RAV4 Hybrid: Hinted at by Toyota Manager

Toyota plans to produce a hybrid version of the RAV4 small sport utility vehicle, according to Koei Saga, Toyota managing officer of hybrid system development. Saga was quoted by Dow Jones as calling for a RAV4 Hybrid to be offered in China “as soon as possible.” He was speaking on Wednesday at an industry conference in Shanghai on environmentally friendly vehicles.

Saga did not indicate specific intentions or dates to bring a RAV4 Hybrid to the United States—but the US is by far the largest global market for gas-electric vehicles. Currently, there are no full hybrid small SUVs available to US car buyers. (The Saturn Vue Two-Mode Hybrid has been postponed at least until mid-2009, but given GM’s financial troubles, its fate is uncertain.) Hybrid fans have been clamoring for a hybrid version of the RAV4 for the past few years.

The Toyota Highlander has an EPA rating of 27 in the city and 25 on the highway. As a smaller vehicle, the RAV4 Hybrid could exceed 30 miles per gallon—possibly becoming the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market. Currently, the Ford Escape Hybrid, 34 highway / 31 city, has that distinction.

Speaking in Shanghai, Saga also called for Toyota to move up its hybrid production schedules. He said, “I believe Toyota needs to accelerate the 2020 goal to hybridize all the Toyota models.” He added that the company has yet to make a decision on the schedule; however, Toyota officials informed HybridCars.com that the company plans to introduce 10 new hybrids globally by 2012. Applying Toyota’s third-generation hybrid system to a small but practical SUV, like the RAV4, would be a logical step.

This week, Toyota rolled out China-made versions of its RAV4 and Toyota Highlander at the 2009 Shanghai Auto Show. In response to the expanding SUV market in China, Toyota opened the $527 million Tianjin plant last May, almost doubling the capacity at its venture with FAW Group to 420,000 vehicles per year. Commercial production of the RAV4 began in Tianjin in March.

The Toyota RAV4, introduced in 1996, was one of the first so-called crossover SUVs, built with some of the capabilities of a truck-based SUV, but focused on many of the creature comforts of a passenger car. Toyota used the RAV4 as the platform for an all-electric vehicle it made from 1997 to 2003. Toyota produced approximately 1,500 RAV4 EVs. From the outside, the RAV4 EV looks the same as a gasoline version of the vehicle. The top speed is approximately 80 miles per hour—with a range of nearly 100 miles, and a full recharge time of five hours. Most of the vehicles were destroyed, but miraculously, Toyota allowed 328 RAV4 EVs to be sold. The suggested retail price, at the time, was $42,000. A rare used RAV4 EV can sell these days for $70,000 or more.

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  • Size Creep

    Is it me or RV4 used to be smaller? This seems to be happening for every smaller car. After few model years and a relatively smaller car grows to a fat slob. I guess car companies are taking the economic inflation approach to car sizes so they can justify to people buying a new vehicle.

  • Laura

    Yes, it is much bigger than previous versions. I wish it was a touch bit smaller. But it has really nice roomy interior, lots of storage compartments and seats that fold by simply pulling a lever in the back.
    You can see it all by watching HandBooklIve videos for RAV4 on http://www.HandBookLive.com under Automotive. About 10 video chapters going over the features and functions of the RAV.
    My first SUV, and I absolutely love it. Even though if I didn’t total my Yaris I’d still be driving it.

  • Charles

    From the story: < < Currently, there are no full hybrid small SUVs available to US car buyers. >>

    Rav4 overall length: 181.9 inches, Ford Escape: 174.7
    Rav4 track (front/rear): 61.4/61.4 inches, Ford Escape: 60.7/60.2
    Rav4 height: 66.3 inches, Ford Escape: 67.9

    If the Rav4 is a small SUV, the Ford Escape is also a small SUV. The Rav4 gets 22 MPG city and the Escape only 20. Both get 28 highway (both with the 4 cylinders and automatic transmissions).

    So unless Ford has stopped selling the Escape Hybrid, US buyers can buy a small full hybrid SUV.

  • 9691

    Great point Charles.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Charles and 9691, since the article is about Toyota’s RAV4, I think Koei Saga only meant that Toyota does not have a small SUV in the US market. I would find it hard to believe that he would miss the fact that the existing and established Ford Escape hybrid SUV would be competition for Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid SUV. Or maybe Toyota is planning a smaller RAV4 for the hybrid version.

  • Dom

    I agree with Charles, that statement is really bizarre. I don’t understand people who complain that there is no small hybrid SUV when the Escape Hybrid is staring them in the face. Maybe they don’t like the styling of the Ford model, who knows, but under the hood the system is very similar, and I would say just as capable.

  • Dom

    Lost Prius to wife – if he was just talking about Toyota, why bother mentioning the uncertain fate of the Saturn VUE two-mode hybrid?? That’s not a Toyota obviously.

  • rah1420

    Very nice to see SOMEONE acknowledge that there actually used to be an electric vehicle prior to the Tesla and the Chevy Volt. I applaud the last paragraph that describes a condensed recap of the RAV4-EV.

  • Anonymous

    The last two years RAV4 are 13″ longer than the previous generation; but they offer the option for a third row seat.
    Hybrid Rav4?? I thought I would never hear that.

  • ravroar

    My Rav-4 gets between 30 to 34 mpg, depending on how I drive. It is a manual clutch so I control the gears.

  • Hpd

    Ya the Ford Escape Hybrid is out there, but I’m not really impressed by its mileage. The Escape has been on the market for a while and never improved it’s mileage over 31 mpg. If I wanted that mileage I’d just buy a 4 cylinder RAV4 for $10K less. Hopefully Toyota’s experience with the Prius can get the RAV4 hybrid closer to 40 mpg.


    i have hybrid car 2009 toyota camery. this car give me so much prpblem this car is faild i think toyota should stop making this type of car. last one weeckmy car in toyota camery deler in manhattan and they dont know what is the problem