Toyota RAV4 unveiled at LA motor show

Toyota RAV4

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Bucking the bigger-is-better trend that affects everything from the Hyundai i30 to the upcoming Lexus IS, Toyota has downsized the RAV slightly to make it more youthful.

The fourth-generation RAV is also losing its unpopular V6 engine choice, putting the emphasis back on an efficient four. 

The updated SUV is previewed at the Los Angeles Auto Show with dimensions that cut around 50 millimetres from its length and 25 millimetres from its height, although it retains the same wheelbase and is a little wider.

Visually, the new RAV has much more character - design speak for creases and curves - and the obvious change is a switch from a side-hinged back door to one that lifts up.

Toyota's approach to the RAV, which it claims as the original SUV despite the earlier arrival of the first Range Rover, is a sharp contrast to the latest update to the Honda CR-V and the various compact SUVs produced by Kia and Hyundai.

Importantly, Toyota says it will provide a "more dynamic" driving experience, thanks to a sportier suspension tune and electric power steering. It's impossible to compare equipment between the US launch cars and the RAV that comes to Australia next year, but local buyers can expect eight airbags and a rear-view camera on all models.

At the top end, available equipment runs to an 11-speaker sound system, satnav and a 'cross traffic alert' at the rear that operate when the RAV is reversing at up to 30km/h.