2020 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser (AWD) Hybrid owner review


About the Toyota RAV4

Gary J purchased this Toyota RAV4 new for $45,000 (including all on-road costs). Gary J would buy this car again because: “It is the perfect family sized vehicle with the uncompromising balance between power and low running cost. It deals with city and highway conditions easily, and with the seamless hybrid reliability, low cost of running, great chassis and great resale, it’s a no brainer choice”

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

Reliability in general has been good. Owning it for the past 1.5 years, I have experienced the following:

  • Overheating NiMH battery when charged in the high 60 per cent to low 70 per cent state of charge

The hybrid battery in all Toyota utilises between 40 per cent to 80 per cent of its actual capacity so maintain the longevity however as the NiMH battery reaches its upper limit, the battery will heat up.

The way the Toyota hybrid battery fan operates is that it only turns on the fan when it reaches 35 degrees (i.e. uncooled below 34 degrees). However, the point of overheating is at 44C where the system will reduce its capacity to utilise the hybrid battery until it falls below 44 degrees resulting in the petrol motor running excessively (or continuously if temps are >50 degrees) than otherwise.

Unfortunately the hybrid cooling fans are designed in a way where the driver and occupants should not hear the fans operate in any situation therefore the system is speed sensitive. The faster you go, the faster the cooling fan operates as road noise “drowns” out any sign of the hybrid fan operating.

So even when it has reached its overheated state (and beyond at >50 degrees), it won’t switch the hybrid cooling fan to maximum to bring the temperature of the hybrid battery down particularly if all you’re doing is sub 60km/h speeds.

Additionally if you park your car with the hybrid battery in a high state of charge even in a cool dark underground car park, it will continue to heat up uncontrolled as the hybrid cooling fans do not operate with the car switched off.

The Toyota dealer does not have a solution to this and the only way is to monitor the temperates via an aftermarket device, a Bluetooth OBD dongle and an app that can force the hybrid fans to maximum. Ideally Toyota would need to drop the temperate the fans start cooling the hybrid battery.

As heat is the enemy of all batteries, this is one of the 2 biggest concerns about this battery may not last 10 years.

  • Roof leak from the roof rail garnish clips

The next biggest concern about the car, although it hasn’t happened to mine (yet) is that in Toyota’s wisdom designed the vehicle with 10 holes relying on plastic clips with paper thin rubber seals in the gutters of the roof. The clips secure the non-functioning roof rail garnish to keep out the water and it has been reported widely overseas and some Australian RAV4s are suffering the dreaded roof leak issue.

Worst case scenario is that the curtain airbags gets wet and the best case is that the roof liner stains. But at the end of the day, relying on loose rubber clips does no favours to the long term water tightness of RAV4 GXL and above.

From reports, it does not appear this has been resolved with the change to different clips still failing to keep the water out.

Ever since ownership, there has been a rattle in the roof whenever I drive on coarse chip roads. To this date, I’ve not been able to pinpoint it but keen to hear if others are experiencing this

Since day one, the wiper rubbers on the driver’s side have not been able to clean the windscreen properly.

Many have complained however, after multiple wiper rubber changes, my only solution was to increase the wiper arm from 26 inches to 28 inches thereby evening out the wiper arm pressure over a longer distance.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

As an experienced hybrid owner having ownerd a 3rd gen Prius and many Toyota prior, the RAV4 is exciting to drive. The power over the Prius is next level and everything and any road is effortless.

There are a few things that I am still not adjusting to:

1. Cruise control ergonomics change

Toyotas of old had a stalk to the right. Each action represented a specific function with the exception of the change of switching between radar cruise and normal cruise control. Ultimately once you’ve memorised that to turn on cruise control was push the stalk button in and pull lever down to set the speed, it is like touch typing on a keyboard.

With the new change from 2019, Toyota moved to a push button setup where every cruise control function is a push of a button thus requires taking the eyes off the road to see what button is being pushed. There have been a few reviewers that have praised the move to displaying the functions on the steering wheel face but ergonomically, it’s a step back, particularly to previous Toyota owners.

2. HVAC buttons

Many reviewers rave on about the rubber texture temperate dials however, what infuriates me is the small buttons for fan mode, fan speed, eco heat/cool, demister etc. Even to this date, I cannot tell you in order of the buttons nor remember which button from the left is to increase fan speed. Again, this means taking the eyes off the road.

3. Wireless charging

In one word. Useless. Also it is confusing with CarPlay/Android Auto being a wired setup, it makes the wireless charging function redundant.

