Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Business Edition

Toyota RAV4, 2016, side
Toyota RAV4, 2016, front
Toyota RAV4, 2016, side, static
Toyota RAV4, 2016, front, water
Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2016, interior
Toyota RAV4, 2016, rear
Toyota RAV4, 2016, boot
Toyota RAV4, 2016, seats

WHEN the first Toyota Rav4 appeared in Britain John Major was PM and beer cost less than £1 a pint.

The year was 1994, and Toyota had hit on a concept that would take Britain and Europe by storm.

Today, crossovers and small SUVs are the fastest growing sector and the RAV, which has clocked up more than six million global sales, still has a strong presence there, albeit not a dominant one.

Possibly the most interesting version currently on sale is the Hybrid Business Plus Edition, which harnesses Toyota's huge experience in producing petrol-electric engines - think Prius.

Not only is this about as economical as the diesel model, and boasts low emissions, but it is the nippiest RAV on sale. With a hulking 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine coupled to electric motors, there's a useful 194bhp on tap.

As far as the driver's concerned it's just as easy to punt along as either a diesel or a petrol, except that pottering around town at low speed there's virtually no noise as the electric motors provide the power for short distances. The engine cuts in when strong acceleration is needed.

Instead of a manual gearbox, the hybrid gets a CVT automatic system which is a trifle noisy under full power but relaxes and quietens down at cruising speed.

Under braking the batteries are recharged and you can hear the generator as you slow down.

Four wheel drive is a standard feature, and a Sport mode sends 10 per cent of power to the rear wheels as well as making the steering a shade more weighty, giving the five-door SUV a more planted feel.

Even so, it can't claim to be as athletic or nimble as more modern rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 or Nissan Qashqai.

A recent facelift has sharpened the RAV's looks and image and it remains one of the roomiest cabins with generous leg and headroom and a huge boot that can absorb more than 500 litres of luggage with rear seats in place. Fold them down and this expands to 1,633 litres.

While the interior is spacious and the fittings are made from tough, hard wearing materials, it does lack a degree of style and luxury that modern SUV owners are coming to expect.

Handling and road-holding is solid and secure without it being particularly light-footed. However, there's no shortage of power with acceleration to 62mph coming up in 8.4 seconds. Top speed is 112mph.

Like most hybrids, drive the RAV carefully and maximise the use of the electric power and you'll be rewarded with good economy figures but a heavy right can easily send the fuel gauge plummeting.

My average was 42mpg. The official combined consumption is 57.6mpg.

There are few extras you'd wish for in the Business Edition Plus. Rain sensing wipers, dual zone climate control, rear view camera, power tailgate, and seven-inch touch screen sat-nav are all included. The test car also came with pearlescent pain, a £795 option.

The RAV4 might not be in the first flush of youth, but its rugged character and roomy design holds considerable appeal. And as a hybrid it makes sense particularly to company users who are affected by benefit in kind taxation.

£27,190

194bhp, 2,494cc, 4cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving four-wheels via automatic gearbox

112mph

8.4 seconds

57.6

27

115g/km

18%

5yrs/100,000 miles

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