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2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid review (video)

Toyota has been a formidable player in the hybrid game, and the 2023 RAV4 Cruiser hybrid is no exception. It’s a vehicle that leads the way in blending the practical appeal of an SUV with the eco-friendly touch of a hybrid.

The RAV4 enjoys number one position in the medium SUV sales category under $60k. Though, VFACTS figures reveal that from January to October in 2022 and 2023, market share has dipped from 20.9 per cent to 14.8 per cent. There is some fierce competition creeping through, especially as buyers look to save money with escalating costs of living.

Rivals to watch out for are the Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Tucson, MG HS, Kia Sportage, Nissan X-Trail, and the Subaru Forester. Some of which are seeing sales grow. We’re going to peel back the RAV4’s layers and see if it’s got what it takes to maintain that number one spot.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid: Specifications

Engine: 2.5-litre hybrid four-cylinder
Power (combined): 160kW
Torque (combined): Not available
Gearbox: CVT auto
Drive type: Front-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 18×7.0, 225/60
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1665kg
Power-to-weight: 10.40:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 4.7L/100km
Our consumption: 5.8L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 55L/91 RON
Power efficiency: 34.04kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.06 seconds*
0-100km/h: 8.28 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.47 seconds*
1/4 mile: 16.11 seconds at 146.5km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.796g*
100-0km/h braking: 38.77m in 3.05 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.285g*
Decibel at idle (on standby): 24*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 77*
Starting price: $51,410

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid: How much does it cost?

Let’s kick things off with the big question burning in everyone’s minds: the price tag. The 2023 RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD doesn’t come cheap. Though, neither does any car if you haven’t looked at car prices since the pre-COVID era. The cheapest RAV4 retails from $39,760, and peaks at $58,360 (excluding on-road costs). The Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Hyundai Tucson, MG HS, Kia Sportage, Nissan X-Trail, and the Subaru Forester all have a lower entry price point than the RAV4.

There are five grades to pick from; the GX, GXL, XSE, Cruiser, and the top-spec Edge. Among these, there are four powertrains to choose from. Though, not all powertrains are available in all grades. The most affordable is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder, all-petrol engine with a CVT auto that drives the front wheels only. It harvests 127kW and 203Nm. Then there is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder, all-petrol engine with an eight-speed auto transmission, and powers all-four wheels. It produces a beefier 152kW and 243Nm.

The next powertrains use hybrid technology; mixing electric power and combustion engine power. The same 2.5-litre engine is used but adds a 6.5Ah Nickel Metal Hydride battery system that powers a permanent magnet motor. The battery system is charged with braking energy and the petrol engine. Power is rated at 160kW, with all power applied to the front wheels. The fourth powertrain ‘eFour’ uses the same setup but boosts power to 163kW and drives all four wheels.

Hybrid 2WDs add about $2500 over the all-petrol 2.5L engines. Then the eFour hybrid powertrain adds another $3000. We’re testing the RAV4 Cruiser in 2WD hybrid form, which retails from $51,410.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid: Interior & packaging

Slip into the RAV4 Cruiser’s cabin, and you’ll be met with a contemporary design that exudes strength, familiarity and functionality. Materials feel high in quality but they don’t present as elegantly as some. Some soft-touch areas and vinyl patterns are fairly boring.

There are loads of sizeable storage areas and shelves to store items, including a large centre console, secure cup holders and door bottle holders, a handy shelf along the dashboard, driver and passenger seat open trays, and an overhead console. As always from Toyota, the RAV is as simple as they come to navigate the layout.

Desperately needed, the XSE, Cruiser and Edge get Toyota’s updated 10.5-inch multimedia screen and a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster. The digital interface and resolution are no longer reminiscent of a time when touch-screens were still finding their footing in the automotive world. Those are left to the GX and GXL models. Disappointingly, wireless Android Auto is still missing.

The Cruiser and the Edge variants score a more premium JBL nine-speaker sound system over and above the standard six-speaker setup. All variants except the base GX also receive a wireless phone charger, digital radio, and five USB ports.

In terms of space, there is loads. The RAV4 is one of the biggest mid-sizers you can get. Legroom, shoulder and headroom is plentiful for all five seating positions for this class. The only improvement that could be made is the doors could open wider, to near 90 degrees, as seen in the Outlander.

Further back, and the boot is also generous with 580 litres on offer. This includes an extra under-floor storage area. Like most competitors, the figures are cheated slightly as only a space-saving spare wheel is offered. An optional full-sized spare wheel is offered in the GX hybrid only – a popular variant for government fleet vehicles.