Toyota should have saved the $10 on this and spent it on illuminated power window switches

4. Non illuminated door/lock/mirror switches

It’s an interesting decision why Toyota decided to cheap out on this. Sure people say they can feel for it but illumination has been around for decades and we all get used to seeing where the switches are by the slight glow in the side of the eyes.

5. Dirt/mud accumulation over the rear wheel arches

Toyota proudly designed their door seals to go over the rocker panels thus minimising dirt transfer to the pants of users however, the challenge for the rear passengers is that the rear wheel well arch is an area that collects a lot of dirt thereby getting the rear occupant’s pants dirty.

Fortunately there are aftermarket solutions that bolt on easily protecting the door seal from dirt/mud directly spraying on the rear door seals.

6. Minimalistic brake light design

Perhaps it’s a design trend or cost cutting but the RAV4 has one of the most minimalistic use of LED for brake lights as if it was some sort of minimum viable product. Model 3 is another classic example of providing the least amount of LED that can pass as brake lights.

Fortunately the aftermarket has it covered with wiring that can utilise the rear parking lights together with the brake lights to give a bit more surface area.

7. Inability to turn off the headlights at a drive-in

This might be contentious however, not having the ability to turn off the headlights at a drive-in can be a point of annoyance particularly in summer if you want to have the air-conditioning running.

In the Australian market, Toyota does not allow users to turn this off and the only way around this is to replace the indicator stalk with one that has the headlight off from the Toyota Japan parts store where turning off the headlight is still available.

8. Lack of head-up display

In 2022, HUD should be available and for RAV4, it is available in their RAV4 PHEV so tooling and parts availability-wise, it is available and to not have it on the Cruiser model is a big miss.

The dash as clear as it is dips the eyes too low taking vital time to look down, readjust focus to the dashboard, look back up and readjust focus to look at far objects. Coming from a 2009 Prius, it’s a step backwards and something I wish I have.

9. Boot floor will bow downwards if heavy loads are placed in the upper level

The dual level boot floor have been known to bend easily if you place anything significant in the boot. The workaround is to either fit a full sized spare or a bit of 90×45 across the space saver in the middle to support the load.

10. Low-res screen

Sure the 2023 model will reportedly be updated for this but it doesn’t help those stuck with the current model. The resolution is worse than an iPhone 3G S and I’m sure if I stuck an iPad in the same spot, the screen would last the harsh environment on a car interior. As such, I treat the image as a ball park, not a guide.

How has the purchase and aftercare experience been with your car?

The sales experience has been a non-event. Toyota in general does good ergonomics that requires little guidance to understand how things work. Therefore come pick-up time, all I needed was to get the keys to drive home.

Service time, it’s been good although Toyota service dealers have a habit of getting too enthusiastic with their wheel nut gun making manual removal impossible with the standard tools and risking a wheel stud to be broken.

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

For what I paid for it and what prices are now, I am stoked at my purchase. Features for features, it’s almost everything I wanted.

Accessories for them were purchased online with genuine parts purchased through Toyota dealers who sell things on the major online auction sites with some parts from Melbourne cheaper including shipping than it was from my local Sydney dealer 2km away.

Also there’s a wide range of aftermarket support for this vehicle at your finger tips so we’re well blessed with cheap interior LED kits, mesh sunshade, boot floor mats all from Aliexpress/eBay et al.

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

One word, excellent. This car has the right balance between power and economy. It runs on 91 and takes you 900km if not more easily. Currently averaging high 5.0L/100km over my period of ownership.

I have had it from Bathurst to Sydney (albeit mostly downhill) at 4.0L/100km which is fantastic for a brick on wheels.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

Toyota did a good job with the tech available to the Australian market.

The only omission is rear AEB (available in the 2022 Hybrid Edge only) and power back door kick sensor which is the only thing I wanted as I am finding I am walking to the car regularly with my hands full and struggling to open the rear boot without scratching the car and not dropping my stuff.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

Handling has been excellent. The standard Alenza EL33 tyres have been surprisingly grippy in dry conditions. In the wet, they’re adequate with minimal slip but let’s revisit when the tyres are four or five years old and hardened a bit.

Ride has been comfortable with the 33psi pressures at factory levels with no perceivable deterioration to the steering response. On rough roads, it irons out all the bumps easily.

Do you have any additional comments about your car?

I owned a facelift second-generation RAV4 with the 2.4 Cruiser manual and it gave me the best smile even sitting in standstill traffic.

This fifth-generation still gives me smile but perhaps not as much as it did back in 2006. Time will tell if my specific hybrid battery issue will sour my ownership experience but for now, it’s a dependable vehicle that’s cheap to own, and operate in a package that’s the right size for an everyday family.

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