Toyota RAV4 2.0-litre Icon SUV review
Our Rating

3.5/5

Toyota RAV4 2.0-litre Icon SUV review

Toyota’s utilitarian SUV has entered the 21st century with a more chiselled and modern look. But what lies beneath its new shell? Is it the mud-plugging RAV4 of old?

Toyota’s RAV4 looks more modern than ever. Tiguan competition?

Introduction

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.

Performance

The two-wheel drive RAV4 utilises a 141bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which offers linear power delivery and has plenty of low down pull, propelling the RAV4 to 62mph from a standing start in under 10 seconds.

Although this diesel sits alongside the two-wheel drive powertrain, it does offer a robust, road-domineering SUV feel, thanks to 320Nm of torque. Of course, you’re not going to be lugging the RAV4 up a hill with that pulling power.

The six-speed manual gearbox we had mated to the diesel is snappy enough, offering no-nonsense changes up and down the gears, although it’s a fair bit off the bolt-action feel of the CX-5’s manual transmission.

Ride and Handling

Even though the RAV4 is now packaged differently, it still feels like a big 4x4, especially when taking corners at speed due to a hefty amount of body roll. You’re unlikely to be eating up twisty country roads in the RAV4 though, with urban and motorway driving being its favoured habitat.

With that said, the two-wheel drive RAV4 still offers plenty of grip, which on mild muddy tracks can trick you into thinking power is going to all four wheels. Cornering may not be its forte, but the RAV4 is surefooted on most roads, with sharp steering and a cushy suspension.

The RAV4’s only real pitfall when it comes to refinement is its husky diesel engine, which roars through the cabin, even under soft acceleration, and sends tremors through the steering wheel and gearstick when you rev it out.

In this respect, the RAV4 feels like it is a notch away from competing with more refined rivals from Volkswagen, Kia and Ford.

Even though the RAV4 is now packaged differently, it still feels like a big 4x4, especially when taking corners at speed due to a hefty amount of body roll.

Did you know?

The most powerful version of the RAV4 is the Hybrid derivative, which boasts almost 200bhp.

Interior and Equipment

Toyota’s attempt to bridge the gap between a two-wheel and four-wheel drive SUV couldn’t be clearer from the inside, with a mix of materials in the cabin that ranges from rock hard plastics on the dashboard to suede-like trimmings on the doors. For those after a lavish SUV, this will be a turn off, but for those who want something a bit more versatile, it will likely be welcome décor.

The cabin layout is rather upmarket though, with a seven-inch Toyota Touch 2 infotainment screen which sits above an angled lower dash that features climate control features. The result is a clean-cut, easy to understand, smart-looking cabin.

Kit is impressive across the range too with all models getting Bluetooth, a reversing camera, DAB radio, air con and cruise control.

Rear passenger space in the RAV4 is brilliant. The curvaceous design of many new SUVs means that rear practicality – headroom in particular - can take a hit. But this isn’t the case in the RAV4, with a capacious amount of leg and headroom, even for taller passengers. Three abreast may still be a bit of a squeeze, but two large adults and a skinny teenager shouldn’t be a problem.

The rear seats also recline for those who want to nap on longer journeys. And, when it comes to extending the boot space, the rear seats shift and fold to give a flat loading surface. Speaking of boot space, with all the seats in place you get 547 litres, which expands to 1,735 litres with the seats down.

Cost

The RAV4 is more expensive than many of its rivals, including the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan, with prices starting from around £24,000. Icon models start from just under £30,000.

Toyota’s ace in the pack however is its five-year 100,000-mile warranty, which is second only to Kia in the industry and will no doubt take some of the sting out of its high list price for buyers.

For a car of its size and weight, its CO2 and fuel economy are about par for the course, with a quoted 124g/km and an average of around 40-50mpg.

Toyota’s ace in the pack however is its five-year 100,000-mile warranty, which is second only to Kia in the industry and will no doubt take some of the sting out of its high list price for buyers.

Our Verdict

With most manufacturers scurrying to modernise their SUVs and 4x4s, versatility and ruggedness can become an afterthought – and in many ways, the RAV4’s reluctance to completely remove itself from its off-roading roots makes it more unique than its impressive, yet plentiful, competition.

Sure, it doesn’t offer the same levels of refinement and luxury as some of its rivals, but its utilitarian DNA is still prominent – and apart from the likes of the Nissan X-Trail, there aren’t many models that can match its SUV duality.

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