By Sandy Myhre

Every once in a while a car comes along that’s so impressive it simply has to qualify as my car of the year. For 2019, it’s the Toyota RAV 4 GX Hybrid.

Using words like ‘impressive’ would make most people think of something like a McLaren Supercar or a luxurious Mercedes or a top-of-the-line BMW.  Of course the RAV4 doesn’t sit in that category but it impressively ticks all the boxes I require.

First to exterior design. Far too many SUVs strive hard to be bland and why is hard to fathom.  The RAV 4 has interesting swirls and swathes that set it apart from so much of the competition. 

From the side view it looks competent, more squat than a lot of SUVs and therefore more ready to work if you know what I mean.

The headlights are lean, the sidelights are like dimples on the face and the split grille looks almost like it’s stretched its ‘mouth’ into a smile.  From the rear the generous door gives the immediate impression of a wide open space inside for the very reason that there is.

To the interior and this is worth shouting about – the control panel has knobs!  Ones you turn left or right on both the screen and the temperature unit.  It’s a welcome back to the future design that should never have gone away in the first place.

The main screen is home to the navigation system, reverse camera, radio function and other multi-media bits and pieces. It’s a very clear package and easy to operate unlike in some cars where you’re stabbing the screen trying to find news from your local radio station and end up selecting the Bluetooth app you didn’t want. 

There is ample leg room for everyone. Toyota designers have avoided the temptation to shave some depth out of the seats to create more interior space with the result the seats are nicely padded and comfortable on a long drive. Plus there are multi-change options with the rear seats if you need extra luggage space.

All the aids are here that help save us from our silly selves like Blind Spot Monitors, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, front and rear sensors for parking and a multitude of on-road car control aids.

To the road and Toyota have most certainly got the handling right with this RAV4, helped by what Toyota call the E-four – the four-wheel-drive system that can also be adapted for off-road or rough terrain.

It’s a joy to drive because all round vision is excellent (there aren’t any blind spots from pillars), steering is responsive, cornering is calculated for you and the response from the accelerator to the engine is smooth and effortless thanks to the continuously variable transmission.   Sitting on those padded seats, what’s not to love?

The Hybrid GLX model has a 2.5 litre engine and enough towing capacity for a small boat, trailer or caravan. Storage space is liberal.

The advantage of the hybrid means there is no electric range anxiety of course and in Northland with comparatively large distances between towns, this is important.  Rapid charging units outside of Whangarei are not plentiful but more like an oasis in a desert, few and far between.

This SUV is a superb all-rounder suitable for both town and country.  At a RRP of $49,995 it is highly competitive.  Well done Toyota!

Special thanks to everyone at Northland Toyota who kept me supplied with cars, coffee and information.

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