Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?

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Glenn Butler

The new Kia Niro S Hybrid and the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid may be in different size classes, but their prices are close and they both offer extremely fuel-efficient motoring. So which one is better value for money?

Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0

The Toyota RAV4 was the best-selling new car in Australia in 2021 and the first half of 2022. That’s partly because of Toyota’s brand reputation and also because the RAV4 is an incredibly competent and well-equipped car.

It’s not the best at everything – Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson have more safety systems for the money, the Subaru Forester has more room inside, and the Mitsubishi Outlander has a better infotainment system, for example – but the Toyota RAV4 is hard to beat as an overall package.

That doesn’t stop other manufacturers trying, or us from seeing how interesting newcomers measure up against the nation’s most popular SUV. Last week we measured the Subaru Forester against the RAV4, and this week we’re going left-field to put the innovative and intriguing new Kia Niro Hybrid to the RAV4 test.



For this comparison test we’ve chosen the Kia Niro Hybrid S and the Toyota RAV4 Cruise 2WD Hybrid. If you’d like to read about those cars, here are the links to their reviews: Kia Niro Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

In this comparison, we’ll answer the following questions. How much do the Niro and RAV4 cost to buy? Are the Kia Niro Hybrid and Toyota RAV4 safe? Do the Kia Niro Hybrid and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid have Apple CarPlay? How much do they cost to own and run? And which one should you buy?

How much does the Kia Niro cost?

The new Kia Niro arrived in Australian showrooms in July 2022. Kia is offering buyers a choice of petrol-electric hybrid and fully electric versions, priced from $44,380 and $65,300 respectively. 



Two specification levels are available with each powertrain: the S and GT-Line. 

Compared to the old Niro range that launched globally in 2016 but only arrived in Australia in 2021, the new Niro is between $2710 and $4390 more than the model it replaces. 

How much does the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid cost?

Toyota offers nine different hybrid versions of the RAV4 medium SUV. 



The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid kicks off at $36,900 for the GX 2WD Hybrid plus on-road costs. The GXL Hybrid costs $40,450, the XSE Hybrid costs $43,250, and the Cruiser Hybrid costs $45,750

If you want all-wheel drive instead of two-wheel drive, then you’ll need to add $3000 to each of those prices. 

Toyota also offers a RAV4 Edge Hybrid that is all-wheel drive only and priced at $52,700 plus on-road costs. 



The model we will focus on for this comparison is the RAV4 Cruiser 2WD Hybrid because its price ($45,750) is the closest to the Kia Niro S Hybrid ($44,380). 

Key details2023 Kia Niro S Hybrid2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD
Price (MSRP)$44,380 plus on-road costs$45,750 plus on-road costs
Colour of test carCityscape GreenSaturn Blue
OptionsNoneMetallic paint – $675
Price as tested$49,257 drive-away$51,282 drive-away
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0

How big is the Kia Niro Hybrid?

The Kia Niro is classed as a small SUV, yet its physical dimensions are not that far off the Toyota RAV4, which is classed as a medium SUV.

Both the Kia Niro and the Toyota RAV4 can have seatbelts for five occupants. The Niro has a longer wheelbase, which is generally a pointer to interior space, but that is not the case here. The Toyota RAV4 has a considerably larger body that directly translates to more interior space.



How big is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid?

The Toyota RAV4 is one of the smaller cars in the medium SUV class. Its overall length of 4600mm is below average, as is its 2690mm wheelbase. The RAV4’s body is 1855mm wide and 1685mm tall, both of which are below average, but not excessively so.

Compared to the Kia Niro, the Toyota RAV4 is a bigger vehicle, both externally and in terms of interior space. This means the RAV4 has more space inside for occupants and for luggage.

2023 Kia Niro S Hybrid2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD
SeatsFiveFive
Boot volume425L seats up

1419L seats folded
542L seats up
Length4420mm4600mm
Width1825mm1855mm
Height1545mm1685mm
Wheelbase2720mm2690mm

Does the Kia Niro Hybrid have Apple CarPlay?

Inside the 2023 Kia Niro S features an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Bluetooth, AM/FM/DAB radio, a six-speaker audio system, wireless Apple CarPlay, and wireless plus wired Android Auto.

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As seen on the larger Kia Sportage and EV6, beneath the infotainment screen is an integrated touch panel capable of being switched between infotainment and climate-control functions.

Does the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid have Apple CarPlay?

All 2022 Toyota RAV4s feature the same 8.0-inch infotainment system with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity coming alongside DAB+ radio.

Aside from the small screen, its overall design screams early 2000s. No less than eight silver buttons and two knobs surround the display, which further makes the screen look small and old.

The software also looks and feels daggy, which doesn’t help the cabin’s presentation. Even understanding that Toyota is the traditionalist of the automotive motoring world, it could do a better job here.

