This chiselled brute is the best of the breed so far

This is the fifth generation of a model line that was launched back in 1994 and arguably kicked off the trend and set the standard for affordable family SUVs. Of course it won customers and plaudits for robustness, reliability and all-round ability and practicality.

What it might have lacked, particularly in the last few generations is visual distinctiveness and appeal. So the latest version of officially the world’s best selling SUV, shed any attempts at sleekness by the previous edition, and went the other way. Big blocky and highly chiselled, the angular slashes and sharp angles make for the most stand-out RAV4 since the original 90s offering. Handsome or not? I think it is, very much so. But the smaller C-HR manages to combine the same theme with a swept-back more sporty style.

Like most of the Toyota range now in the UK, the RAV4 comes as a Hybrid with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder  producing 215bhp and 163lb ft of torque with the aid of electric motors. It’s available as either a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with a 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.4 seconds for the two-wheel drive, and 8.1 seconds for the grippier four-wheel drive. Official fuel consumption figures range from 47-50mpg and CO2 emissions from 126 to 131g/km.

With prices ranging from £30,000 to £38,000 it’s offered in four trim levels: Icon, Design, Excel and Dynamic. As you’d expect the squared off design allows for maximising the luggage space, so capacity is 580 litres with all the seats in place, but drop the rear bench and you can treat it like a van with nearly 1700 litres of space.

All models are extremely well equipped with Toyota Safety Sense as standard and that includes pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beam, road sign assist and adaptive cruise control.

There’s also a full complement of airbags including curtain and driver’s knee airbags, rear parking sensors and camera, hill-start assist and trailer sway control. Inside there’s dual zone air conditioning, auto-dimming rear view mirror and an 8-inch touchscreen with a six-speaker audio system with DAB plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A JBL 9-speaker system is optional (highly recommended if you like your tunes). All models come with alloys wheels – 17-inch for the base spec, 18-inch for the rest of the range with black editions for the range-topping Dynamic

In the rear there is ample space for six-foot plus occupants with knee and headroom to spare, particularly if you take advantage of the reclining seat backs in the 60:40 spilt sections. There’s also rear A/C vents and USB ports on the Dynamic we tested. In total there were five USB plugs.

Move to the front and the space is equally generous with a good seating position and lots of well thought-out convenience features including deep-cubby box, and storage trays.

Slip the CVT transmission into drive, and you’ll find it does an admirable impression of a regular step-change torque convertor automatic, subduing the drone you often get from CVTs. There is a sports mode and an Eco mode, but neither are really necessary. Firstly because this family SUV is not a car you’ll wish to be peddling in an aggressive or overly enthusiastic manner, and secondly because this Hybrid car is extremely thrifty as it is.

That’s not to say that it won’t keep up with traffic, grips decently, responds accurately, and can be hustled along if you need to. The focus here is more skewed towards ease and convenience, so the drive is not taxing with light and obvious controls, good visibility, and its well-defined front edges making it easy to place the car. It’s also quite manoeuvrable around town and in car parks. The brakes are reassuring and linear in progression – nothing in this car is ever jarring or out of synch with the rest of its personality. Even the ride, whilst being firm and able to transmit some road bump and thump into the cabin, keeps the suspension travel in tight control so this car doesn’t float, bounce or wallow, but it does glide serenely.

The comfort of a five-year warranty is hardly necessary, from the moment you open the door and step in to the RAV4, you know that it stays true to its heritage of solidity and surety. This is a car you just know will never let you down, whilst it also endeavours to be an extremely accommodating and an amiable companion, but now rather more impressively dressed than it’s normally known for.

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