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Toyota RAV4 2016 Review

EXPERT RATING
6
The original compact SUV has bulked up considerably, morphing into a sturdy, smooth and safe family wagon. You're looking at the best selling SUV in Australia — according to Toyota's press blurb, that is. Well, sorta kinda maybe. It's true the RAV4 has just become the first SUV in Australia to hit 250,000 sales,

The original compact SUV has bulked up considerably, morphing into a sturdy, smooth and safe family wagon.

You're looking at the best selling SUV in Australia — according to Toyota's press blurb, that is.

Well, sorta kinda maybe. It's true the RAV4 has just become the first SUV in Australia to hit 250,000 sales, though it hasn't claimed top spot in the compact SUV sector since 2007.

Mazda's CX-5 has smoked the class since 2012 and the Toyota has lost out to Subaru's Forester and the Nissan X-Trail in some years as well. But hey, this is the car business, so let's not quibble with facts. The original RAV4, launched in 1994 as a funky little funmobile for 20-somethings, can rightly claim to be the original compact SUV.

It's since gone through four generations and morphed into a family-sized freighter — you could almost call it a Camry wagon — ideally suited to 30-somethings with a couple of young kids.

This model, introduced in 2013, gets sharper sheet metal for 2016, plus new cabin decor, updated multimedia and worthwhile safety improvements. So how does Australia's top-selling (cough) SUV rate in 2016?

Design

RAV's new suit includes a front end on steroids, LED lights all around, tauter profile and new wheels — the mid-spec GXL gains classy black 18-inch wheels with machined spokes.

The RAV is hardly a sporty looking (or driving) device but 18-inch wheels (also standard on the top-spec Cruiser, tested here) give it a pleasingly proportioned stance. The GX poverty pack still wears 17-inch steel wheels and looks all the more dumpy for it. Inside, the ugly, messy dash introduced in 2013 remains, still with a weirdly protruding leading edge that creates a cavernous black void beneath, too many buttons and switches placed with little thought as to their ease of use and, for some bizarre reason, three styles of air vents.

You get a flat 1.8m-long floor, so you can almost move house with the RAV

It looks like the product of an unresolved argument among several designers. Or just laziness.

The GXL and Cruiser gain a bright, informative instrument panel, with a 4.2-inch TFT display in the centre. RAV's 6.1-inch multimedia touchscreen is simple enough to operate, it's also easy to pair your phone and the voice control speaks your language most of the time. That said, the seven-inch tablet-style screen introduced on new HiLux and Fortuner would have been a useful upgrade here, too.

Cruiser's power-adjustable driver's seat gives excellent support, though some will find the firm cushion bolsters a tad squeezy on the thighs. Rear legroom is best in class and the long, firm bench, with an adjustable backrest, is well suited to child restraints.

Cruiser's power-operated tailgate gives access a low, easy-to-load floor with a space-saver underneath. You get 577L of cargo volume with all seats occupied, which is at the more capacious end of the class.

Drop either side of the 60-40 split-fold rear seat forward and you get a flat 1.8m-long floor, so you can almost move house with the RAV.

About town

Toyota has dialled a snappy launch feel into the ECU, so the RAV4 jumps away smartly at the lights and its drivetrain of 2.5-litre four-cyinder and six-speed automatic is refined and responsive around town.

It's also frugal. We recorded 9.0-10.0L/100km — not bad for a 1600kg AWD petrol wagon in Sydney traffic. Regular unleaded is recommended.

Toyota's 2016 safety upgrade, standard on the Cruiser and a $2500 option on the GXL automatic, is tailor-made for city driving. It includes front parking sensors, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, which warns you of potential hazards when reversing out of a parking spot.

You get a smooth, controlled, quiet ride and secure roadholding

The only notable issue around town is fairly heavy electric steering at shopping centre carpark speeds.

On the road

The RAV4 has no bad highway habits but you can buy a lot more performance for less elsewhere and it's also a long way from the best in class drive. That would involve a stoush with Subaru's Forester, Mazda's CX-5 and the Ford Kuga.

Toyota sets its SUVs up for comfort rather than speed, so you get a smooth, controlled, quiet ride and secure roadholding. Engine, wind and road noise are low. Expect about 7.0L/100km on the highway.

The Cruiser's all-wheel drive pays dividends in the wet and on dirt, where a lockable centre differential and hill descent control are also useful.

This year's safety update includes several hi-tech highway helpers, including trailer sway control, radar cruise control, automatic high-beam switching and lane departure warning. The latter also has a self-steering function, which can gently nudge you back into your lane if your wheels touch the white lines.

Verdict

The RAV4 Cruiser is now kissing $50K and that's an ambitious ask, especially given the modest performance.

However, it's a Toyota — so competence is a given, ownership will be cheap and grief-free, you are protected by a formidable hi-tech safety net and the practicality-space-equipment trifecta is spot-on in the family SUV context.

What it's got

Sunroof, leather-faced and heated front seats, power tailgate, forward collision, lane departure, blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts, radar cruise control, automatic emergency braking, navigation, auto high-beam.

What it hasn't

Shift paddles for the automatic, engine stop-start, full-size spare, 12V outlet in boot.

Ownership

Capped price servicing seems a bargain at $180 a throw but this is every six months or 10,000km, half the interval of some rivals. It's still a good deal over three years/60,000km. No roadside assist or free loan car, though.

 

Would a Rav4 tempt you away from a CX-5 or Forester? Let us know in the comments below.

Click here for more 2016 Toyota Rav4 price and spec info

Pricing guides

$28,990
Based on 432 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$19,888
Highest Price
$39,998

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cruiser (4x4) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,700 – 30,800 2016 Toyota RAV4 2016 Cruiser (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GX (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $15,400 – 21,780 2016 Toyota RAV4 2016 GX (2WD) Pricing and Specs
GX (4X4) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,400 – 22,880 2016 Toyota RAV4 2016 GX (4X4) Pricing and Specs
GXL (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $17,400 – 24,200 2016 Toyota RAV4 2016 GXL (2WD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.