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Toyota RAV4 GXL Hybrid Review

We get hands-on with the Toyota RAV4 GXL: it proves that aging gracefully isn't just for fine wine.

It seems like an age has passed since the launch of this car.

The year was 2019, and it was one of the first vehicle launches I had attended.

Back then, hybrid technology was just starting to become mainstream and the RAV4 seemed a value pick in the SUV world.

But now, time has moved on, and so too has the automotive landscape. That said, there is always something enduringly comforting about Toyota – a brand that has built its reputation on the bedrock of reliability, and the RAV4 is no different.

Picture not describedFast forward to today, we find ourselves driving the 2023 Toyota RAV4 GXL 2WD, dipped in its optional 'Atomic Rush' paint. This vibrant colour is an optional extra, adding a $675 premium, but doesn't it look good?

Engine performance and fuel efficiency

Under the bonnet, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, paired with an 88 kW electric motor, delivers a combined output of 160 kW.

The RAV4 isn't going to win any drag races, but it carries its weight well, and won't leave you wanting on the motorway.

Toyota's official claim of 4.7 litres per 100km in the fuel consumption department looks to be on the money, as we saw a respectable 5.5 litres per 100km during testing, but this was skewed more toward city driving.

What's the Toyota RAV4 GXL like inside?

A reunion with the RAV4 is kind of like bumping into an old mate after many years.

You're happy to see them, but as you listen to what they have been up to, you can't help but notice the hair receding a bit further than you remember.

That is the case with the RAV4's interior.

These days, most modern cars now are full of big bright digital driver's displays, high-definition infotainment screens and soft touch materials, making the RAV4's cabin feel fairly old in comparison.

But as they say, you can't dwell solely on negatives. After all, your old mate may have lost some hair, but that doesn't mean he hasn't learnt some new jokes.

The RAV4, in spite of its shortcomings, has its redeeming qualities.

Picture not describedWhile it does feel dated, the 8-inch infotainment screen does get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you bring a cable along with you as well as DAB digital radio.

Jump into the back, and you find ample space that will fit a pair of full-grown adults, so there is plenty of space for children. For context, I had a heap of space between my knees and the driver's seat, which was set in my driving position.

And the boot, offering a generous 542 litres with the rear seats in place, could easily house a family's holiday luggage or a Christmas shopping spree.

Among its list of clever tricks, the RAV4 also boasts wireless phone charging, a comfortable ride, and seating that's been designed with the human body in mind.

The GXL upgrade also gets premium cloth seat materials and leather-accented steering wheel and gearshifter. Not to mention the dual-zone climate control, a saviour for anyone who's shared a car with someone of differing temperature preferences.

Is the Toyota RAV4 GXL Safe?

Toyota has a reputation for taking safety seriously, and the RAV4 GXL is no exception to this rule. Ensuring that you and your loved ones are well-protected on every journey, the vehicle is packed with a robust suite of safety features.

It still carries the 5-star ANCAP rating that it received when I first drove it back in 2019, and in terms of safety technology, it gets the following and more:

  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Reversing camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection

Picture not described

Is the RAV4 GXL value for money?

But as they say, the times, they are a-changing.

As impressive as the RAV4's list of features may seem, it finds itself squaring off against a stream of new contenders that have stormed the marketplace.

Brands from far away lands, like China for instance, are entering the market with the aim of redefining the meaning of 'value for money', cramming their vehicles full of tech goodies without hiking up the price.

And while the RAV4 still maintains an allure, one can't help but feel the sting of nostalgia when glancing at the price tag in comparison.

The base GX starts at $34,300 plus on-road costs, while the more lavishly equipped GXL grade nudges the needle to $37,825 plus on-road costs for the petrol variant, and up to $40,450 plus on-road costs for the hybrid, as we tested.

It's here that you'll have to balance the pros and cons, the little luxuries against the larger expenditures, the known quantity and quality of the RAV4 against the promises of the newcomers.

Toyota RAV4 GXL Review: Verdict

It's a vehicle that has embraced its maturity, both for better and worse. It has learnt some new tricks and retained its old charms.

At its core, the RAV4 remains a family-focused SUV that's not trying to be a spaceship.

It still offers a comfortable ride, generous space and hard-to-beat reliability that some of these newcomers can yet boast. It's like an old friend who you can rely on – not particularly flashy or up-to-date with the latest trends, but is always dependable.

This reunion has been bitter-sweet. There are elements that seem stuck in time, and others that prove the current generation of RAV4 isn't quite ready to relinquish its spot in the SUV world.

The 2023 Toyota RAV4 GXL is far from perfect, but it still remains a contender in the crowded SUV market – a testament to its qualities and Toyota's initial product and ongoing reliability.

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