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First drive: Toyota Rav4 plug-in hybrid

Date: 26 February 2021   |   Author: Pete Tullin

At the fat-end of £50K, Toyota's RAV4 plug-in hybrid looks very punchy, but it does have an awful lot going for it - including a 46-mile electric driving range and a 6% BIK tax bracket.
Standard equipment:
19in alloy wheels, CVT automatic transmission, 32 amp charging cable, leather interior trim, sports seats, powered tailgate, wireless mobile phone charger, Apple Carplay and Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone climate control, 9in infotainment display, automatic lights and wipers, reversing camera and rear park distance control Toyota Safety sense precollision system with night and day-time pedestrian detection
Petrol: 2.5 4cyl plug-in hybrid
Equipment grades:
Dynamic, Dynamic Premium
CVT auto

Despite all the political prattle regarding transitioning seamlessly to an all-electric future, most of us understand that there are significant obstacles to overcome before we can achieve that end.

Little wonder Toyota is confident plug-in hybrid powertrains, like the one in its latest RAV4, will play an increasingly vital role moving forward.  

No other manufacturer has more experience of petrol-electric hybrid powertrains than Toyota and its deep understanding of the technology is clearly evident in its latest plug-in example. 

Fitted with an 18.1kWh battery pack, capable of giving the RAV4 SUV an electric-only driving range of 46 miles when fully charged, this zero-emission aspect helps achieve an official combined CO2 output of just 22g/km, equating to a simply mind-boggling 282.4mpg.

From a purely mercenary point of view, it is the 6% BIK rate (7% from April 2021) associated with these figures that is the most noteworthy. Although the plug-in is only available in two rather pricey trim levels, with a starting price of £47,340, the annual impact on a 40% taxpayer is just £1,136. 

The plug-in RAV is capable of 84mph on electric power alone but it operates most efficiently at more sedate speeds, where it can maximise its battery range.

Even with that charge spent it is still capable of some highly impressive numbers. Over the course of a 90-mile test route, involving some pretty spirited driving and when running with a depleted battery, the digital read-out resolutely failed to register anywhere below 65mpg.

Another by-product of the RAV's plug-in powertrain is its intense performance. Give the accelerator pedal a boot of murderous intent and the combination of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motors, mounted front and rear, dish out a thumping 302bhp and a 0-62mph sprint time of 6.0 seconds.

Toyota's insistence that CVT transmissions are the most efficient power delivery devices remains steadfast. With the plug-in, they may also have the perfect repost to those who dread the soaring engine revs these transmissions normally encourage every time the accelerator pedal is firmly pressed.

This is simply not the case in the plug-in, as the huge stock of torque generated by electric motors assisting the petrol engine negates the need for excessive accelerator demands when asking for a boost of acceleration.   

Like all cars powered by part or full-time electric power, the brake pedal is a bit numb and, because the petrol engine often isn't running, wind and road noise can seem all the more audible. The plug-in RAV avoids a lot of this thanks to additional soundproofing and laminated side glass. Suspension noise is also well suppressed and, because the settings favour comfort more than agility, it generally dials out ruts and ridges in a pretty cultured manner.

This cushy approach and the additional weight of the larger battery does mean you'll notice some initial resistance when asking for changes in direction along with a tendency to run out of front-end grip quicker than you might expect. Thankfully, the steering has sufficient feel to let you know what's going on long before things get excessively slippery, while a whole host of the latest electronic safety devices are included to help prevent the worst from happening. 

Although the cabin is far from cramped and there is no bulky transmission tunnel, meaning five can travel in comfort, headroom is a little on the tight side, while the rear seat cushions are set quite low, so smaller children may struggle to see much of the outside world. 

The need to accommodate a bigger battery mass means the plug-in loses 40-litres of boot space compared with the standard hybrid model but at 520-litres it remains a good size and, with a large relief cut out on the driver's side, you'll have no problem sliding your golf bag in.

Toyota has always built solid if not particularly inspiring interiors and the plug-in RAV is no exception, other than the fact its price point dictates it comes with plenty of standard kit, while leather is used on many of the interior panels and bespoke leather sport seats are included.

With its retro-looking graphics the infotainment system does seem a bit dated and, even though the icons are arranged on a sizable 9in central tablet, it can be rather fiddly to operate while driving. Thankfully, Toyota has finally grasped the nettle regarding phone connectivity, so both Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard.

Toyota RAV4 Dynamic Premium Auto  

P11D: £50,840

On sale: Now (deliveries May 2021)

Residual value: 38.3%

Depreciation: £31,349

Fuel: £4,794

Service, maintenance and repair: £2,544

Cost per mile: 64.5p

Fuel consumption: 282.4mpg

CO2 (BIK band): 22g/km (7%)  

BIK 20/40% a month: £59/£118

Boot space: 540 litres

Engine size/power: 2,487cc/302hp


  • 7% BIK tax
  • Hugely impressive CO2 and economy figures
  • Rapid performance
  • Not cheap
  • Can feel a little overweight at times
  • Brakes lack feel