2023 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid review: the crown is starting to slip

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2023

Toby Hagon

Posted March 16, 2023

The top-selling SUV in Australia in 2022 is still in hot demand. But with a sizeable price increase, is the beloved five-seater hybrid SUV starting to lose its lustre? 

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is hot property. With fuel prices remaining close to historic highs, new car buyers want the fuel-saving tech of a hybrid system – and the five-seat SUV body of the RAV4 is in the sweet spot of the market.

As one of the most in-demand cars in Australia – and the top-selling SUV in 2022 – the family-sized SUV's popularity has resulted in waiting lists stretching out beyond a year, causing enormous issues for dealers.

While the RAV4 largely uses the same basic mechanical package as when it arrived on the scene in 2019, it has recently received a tech-focused update, with a sizeable price increase in-tow.

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Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2023

To buy an entry-level RAV4 costs $5,360 more than it did four years ago. Image: Supplied

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid pricing and features

Some of the RAV4’s value has been eroded by price rises over the past few years.

When it arrived in 2019, the cheapest RAV4 Hybrid was $35,190 plus on-road costs; the hybrid system back then commanded a $2,500 premium – something that continues today. However, that same basic GX Hybrid is now $40,550 – an increase of 15 per cent.

The more lavishly-appointed Cruiser Hybrid we’ve tested here was once available for $41,640, or another $3,000 if you chose the all-wheel drive system that adds an electric motor to the rear wheels. Now it’s $49,700 – or $52,700 with AWD - representing a 19 per cent increase.

Even since the minor model update, the RAV4 has jumped almost 10 per cent.

The potential dilemma for customers is real, too. If prices rise more by the time your car is delivered, then you may be asked to pay the higher price.

For the Cruiser, the update brought with it a bigger touchscreen (now 10.5 inches, up from 8.0), digital instrument cluster and Toyota Connected Services, which allows for remote locking and unlocking, over-the-air software updates and the contacting of emergency services after a crash; the system uses an onboard SIM to connect to the mobile network, with Toyota paying for the first year.

Apple CarPlay connectivity can also be connected wirelessly, although you’re still plugging in for Android phones.

It continues with 18-inch alloys, powered tailgate, sunroof, dual-zone ventilation and partial leather seats, and now picks up more of the newer USB-C ports to replace some of the older USB-A outlets.

The RAV4 Hybrid competes with other fuel-savers such as the more expensive Nissan X-Trail e-Power, and the cheaper GWM-Haval GH6 Hybrid.

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid ANCAP safety rating and equipment

The recent updates also brought some detail changes to the autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system.

An intersection turn assist system can warn of oncoming vehicles or pedestrians, and even automatically apply the brakes. There’s also an emergency steer assist system to help keep the RAV4 in its lane while swerving to avoid obstacles. 

Other active safety systems include blind spot warning and speed sign recognition.

Seven airbags contribute to the occupant protection, and in 2019, helped the RAV4 achieve a five-star ANCAP rating.


Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2023

You can expect to spend 5.5 litres of fuel per 100km in the RAV4 Cruiser. Image: Supplied

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid interiors and design

Other than the larger touchscreen and digital cluster, not much has changed with the RAV4’s cabin over the past few years. It was great four years ago, but it’s been surpassed in style by fresher rivals.

That said, the basics are solid.

Front seats offer excellent support, visibility is good, and the major controls fall to hand. Two large rubber-ringed dials easily adjust the temperature for either side of the cabin, and there’s a similarly easy-to-use dial for adjusting the audio volume.

But the dark grey hues and traditional plastics lack the flair and visual excitement that is infiltrating the interiors of many mainstream models these days.

Those in the rear get similar honest-but-unexciting treatment; comfy seats, decent space and good ventilation, but nothing that stands out. 

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid engine, specs, and fuel efficiency

The RAV4 pairs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine with electric motors to create a hybrid system. There’s nothing overly high-tech about either drivetrain in isolation, although combined, they have the desired result of significantly reducing fuel use.

The claimed average consumption of the hybrid system is 4.7 litres per 100km, well above the circa-7.0-7.5L/100km of petrol-only rivals.

However, whereas those petrol competitors experience significantly higher fuel use around town – an additional 25-30 per cent is typical – the RAV4’s fuel use barely changes in the suburbs.

That’s because it has a generator that can capture energy you’d normally lose through the braking system and store it in the battery, to be used when accelerating later.

The result is an impressively efficient five-seat SUV.

While you’re unlikely to match the laboratory-gleaned 4.7L/100km claim, you can easily get figures of around 5.5L/100km. That’s about half what you’d likely spend on a rival confined mostly to the city and suburbs.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid 2023

The dark grey hues and traditional plastics remain largely unchanged for the latest RAV4. Image: Supplied

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid performance and handling

The hybrid system also delivers on performance. If you’re calling on the maximum when taking off, it leans on the effortless pull of the electric motor, providing a nice surge low in the rev range.

The petrol engine will sometimes grumble as it comes into play, helping continue the RAV4’s easy nature.

The engine will cut in and out depending on what you’re asking for with your right foot, and the CVT auto takes some acclimatisation, although it’s effective and responsive.

The RAV4 also reinforces its easy nature with its on-road manners. The steering is light but reassuring, and the suspension compliant and controlled.

All of which adds up to a car that mounts a solid case among a highly competitive mid-sized SUV field.

However, much of its appeal is with the hybrid drivetrain rather than the overall SUV package, which is starting to show its age.

And it’s a shame that you’re paying so much more than you would have been even last year – whenever you eventually manage to get your hands on one.


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