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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid takes the pain out of fuel price hike

Dual source powertrain means less money at the pumps without having to depend on Eskom for charging the battery.

December the 1st is meant to be the start of the festive season. A time of joy and happiness. A time to travel and visit loved ones and family. But wait, reality check time. This was also the day that petrol passed R20 per litre!

Just 10 years ago a litre of petrol in Gauteng cost us R10.49. To put this into numbers that are even harder to stomach, the increase to our current price of R20.13 indicates is 91% increase, 41% of that being in the last year alone. No average working-class person I know, including myself, received a 41% increase in earnings to cover something like this.

To fill up the average hatchback will set you back around R1 000, and a double cab bakkie or SUV around R1 600. Crazy right? For this money I would like to think that you would want to try and get as much mileage for your money as possible.

RAV4 Hybrid to the rescue

Thank goodness then that we spent the last month driving the ultra-fuel efficient Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Without trying to get over-technical in any way, because the moment you say hybrid, people’s eyes glaze over and they nod like they understand you. But they don’t, and they simply stick with their existing petrol or diesel only driven cars.

What hybrid means in basic terms is a dual source powertrain that sees a petrol engine, in the case of the Toyota RAV4, combined with an electric motor for improved performance and fuel efficiency.

Don’t even start on how Eskom can’t keep the lights on and how you don’t want a car that can run out of electricity if not sufficiently charged, and leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Please note that a hybrid combination of petrol and electric power does not require you plugging anything in as the charging of the battery happens via the petrol engine and / or brake regeneration energy. In fact this all takes place without you even being aware of it.

The RAV4 Hybrid rides on 17-inch allow wheels.

How much power?

The petrol engine is a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated unit that produces 131 kW of power and 221 Nm of torque. Not numbers that will blow your hair back, but the addition of the electric motor brings the total available power up to a decent 160 kW. This petrol / electric urge makes it way down to the front wheels via a CVT.

I am never going to be convinced that a CVT is the go-to transmission in any car, but because of the refined nature of this Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, I found myself living in peace with it, well most of the time. And by this, I mean I really enjoyed being able to cruise around town and let the electricity do its work of saving fuel.

Frugal sipper

Driven this way, I got the fuel consumption down to an exceptional 4.9-litres per 100 km. Which meant just like my colleague Jaco van der Merwe claimed when he had our test car, you can get 1000 km on 50 litres of fuel with the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

My wife got hold of the car, and because she is used to a 180kW/540Nm BMW X5, she tended to drive the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid like it was racing for its life every time she went out in it. But even then, we still ended up returning the car with 5.6-litres per 100 km showing on the computer.

The RAV4 Hybrid has a elegant and comfortable cabin.

The RAV4 Hybrid only comes in middle of the line-up GX trim, but this does not mean you are short-changed in any way. The spec list is comprehensive from LED lights from and back to keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and full leather.

Plenty of support systems

It doesn’t end there, driver support systems include Park Distance Control, ABS, EBD, VSC, Trailer Sway Control, Hill Assist Control, Drive Mode Select (Eco / Normal / Power), a full house of airbags all riding on 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Toyota RAV4 GX Hybrid at R555 300, along with a standard six-services or 90 000 km service plan, three year/100 000 km warranty and a eight year/195 000 km battery warranty, just makes so much sense in these tough economic times.

For more information on the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, click here.

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