Toyota RAV4 crossover review
Our Rating

4/5

Toyota RAV4 crossover review

The RAV4 is Toyota’s current entry in the compact SUV market. It is offered with a mixture of two- and four-wheel drive powertrains. It faces a lot of solid competition, but Toyota has an enviable reputation for making SUV models.

Much like Nissan’s X-Trail, the Toyota RAV4 has gone through a rapid evolution, seemingly jumping a generation to keep up with its tough SUV competition, which includes everything from the Kia Sportage to the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Ford Kuga to the Mazda CX-5.

Gone are the RAV4’s boxy dimensions, in place of curvy lines and a front-end to match the rest of the Toyota range. And along with an aesthetic shift comes a greater focus on soft-roading, with two-wheel drive models available.

But simply keeping up with appearances in the SUV market is not enough nowadays – you must be different to stand out. So where does the fourth-generation RAV4 stand then? We put the two-wheel drive Icon model to the test.

The Toyota RAV4 is a practical and spacious five-seat SUV, offering plenty of kit and a good drive overall. Its main problem is the popularity of the class as it features many highly talented rivals, including such highly-rated crossovers such as the Ford Kuga, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5 and the Nissan Qashqai. Can the Toyota compete? Let's find out.

Performance

There are three engines available for the RAV4 – a 124bhp 2.0-litre D-4D diesel unit, a 150bhp 2.0-litre V-matic petrol and a 2.2-litre D-4D diesel with 148bhp.

The latter diesel engine is the one we had in our test car. This particular unit is only available for the mid-range Icon trim (which we tested) and the top trim (called Invincible). The standard Active trim is only available with the 2.0-litre diesel.

The 2.2-litre diesel is hooked up with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard and utilises four-wheel drive. The RAV4 models with four-wheel drive splits power equally between the front and rear wheels for better traction.

With the 2.2-litre diesel and manual ‘box the RAV4 is at its quickest and it can complete the zero to 62mph sprint in 9.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 118mph. Performance from this diesel unit is not exactly spectacular but feels generally solid.

The Mazda CX-5 with its own 2.2-litre diesel and manual gearbox also produces 148bhp but can cover the zero to 62mph sprint in a slightly quicker time of 9.4 seconds. But none of the most direct rivals to the RAV4’s engines can realistically claim any sort of major performance advantage.

Ride and Handling

The comfortable ride made long hours at the wheel more bearable than they might have been.

Early impressions when we first tested the RAV4 were not actually that positive. From a cold start, the 147bhp 2.2-litre turbo diesel gurgled unpleasantly, and although the ride quality seemed pleasant enough the handling was ponderous. The result was that the RAV4 were a much larger and heavier SUV than it actually is. However, after virtually living in it for five days we managed to cover many miles in the RAV4 and several things became apparent. For example, the engine quietens down in no uncertain manner when it reaches normal operating temperature, to the point where it's almost inaudible at motorway cruising speeds. The comfortable ride made long hours at the wheel more bearable than they might have been. And on more interesting roads we stopped worrying about the handling and accepted that there's no point in thinking of the RAV4 as a car you might drive sportily.

Interior and Equipment

The name RAV4 stands for Recreational Active Vehicle with four-wheel drive.

The Icon trim level, which is the same we had for our test car, is by far the most widely available in the range, applying to five of the nine models. Equipment offered here but not on the entry-level Active includes dual-zone automatic air-con, folding door mirrors, automating headlights and wipers, an auto-dimming interior mirror and some interior leather. If you want more, the Invincible offers leather upholstery, keyless entry, roof rails, heated front seats, rear parking sensors and a sliding storage compartment in the centre console for a further £1,700. The sports front seats in the Icon-trim RAV4 are worth mentioning, because they're more supportive than they look and undoubtedly contributed to my contentment on long runs. There's also a much-needed reversing camera - rear visibility is dismal, and the camera makes car park manoeuvring much easier than would otherwise be the case. One feature which feels less necessary, however, is the powered tailgate. It saves effort, of course, but the process of open and shutting seems to take a frustratingly long time. Seating at the front and rear of the RAV4 should prove spacious and comfortable, and you get 547 litres of storage space as standard. That figure comfortable surpasses rivals including the CX-5, Qashqai and the Ford Kuga. The Honda CR-V is one of the very few which can outperform the Toyota, with 589 litres of boot space.

Cost

For an SUV model, the low rate of fuel consumption by the Toyota RAV4 is impressive.

For an SUV model, the rate of fuel consumption by the Toyota RAV4 is impressive. The 2.2-litre diesel we tested records CO2 emissions of 149g/km and an official combined fuel economy of 49.6mpg. While test driving we recorded up to 48.4mpg according to the car’s trip computer. The Mazda CX-5 with a similar 2.2-litre diesel engine, however, can record as high as 54.3mpg on the combined cycle. It also emits just 136g/km in CO2. Our test car has a current price of £26,800. The cheapest RAV4 model, the 2.0 D-4D Active 2WD, starts at £22,495. Meanwhile the range-topping version, the 2.2 D-4D Invincible 4WD is priced at £28,500.

Our Verdict

The Toyota RAV4 is a practical entry into the compact SUV market that can do a decent job for motorists after a family motor with presence on the road. Cabin and boot space are both impressive and the majority of specifications are very well equipped as well. The performance and efficiency which is achievable is also admirable for a car this big and heavy. Comparatively, some of the alternatives like the Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai do deliver a better drive and more efficient running however. The RAV4 though is still overall a decent entry in what is a very competitive market segment nowadays.

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