The RAV4 serves as Toyota’s entry into the compact crossover SUV segment. It was a popular choice for most of its history, but ever since the similarly-priced and bigger Fortuner came into the picture, most Filipinos gravitated away from the RAV4. Eventually, the globally-sold RAV4 turned into a more premium offering (it costs more than the Foturner). Whereas the pre-facelift RAV4 was a hit-or-miss due to the number of features it lacked for its price, this facelifted 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has become one of the most compelling options in the segment.
In terms of styling, the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid didn’t change too much for this facelift. Some of its changes include the new LED headlights, a set of new 18-inch wheels for this LTD variant we’re driving, and, well that’s pretty much it. It’s not exactly a bad thing as the RAV4’s angular shape still stands out in a sea of crossover SUVs that use a similar car-like silhouette. It looks rugged yet sporty and elegant in the right places. It also comes with a few new features for this facelift as well, such as a powered tailgate (this LTD adds a foot sensor) and power-folding mirrors (finally).
Inside, the 2023 Toyota RAV4’s changes are just as minor. The overall aesthetic leans towards ruggedness, but the materials used are the premium soft-touch variety. It’s not as plush as our interior benchmark–the Mazda CX-5, but it’s still good enough for its segment. The generous glass area and large panoramic sunroof somehow make this tint-less press car feel like a fishbowl on wheels, thus giving it one of the best visibility in its segment. I also like the fact that Toyota has given the RAV4 a generous amount of physical controls, which makes the interior feel extremely user-friendly.
Features and Infotainment
Now as for its electronics, limited to this LTD variant is a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, but all variants get a 7-inch infotainment that comes with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This replaces the clunky non-Toyota infotainment that has plagued older models, which is a sigh of relief as the menus and user interface are logical and easy to use. The graphics aren’t the sharpest, but it’s still good enough. As a bonus, this LTD model also comes with wireless charging.
As with every TNGA-based Toyota model, the driving position is excellent, while the seats themselves offer one of the best in terms of long-distance comfort. Those at the back are treated to best-in-class space, even better I think than the five-seater version of the CR-V. Oh, and there are two USB fast-charging ports for rear occupants to take advantage of. Lastly, its cargo space is huge at 580 liters, which is one of the biggest in its class.
The 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is highlighted by its new electrified hybrid drivetrain. Shared with the Camry Hybrid, it combines Toyota’s new 2.5-liter Dynamic Force direct-injected gasoline engine and an electric motor that delivers a total output of 211 hp and 221 Nm of torque. These are very healthy numbers, and this drives the front wheels via an e-CVT. The best part about this is how it transforms the RAV4’s driving experience.
Right off the bat, the electric motor already produces 120 hp, which is why the hybrid drivetrain is quite aggressive at putting this crossover SUV in pure electric mode. Of course, if you bury your foot deeper into the throttle, the gasoline engine smoothly kicks in. The best part about this drivetrain is how transparent all these systems work, and all you get is an extremely responsive drivetrain for overtaking and accelerating. Yes, the e-CVT does make the engine hold its revs, but because there’s so much power on tap, there’s no need to be heavy with the throttle.
Additionally, the electric motors compensate for the engine’s deficiencies in response or if it’s not yet in its power band, and as a result, power delivery is linear and instantaneous. Its 0-100 kph time is in the mid-seven seconds, which is quick by any measure, but the best part is its fuel economy. Averaging at 18 km/l, it’s even better than the Nissan Kicks e-Power, even if the RAV4 Hybrid has significantly more oomph.
As for its ride and handling, it feels less dynamic than the Camry Hybrid that it shares its TNGA-K platform with, but it still performs decently in corners. Its steering has a degree of response though not a lot of road feel goes through the wheel. The suspension deals with roll pretty well though it’s more pronounced unsurprisingly than the Camry. The Mazda CX-5 continues to be the athlete in the segment. On the upside, the suspension deals well with bumps and rough roads. There’s not a lot of road and wind noise with respect to its competitors as well.
Lastly, the 2023 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid also comes with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) as standard. This bundles Pre-Collision Braking, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, and Automatic High Beam. This LTD variant takes it up a notch with its Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and its 360-degree camera system.
Just like the Camry Hybrid, the RAV4’s transition into a hybrid has significantly transformed its driving experience, thus making it stand out in the compact crossover SUV segment. Compared to the pre-facelift RAV4, this new electrified model also comes with significantly more standard features, finally making this a worthy alternative to its more affordable competitors. With a starting price of P2,264,000 for the base XLE and P2,607,000 for this top-trim LTD we’re testing, it’s the absolute most expensive already in its segment. However, there’s literally no other crossover SUV at its price point that flawlessly combines performance and unbelievable fuel economy.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Safety and Driver Assistance: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.
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