– Decent ride and handling
– Cabin space and features
– Basic offroad ability
– Pricey with options
– Could be quicker
– Some hard cabin plastics
Toyota likes to take credit for creating the world’s first “crossover” back in 1994 with the little first-gen RAV4. The claim only has partial merit, as the first real crossover was created in 1979 by a company that eventually merged with Chrysler and disappeared. That vehicle, the AMC Eagle, was basically just a car with a lift kit and all-wheel-drive. However, Toyota can definitely be credited with revolutionising crossovers with their own concept — making a car with a lift kit and all-wheel-drive that looks like a proper tall SUV. They kickstarted a genre that has now been imitated by pretty much every carmaker from Tata to Range Rover.
Toyota is aggressively attempting to reclaim the category they invented as they’ve completely redesigned the compact RAV4, enough to leave no traces of the older models aside from the upward kink on the rear D-pillar. The pointy new front-end and the stepped tailgate are unique styling touches that have divided public opinion, but we think it looks pretty good. Conservative 17-inch alloys, little LEDs in the halogen headlights and minimal black-plastic cladding round out the exterior styling.
Inside, Toyota attempts to break tradition and goes all-out with the weird-unique concept, as the cabin sports all sorts of shapes and textures, all of it moulded in hard plastic, but cleverly breaking up the cheapness with a sliver of stitched padded leatherette along the length of the dashboard, with more of the premium padding covering large parts of the doors and armrests.
The moderately-bolstered front seats and largely-flat rear seats all offer abundant legroom and headroom, among the best in the compact class. There are four cup-holders, door pockets, padded seatback pockets and other cubbies. Boot space is also pretty good, with a low liftover height, split-folding rear seats and a cargo net, but the boot floor itself is awkwardly raised by a couple of inches to fit a spare tyre underneath.
Our top-spec tester came loaded, with a straightforward touchscreen for the CD/DVD/MP3 stereo, navigation, Bluetooth phone and other features. There’s also USB/AUX ports, cruise control, sunroof, smart keyless entry and start, front and side-curtain airbags, fog lamps, common power accessories and a strong-but-basic single-zone auto a/c with no rear vents, the latter being a notable omission compared to many of its competitors. You’re also out of luck if you want a panoramic glass roof or HID headlights for your Toyota, because they’re not offered.
Powered by a Camry-derived 2.5-litre 4-cylinder, the RAV4’s new engine makes 176 hp at 6000 rpm and 233 Nm of torque at 4100 rpm. Mated to a 6-speed automatic with manual-shift functionality, we managed a 0-100 kph time of 9.8 seconds, respectable for its class, and quicker than its Asian rivals. It may appear slow, but feels fairly adequate in daily driving thanks to its well-spaced gearing, while delivering an average fuel consumption of 11.4 litres/100 km, although we did touch 10.5 litres/100 km with more highway driving thrown in.
The RAV4 is quiet enough up to 100 kph, and then the outside noises gradually start to increase. The engine makes a bit of a ruckus on full throttle, but settles down to a quieter 2200 rpm at 120 kph. The suspension tuning is very nicely balanced, offering a reasonably smooth ride with no untoward floatiness, with the occasional jitteriness and a slight tinge of firmness whose benefit becomes apparent once we hit the curves.
The RAV4 is a good handler, only limited by its 225/65 tyres in terms of grip, so it understeers cleanly at the limit. The steering is fairly light and offers little feel. Body control is good, and it handled lane-change moves well in our changing-elevation handling loop. It has decent ABS-assisted brakes are well, at least as good as any other compact crossover, with a nice linear pedal action.
Barring Suzukis, the RAV4 is easily among the best offroaders among crossovers, managing pretty well on mild sand dunes and some serious gravel-trail cliffs. It has a 4×4 50:50 “lock” mode, meaty tyres on 17-inch wheels, and a good approach angle. We managed some small dune inclines without even deflating the tyres. Of course, it does not have low-range gearing, but at least you can cross minor desert terrain without fear. Just don’t start chasing Wranglers.
The top-spec RAV4 is a nice-enough all-rounder of a car that edges out several other popular crossovers with a nicer interior, good feature set, and decent performance both on and off the road. While it may lack a couple of features that we would’ve liked, they’re not really deal-breakers. The RAV4 continues to be one of the better choices among its peers.
Current Model Introduced in:
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