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When the Toyota RAV4 arrived in Australia 20 years ago it was a funky little two-door 4WD for the young and young at heart. But over the years it not only grew in size to became a four-door family wagon, but also lost the fun factor that had appealed to many.
When Akio Toyoda took the reins of the giant Japanese auto maker in 2009 one of his first moves was to call for more interesting vehicles. He pointed out that just because a car was practical and reliable (features for which Toyota has been famed for decades) there was no reason why it couldn't also be interesting. The resultant Toyota 86 sports car is a revelation, and the subject of this road test, the latest Toyota RAV4, launched in Australia early in 2013, has received a healthy improvement.
DESIGN / STYLING
Toyota RAV4 now has a semi-sporty appearance. While it's certainly not as funky or cheeky as the 1980's original, there's now a touch of 'look-at-me' in this wagon's shape. Not only is Toyota RAV4 a big improvement in style, it is larger inside than before, particularly in the back seats. Yet, cleverly, it is smaller on the outside.
The spare tyre is no longer mounted on the rear door as made sense during its 4WD days, but is now under the boot floor. To maximise luggage space there's a slim space-saver spare wheel. Very few RAV4 owners ever take their wagon off road, but those who do so can opt for a full-size spare wheel. This results in an ugly hump in the load area and the loss of about 70 litres of load volume.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
For the first time the Toyota RAV4 is offered with the option of a turbo-diesel engine in Australia. The 2.2-litre engine produces up to 110 kW of power. Torque is impressive, with 340 Nm between 2000 and 2800 revs. On paper that's not a huge torque spread from a turbo engine, but our road testing proved it's still pretty strong below and above these numbers.
The diesel is only offered in RAV4s with all-wheel-drive. You can also choose between two petrol engines, but the powerplant is dictated by the model you want. A 2.0-litre unit (107 kW / 187 Nm) is used only in the front-wheel-drive entry level model RAV4, a 2.5-litre (132 kW / 233 Nm) is installed in the AWD as it's a heavier vehicle.
On the road we found it capable enough in its handling, and certainly safe, but the word 'sporting' that we used when talking about RAV4's styling doesn't apply to the chassis dynamics. Comfort is pretty good, which is what most buyers in this class are looking for.
There's space for three fair-sized children across the rear seat and two adults back there will find themselves surprisingly comfortable. The tailgate is top-hinged in what has become the convention in the crossover SUV class and we found it easy to load bulky items.
Thanks to Australian road and off-road testing in early days, Toyota RAV4's Japanese and Aussie engineers have done an excellent job in noise and vibration suppression. On smooth sealed roads it travels in near silence. Rough sealed and gravel roads obviously result in increased in noise intrusion, but we have heard a lot worse.
We did try some mild to medium off-road tracks and are pleased to report that Toyota still remembers its 4WD roots in Australia. The RAV4 has good ground clearance and angles and the large wheels play their part as well. This family wagon handles bumps, dips and climbs with aplomb and never showed signs of losing traction.
|2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN
|$12,540 – 16,720
|2014 Toyota RAV4 2014 GX (2WD) Pricing and Specs
|2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN
|$16,280 – 20,900
|2014 Toyota RAV4 2014 GX (4X4) Pricing and Specs
|2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN
|$18,150 – 22,990
|2014 Toyota RAV4 2014 GXL (4X4) Pricing and Specs
|2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO
|$16,060 – 20,570
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