Meet the Toyota RAV4 XSE hybrid. It fits in a niche you probably didn’t know existed, very slightly below the luxury Limited and yet very slightly above the mid-range GXL.
How many RAV4 hybrid variants does Toyota New Zealand really need? Well, the answer is as many as possible. It’s been a phenomenal success so far, and we haven’t even hit the Clean Car Discount for low-emissions petrol vehicles yet. Toyota NZ set a record for petrol-electric sales last year and the hybrid accounted for nearly 75 per cent of RAV4 registrations.
It’s still a top-seller year-to-date 2022 and one of the country’s top five electrified vehicles of any kind. So yes, the more customer choice the better.
Toyota’s pitch is that the XSE has a “sportier” design than either the GXL or Limited. Like all new hybrids it’s gained slimline LED headlights/foglights, but the key visual change is a two-tone colour scheme that includes a black roof. You can choose from four exterior body colours: our car’s Crystal Pearl, Silver Sky, Graphite and Arctic Dawn. Or white, silver, grey and blue if you're not fluent in car brochure.
It gets black alloy wheels like the Limited, but on the XSE the wheel arch trims and bumper details are high-gloss black, which also gives it a very different look.
Inside it sticks with cloth upholstery like the GXL, but there are faux-leather bolsters and bright blue stitching. The front seats have gained heating and there’s 10-way power adjustment for the driver’s seat like the Limited (which has also gained power adjustment for the passenger’s seat, ventilation for the front chairs and a digital rearvision mirror).
No powertrain or suspension changes and we’re all good with that. The hybrid remains the quickest RAV4 you can buy and despite the obligatory hybrid Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the nicest to drive too. You soon learn to leave the foot-to-the-floor attitude behind and rely more on the torque delivery of the petrol-electric powertrain.
It reverts to EV mode frequently in urban driving and while there’s only enough battery to drive a kilometre or so, it regenerates so quickly under coasting/braking that you find yourself driving under zero-emission conditions a lot of the time in town.
The official figure of 4.8//100km seems incredible for a medium-large family SUV, but I gave little thought to eco-driving during a week and 400km in the XSE and still finished up at 5.9l/100km.
All hybrids have Toyota’s clever E-Four AWD system ,which puts an electric motor on the rear axle and offers excellent response/control in low-traction situations. The chassis is generally really composed anyway: nice steering feel for this type of vehicle and a smooth, unflustered cornering gait. If we needed a refresher than this generation of RAV4 has really come of age as an accomplished all-rounder, this is it. It’s a feel-good family car, and not just for the eco-credentials.
The RAV4 is a great family SUV and a great hybrid. So it’s a great family hybrid SUV, very much a model for the times. Which might explain why you can’t actually buy one right now.
Check the TNZ website and you’ll see there isn’t even a price listed for the XSE. Instead, you get a message saying: “Expected delivery of this vehicle is delayed”.
Are we wasting your time even reviewing it? Well, you can still order any RAV4 and go into the queue. But you will have to wait.
“Our initial forecast volume was too low given we have effectively sold all our current available production for at least the next six months,” says TNZ general manager of new vehicles Steve Prangnell.
“Supply is the number one issue affecting most NZ distributors and we are no different, globally Toyota is experiencing huge demand which leads to a tighter supply situation which can vary significantly by model. In response to this we are negotiating for additional volume of most models each month.”
Fair enough. But it’s strange times when you can order a Rolls-Royce Black Badge Ghost, have it built from scratch and ready to go in less time than Toyota can get you a RAV4.
The other new model for the RAV4 hybrid range is a petrol-electric Adventure. Previously a “hero” model for the lineup with different frontal styling, more supportive seats and a more all-terrain optimised chassis, the Adventure has only previously been available with the standard 2.5-litre engine.
Now it’s offered as a hybrid too. There’s not quite as much differentiation, given the petrol Adventure has its own torque-vectoring AWD system, while the hybrid sticks with the standard E-Four setup. But it’s just as good anyway, so nothing lost.
This also means you can now have a RAV4 hybrid in the awesome Safari Green that’s still reserved for the Adventure. Although the press vehicle supplied by Toyota was red. Oh well, you take what you can get.
TOYOTA RAV4 XSE HYBRID
ENGINE: 2.5-litre petrol four with hybrid electric system
POWER: 163kW (combined)/221Nm
GEARBOX: Continuously variable automatic, AWD
ECONOMY: 4.8l/100km, CO2 109g/km