Toyota has been fiddling around with its RAV4 for years, but has finally hit on a design that seems certain to be a big winner. The RAV4 began its life 20 years ago as a small, cheeky two-door runabout for the young and young at heart. But over the years it not only grew in size, it also decreased in cheekiness until the fun factor had disappeared completely.
Indeed, the just superseded RAV4 was definitely on the mundane side in appearance. In typical Toyota fashion that worked well and appealed to those looking for a no-nonsense people mover with a reputation for reliability and build quality. But we don’t know of anyone who bought it for its styling…
That’s all changed and the all-new RAV4 leans strongly in the sporting direction. At least it’s sporty as far as appearance is concerned, though it’s nothing special in its dynamics. On the road we found it capable enough in its handling, and certainly safe, but the word sporting no longer applies. Which is exactly what many buyers are searching for.
Explore the 2013 Toyota RAV4 range
Talking of the spare tyre, Toyota has been sensible in specifying a space saver. But as some Aussies seem to like large spare wheels there’s the $300 option of a full-size wheel-tyre. This results in an ugly hump in the load area and the loss of about 70 litres of load volume. Your call, but unless we were buying a RAV4 to go into genuine off-road areas I don’t think the large spare makes sense.
For the first time the Toyota RAV4 is offered with a turbo-diesel engine, a 2.2-litre unit producing up to 110 kW of power. Torque is a big feature of any diesel engine and the Toyota unit has 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. It’s only fitted in RAV4s with all-wheel-drive (AWD).
Two petrol engines are offered, a 2.0-litre unit used only in the front-wheel-drive entry level model and a 2.5-litre in the AWD variants. Power and torque outputs are 107 kW / 187 Nm and 132 kW / 233 Nm respectively. The V6 engine was never popular and has been discontinued.
President Akio Toyoda, the head of the giant Japanese auto maker, has certainly turned things upside down. The Toyota 86 is a revelation, the all-new Corolla that came out at the end of 2012 looks brilliant. Now the RAV4 has received exactly the right treatment.
Not only is Toyota RAV4 a huge improvement in style it is larger inside than before, particularly in the back seats, yet is smaller on the outside. The spare tyre is no longer mounted on the rear door, but is now under the boot floor, thus making it much easier to open the door and load the boot. The tailgate is a top-hinged unit.
Talking about off-road driving, Toyota found us a section of rough bush on the south coast of NSW where we were able to put the RAV4 through its paces. It has good ground clearance and angles and the large wheels play their part as well. It thrived in the work we asked it to do although only a tiny number of owners will ever punish their vehicle like this.
As in all recent Toyota models, the engineers have done an excellent job in noise and vibration suppression in the new RAV4. On smooth sealed roads it travels in near silence. Rough sealed and gravel roads do see an increase in noise intrusion, but the RAV4 is still pretty impressive.
Coarse-chip surfaces, often a problem for imported vehicles, didn’t cause undue hassles in the medium Toyota SUV. Thus demonstrating the amount of work put into the design during Australian testing in early days.
Looks great and works hard, the all-new Toyota RAV4 is brilliant.