Is the Kia Niro Hybrid safe?

The 2023 Kia Niro is yet to be tested by either ANCAP or Euro NCAP and does not yet carry a safety rating.

All variants in the range come with autonomous emergency braking including car, pedestrian, cyclist and intersection intervention. Lane-keep and lane-follow assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert and avoidance, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go can also be found in each variant.



A reversing camera, rear park sensors, driver attention alert, intelligent speed limit assist, and rear seat reminder are also along for the ride.

Is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid safe?

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 range scored a five-star ANCAP result having been tested back in 2019.

It did well in two areas in particular: adult occupant protection (93 per cent) and child occupant protection (89 per cent).

Across the range, the 2022 Toyota RAV4 features plenty of advanced driver assist systems. They include Toyota Safety Sense with lane-keeping assist and departure alert, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, speed sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, and auto high beams.

There’s also blind-spot monitoring, trailer sway control, and front and rear parking sensors. On top of the decent safety package all Toyota RAV4s have, the Cruiser model also benefits from a 360-degree-view parking camera.

At a glance2023 Kia Niro S Hybrid2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD
ANCAP rating & year testedUntestedFive stars (tested 2019)
Safety reportN/AANCAP report
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0

How much does the Kia Niro Hybrid cost to own?

With the electric vehicle landscape fast-evolving, Kia’s gamble on Niro pricing is a high-stakes one.



With a $44,380 start price, the Kia Niro Hybrid S is more expensive than any similarly sized (and cheaper) Toyota C-HR variant, but the Niro is more than $2000 less than the cheapest plug-in hybrid Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross.

In terms of ongoing costs, the Niro Hybrid is available with pay-as-you-go capped-price servicing, which will tally up to $4010 over seven years. The Niro Electric is available with a choice of pay per visit or pre-paid service plans. In each case, you’ll pay $1754 over seven years.

During the Niro launch drive, we sampled both the Hybrid and Electric in Adelaide and the surrounding Adelaide hills. Against a 4.0L/100km claim, the Niro Hybrid used an indicated 5.5L/100km.

It will cost about $1028 per year to get comprehensive insurance on a Kia Niro, which is quite affordable, although this quote is based on the 2022 model and not the 2023 update.

How much does the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid cost to own?

In terms of value for money, the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD is impressive. No other vehicle in the medium SUV segment offers the same highly efficient closed-loop hybrid system that sees fuel consumption as low as 5.0L/100km on the daily grind.

The closest pick is the 2022 Subaru Forester Hybrid S for $47,190 before on-road costs, but it is not as sophisticated nor as efficient as the Toyota. The Haval H6 Hybrid ($45,990 drive-away) is balanced more toward performance than outright efficiency, though it does save fuel, but not as effectively as the RAV4.



In terms of maintenance costs, Toyota expects you to return a RAV4 Cruiser for servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Services are capped at $230 a pop in the first five years, meaning three years cost $690 and five years $1150. That makes the Toyota RAV4 light on the hip pocket once you’ve stumped up the cash to buy one.

Toyota claims the RAV4 Hybrid 2WD uses 4.7L/100km in combined-cycle testing. In mixed use on test, we recorded a close-to-claim 5.0L/100km.

A comprehensive insurance policy for the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid will cost around $1315 per year, which is higher than average for a medium SUV.

At a glance2023 Kia Niro S Hybrid2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD
WarrantySeven years, unlimited kmFive years, unlimited km
Service intervals12 months or 15,000km12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs$1299 (3 years), $2645 (5 years)$690 (3 years), $1150 (5 years)
Fuel cons. (claimed)4.0L/100km4.7L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test)5.5L/100km5.0L/100km
Fuel type91-octane regular unleaded91-octane regular unleaded
Fuel tank size42L55L
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0

What is the Kia Niro Hybrid like to drive?

The Niro has jumped massively between generations. Quieter, smoother, and all-around nicer to drive, the 2023 Kia Niro Hybrid ticks all the boxes.

Ride quality errs towards firm for tootling around town, but at no stage is it too harsh or uncomfortable.

Performance is pleasingly peppy around town, without bordering on performance territory. Perhaps the most significant difference, for anyone used to a Toyota hybrid, is Kia’s use of a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which has a positive impact on acceleration and delivers a hybrid that feels much more traditional to drive.



Under the bonnet lives a 77kW/144Nm 1.6-litre engine that works in conjunction with a 32kW/170Nm electric motor for a combined 104kW and 265Nm. The on-tap torque available makes for good rolling acceleration, and the package is refined and quiet overall.

What is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid like to drive?

Around town, the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser rides really well. It’s a standout point, with its soft suspension tune returning great bump absorption. The large 18-inch wheels on the Toyota RAV4 Cruiser are the only things with bothers, as some low-speed unsettledness is probably caused by their introduction to be frank.

