The ride is comfortable rather than dynamic, but comfort more than performance is what is required here.
It is pretty refined, particularly when running on electric power only, but the CVT can be noisy under hard acceleration.
Toyota RAV4 Excel AWD CVT
Mechanical: 150bhp, 2,494cc, 4cyl petrol engine and electric motors driving four wheels via automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Combined MPG: 55.4
Insurance Group: 29
C02 emissions: 118g/km
Bik rating: 18%
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles
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