Country Life motoring contributor Stephen Smith gets to grips with Toyota’s latest iteration of the compact SUV that started a craze: the nifty RAV4
If you don’t like SUVs and quietly curse when another one is launched into the already packed market, you can direct your profanities at every Toyota RAV4 that drives past. It was the RAV4 that kick-started the whole SUV craze, launched as the world’s first compact SUV nigh on 20 years ago.
But if you’re a fan, then you have a lot to thank the RAV for.
Toyota launched the latest RAV4 a few months ago, and it is a significantly different vehicle to its predecessor – and to every other RAV4 to come before it. Most obviously, it has sharpened up in the looks department, becoming more angular, with distinct lines on almost every surface. It has also grown a little, becoming longer and wider, but slightly lower at the roof. This means more interior space, even for back-seat passengers, and a substantial boot.
What is it like to drive?
What do you want from an SUV, really? You want a car with smooth suspension that soaks up bumps, that doesn’t rattle on dirt roads, won’t get stuck in a bit of mud, and feels like a sedan on the open road and around town. The RAV4 checks all these boxes and more, with particularly noteworthy ride quality even on dirt roads.
Only three engines are available in the range, but they’re good enough to make almost everybody happy. A 2-litre engine with 107kW and 187Nm is the entry-level option, driving the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or CVT gearbox. Next is a 2.2-litre turbo diesel option that produces 110kW and 340Nm, available only with a six-speed manual gearbox and in all-wheel drive. The range topper is a 2,5-litre petrol engine with 132kW and 233Nm, also available only in all-wheel drive, but with a six-speed automatic (not CVT) gearbox.
The AWD models use a part-time system that normally sends power only to the front wheels, reacting to loss of traction and sending torque where necessary. The AWD lock button splits torque evenly between the front and rear axles for more challenging conditions, but the RAV4’s low ground clearance of 160mm means this won’t get used very much at all, other than in mud or possibly sand.
What is it like inside?
This is where Toyotas have improved the most of late. It might have something to do with their sensational little 86 sports coupe, but with both the Auris and the RAV4, I really like the modern, straight-edged and practical interiors. I know this won’t appeal to everyone, but nothing ever does.
Only two spec levels are available, GX and VX, and even the GX is fairly well equipped, with the VX getting some extra luxuries.
From a safety perspective, the fourth-generation RAV4 has been awarded the new EuroNCAP top rating: five stars.
What does it cost?
I was expecting worse when I first looked at the RAV’s pricelist. A starting price of significantly under R300 000 is impressive and compares favourably to its Korean, American and Japanese counterparts. In fact, for the first time you can buy a brand-new RAV4 for the same price as the equivalent Kia or Hyundai, and you don’t lose out on specifications either.
- RAV4 2.0 2WD GX 6-spd manual R279 900
- RAV4 2.0 2WD GX CVT R289 900
- RAV4 2.2 D-4D AWD GX 6-spd manual R359 900
- RAV4 2.5 AWD VX 6-spd auto R399 900
The new RAV4 benefits from a 3-year/100,000km warranty and comes with a standard 5-year/90 000km service plan.
It’s not easy to find fault with the RAV4, from the styling and driving experience all the way through to the price, which can be a Toyota weakness. While the two AWD models are obviously the most desirable, the value proposition of the two front-wheel-drive vehicles will no doubt earn most of the sales.
For more information see www.toyota.co.za.