THE Toyota RAV4 has been around since the mid-90s and whether in three or five-door body styling, it has proved a huge success accumulating more than 10 million sales globally
Now the car, which has been credited with being the very first crossover SUV model, has been given the added appeal of plug-in hybrid technology for the first time.
Powering the RAV4 PHEV is a 2.5-litre petrol engine matched to an 18.1kWh battery developing 302bhp. This results in a 0-62mph sprint time of just 6.0 seconds and top speed of 112mph while delivering a combined 282.5mpg and carbon emissions of 22g/km.
It has an EV-only driving range of 46 miles and clearly the official fuel economy figure would only ever be achievable if the car was driven in EV-only mode for the majority of the time and was charged regularly. But whatever the mpg, this RAV4 does offer excellent savings for the company car driver with low tax bills.
It may all sound a little too good to be true and there must be a downside. And there is. That's because this particular RAV4 PHEV in entry-level Dynamic trim level costs Â£47,395 (Dynamic Premium is Â£50k-plus) and that's a lot of cash to splash on a family SUV.
But you do get a great deal of car for the outlay. The five-door RAV4 is a good looking vehicle with its athletic styling, complemented by black roof rails, LED dual beam projector headlights, dual exhaust pipes, rear privacy glass, a black rear spoiler and shark fin antenna, puddle lights in the door mirrors and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Move inside and it's quality through and through with smart upholstery and a wealth of on-board kit to explore. There is a nine-inch touchscreen with Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system with smartphone integration including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Creature comforts include a six-speaker sound system with DAB radio and Bluetooth, wireless phone charging, heated front and rear seats, powered seats, remote dual zone air conditioning and plenty more besides.
The driver is treated to an elevated seating position which results in excellent all-round visibility and all the controls and dials are ideally positioned for ease of use on the move.
The RAV4 PHEV starts up in complete silence (battery charge permitting) and the acceleration out the blocks is pleasantly quick. There are various drive modes that alter the characteristics of the car. These are called Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail - the latter being for soft roading.
The petrol engine works effortlessly with the electric motor and the car has a CVT transmission which seems much smoother these days provided you don't keep flooring the throttle pedal. The acceleration is nice responsive and the car responds well out on the fast open roads where the road holding is confident through tighter bends.
The steering could do with a little more feel, but apart from that, the RAV4 performed really well on B roads and motorways where it cruised effortlessly at the national speed limit.
It's a nice car to drive through town too with great driver visibility and the added benefit of front and rear parking sensors along with a reversing camera.
Comfort levels are high and there is ample room for a couple of adults in the back of the car - three at a bit of a squeeze.
Storage options are good too with a boot capacity of 520 litres which is slightly less than the standard RAV4, increasing to 1,604 litres with the rear seats dropped flat. There is an automatic tailgate which is handy if approaching the car laden down with shopping bags and extra underfloor storage for the charging cables.
Throughout the cabin, there is a glovebox, central cubby, door bins, a sunglasses compartment, front and rear cup holders and seat back pockets.
Safety is another area where the RAV4 PHEV excels with the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense 2 systems. This includes a pre-collision system with cyclist detect, day and night-time pedestrian detection, full range intelligent adaptive cruise control and lane trace assist.
There is also a blind spot monitoring system with cross traffic alert, eCall emergency call, hill start assist, trailer sway control, driver attention alert, auto headlight levelling and intelligent all-wheel drive as standard.
All in all, the latest RAV4 with plug-in hybrid technology is a welcome addition to the line-up and a clear step towards Toyota's goal of zero emissions.