In comparison, the boot measures bigger than the Mazda CX-5’s 438L, the Kia Sportage’s 543L, the Hyundai Tucson’s 539L, the MG HS’ 463L, the Mitsubishi Outlander’s 478L, and the Subaru Forester’s 509L. Only the new Nissan X-Trail measures fractionally bigger, at 585L.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser-boot

All RAV4 grades are equipped with Toyota’s comprehensive Safety Sense technology, which includes crucial items like lane-departure alert, lane-trace assist, pre-collision safety system with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, intersection turn assist, emergency steering assist, speed sign assist, auto high beam, active cruise control, trailer sway control, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, and Toyota Connected Services. Cruiser and above models add panoramic-view cameras.

Other non-safety related upgrades the Cruiser hybrid sees are driver and front passenger heated and ventilated seats, a leather accented interior, a digital rear view mirror, ambient cabin lighting, a 10-way power driver’s seat, power lumbar support and position memory, a tilt and slide moonroof, a powered tailgate, smart entry and smart start, electronically retractable side mirrors, and 18-inch black alloy wheels.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser-wheels

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid: Powertrain & handling

It’s no surprise that getting behind the wheel of a RAV4 is a familiar, easy and fuss-free driving experience. Even with the added hybrid technology, you don’t need to worry about charging it, nor be an expert by any means to drive it or get the most out of it. Toyota differs from other manufacturers as lithium ion batteries are not used.

With 160kW of power combined, it feels strong and it is quick to get up to speed without feeling struggled. It will accelerate from 0-100km/h in 8.28 seconds. Only when you get eager with acceleration, power delivery lacks style and spark. The engine sounds unnatural to be revved high and the CVT auto gearbox gives off a weak sense of progress. Having said that, most buyers won’t care about this. And it is more than adequate to set off on a road trip with a full load of passengers and luggage.

The reward is brilliant fuel consumption. The official average is listed at 4.7L/100km. We travelled about 550km in our test car in a mix of highway and slower city speed conditions, and we averaged 5.8L/100km. It’s a commendable average for a non-plug-in hybrid with decent power, that also accepts cheaper 91-RON fuel. With that lower fuel consumption and a 55-litre fuel tank, you should be able to travel about 900km before needing to refuel. We love a long fuel range.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser-length

Regarding ride, the RAV4 soaks up bumps excellently. Track is kept on point, giving a secure feeling over ditches. But it’s not too firm to cause a jolty ride. Up front, MacPherson struts are fitted, and a trailing wishbone setup is on the rear. Cornering also feels relatively positive. Only when entering corners fast do the tyres start to screech a tad more prematurely than some rivals. Likely due to taller sidewalls than some.

Around town and in carparks, the RAV4 feels light and simple to manoeuvre, with help from light steering. At highway speeds the steering and track could do with a touch more weightiness to help it balance in the centre of the lane more securely. That way fewer steering corrections would be required.

Outrageously, the RAV4 hybrid front-wheel drive has a towing capacity of just 480kg. This is a dismal figure. All-wheel drive versions are boosted to 1500kg.

Even though the RAV4 is marketed for Aussie adventures, they will need to be carried out mostly on the tarmac with the hybrid 2WD. With power only going to the front wheels, even gravel roads will need to be taken with caution. Multi-terrain drive modes are only available on the Edge petrol. With 190mm of ground clearance and a space-saver spare wheel, it’s not really suited to huge cross-country trips.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser-rear suspension

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid: Key attractions/reasons to buy

  • Practical: Yet another Toyota that is fuss-free and so easy to drive.
  • Fuel economy: Class-leading fuel consumption, especially from a mid-sizer that is not a plug-in hybrid.
  • Latest on-board tech: Upgraded multimedia and cluster screens are a huge leap forward from previous or lower spec models.
  • Warranty and servicing: The RAV4 is covered by a 5-year/unlimited km warranty, with servicing every 12 months or 15,000km. The first five services are capped at a cheap $260 when you service at a Toyota dealership.
  • Resale value: Historically, Toyota and in fact RAV4s have had one of the strongest resale values on the market.

2018 xxx: Key considerations before you buy

  • Android Auto: No wireless Android Auto
  • Towing: Pathetic towing capacity (480kg)
  • Long delivery times: Depending on the variant, the delivery wait time could be well over 6 months.
  • Premium price: RAV4 has the highest entry-level price among the top seven other medium SUVs.

2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid: Video

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Ride & handling
  • X-factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

The Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD has balanced a blend of practical SUV appeal and hybrid eco-friendliness brilliantly. With heightened competition in this market, its premium pricing, limited towing capacity and off-road capabilities, a portion of buyers may be deterred.

Mark Davis

Mark's fascination with cars originated long before he was allowed to get behind the wheel himself. To him, cars are more than just a mode of transport; especially the ones that adopt purposeful innovations while preserving the joy of driving. With a master's degree in IT, he brings a tech-savvy perspective to our car reviews, particularly as the automotive industry embraces digital advancements. Mark joins Driving Enthusiast as a road tester after more than a decade at PerformanceDrive.

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