The steering feels surprisingly meaty for a Toyota, which means in reality it’s just about right. The Toyota Corolla and Yaris pair feature far lighter steering, which I know can be divisive to some drivers.

Out on country roads, you’ll get the odd sensation of rolling and pitching as the speed increases, but both of those will be appreciated by some drivers too. It’s not offensive either when it happens, and if anything will help a novice driver stay alert.

Toyota has spent well over two decades refining its closed-loop hybrid powertrain and it clearly shows. Upon start-up, it’ll remain silent and indicate it’s time to go, with the first few metres of most journeys being a silent and all-electric affair.

If you have the heater maxed or other ancillaries on, it will determine whether the 131kW/221Nm petrol 2.5-litre four-cylinder fires up, but if it does, you probably won’t notice over the radio anyway.



It sparks up quiet and unobtrusively, which is half this car’s secret. It’s calibrated really well, and that’s to help you save fuel (and money). The electric engine in Eco mode will do the heavy lifting wherever it can, meaning stop-start traffic scenarios are where Toyota’s hybrid system best performs.

The worst part of the whole experience is tyre noise, however, as it’s clear that Toyota has been stingy with sound-deadening material around the wheel wells. Sections of coarse-chip freeway resulted in the stereo’s volume needing to be lifted, and the same goes for voices too – it was easy to detect when the conversation became drowned out as the road surface changed.

Other than that, it’s a hard-to-fault experience behind the wheel.

Key details2023 Kia Niro S Hybrid2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Hybrid 2WD
Engine1.6-litre four-cylinder hybrid petrol2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid petrol
Power77kW @ 5700rpm petrol

32kW electric

104kW combined
131kW @ 5700rpm petrol

88kW electric

160kW combined
Torque144Nm @ 4000rpm petrol

170Nm electric

265Nm combined
221Nm @ 3600–5200rpm petrol

202Nm electric
Drive typeFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
TransmissionSix-speed dual-clutch automaticCVT automatic
Power to weight ratio72kW/t94kW/t
Weight1454kg1700kg
Tow rating1300kg braked

600kg unbraked
480kg braked

480kg unbraked
Turning circle10.6m11.0m
Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0

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Should I buy a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid or a Kia Niro Hybrid?-0

Should I buy a Kia Niro Hybrid or a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid?

Kia has delivered an excellent small SUV with lively dynamics, a well-designed and spacious interior, and a choice of frugal hybrid or long-range electric models. So there must be a catch, right? Absolutely, and in this case it’s the price. While Kia still lays claim to some of Australia’s cheapest cars at the small end of its range, the Niro is priced like a premium product.

Treading on the toes of bigger hybrids, like the RAV4, and electric cars from Tesla, Polestar and more seems like folly. Yes, the Niro is good, but at the top of the range it’s surrounded by equally good competitors, and is only going to have a harder time as even more competitors join the market.

The 2022 Toyota RAV4 really is the ideal vehicle in this day and age. It’s spacious and has enough room for either an adventurous single or young family of four, probably uses half the amount of fuel of your current car, looks great, and has decent levels of advanced safety systems across the range.



When compared directly against the Kia Niro, the RAV4 is cheaper to buy, cheaper to fuel, and cheaper to service. It is more expensive to insure, however.

If you want a spacious, dependable, safe, and fuel-saving vehicle for under $50,000, then the RAV4 is the better choice.  

However, if your priorities call for a more compact vehicle to drive, and one with a classier and more modern interior – albeit smaller – then the Kia Niro offers a worthwhile alternative to the popular RAV4.

Overall Ratings

Drive’s Pick

2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon

8.5/ 10

8.5/ 10

2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon

8.0/ 10

8.0/ 10

Ratings Breakdown

Performance
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Ride Quality
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Handling & Dynamics
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Driver Technology
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Interior Comfort + Packaging
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Safety
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Infotainment & Connectivity
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Fuel Efficiency
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Value
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon
Fit for Purpose
2022 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Wagon
2022 Kia Niro Hybrid S Wagon

Glenn Butler

Glenn Butler is one of Australia’s best-known motoring journalists having spent the last 25 years reporting on cars on radio, TV, web and print. He’s a former editor of Wheels, Australia’s most respected car magazine, and was deputy editor of Drive.com.au before that. Glenn’s also worked at an executive level for two of Australia’s most prominent car companies, so he understands how much care and consideration goes into designing and developing new cars. As a journalist, he’s driven everything from Ferraris to Fiats on all continents except Antarctica (which he one day hopes to achieve) and loves discovering each car’s unique personality and strengths. Glenn knows a car’s price isn’t indicative of its competence, and even the cheapest car can enhance your life and expand your horizons. 

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