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Toyota RAV4 2013 review: road test

EXPERT RATING
7

Never underestimate a cat -- they're surefooted, sleek and agile. The words come from Makoto Arimoto, charismatic chief engineer of the totally restyled Toyota RAV4. And he should know, he has 18 cats.

So it's no surprise that the compact SUV has more than a touch of feline in its looks and performance. The fourth generation of the super-popular RAV4 has just launched with two four-cylinder petrol engines: a 2.0 and a 2.5-litre, and its first diesel a 2.2 litre.

VALUE

Despite big improvements throughout, most models are at the same level, or less than the outgoing version. The GX 2.0-litre 2WD manual is $28,490 ($500 less), the all-wheel-drives are from $31,990 (same as superseded models) and the top of the pops Cruiser AWD automatic is $48,990 (a saving of $1000). There are 16 models, three up from 2012. Gone are the three-door and the V6.

All models get Bluetooth phone and music connectivity, a 60/40 split-fold reclining rear seat, roof rails, rear spoiler, cargo net and tonneau cover. Here's another thing about Makoto Arimoto: he was once a guitarist and vocalist in a Tokyo rock band, so the Rav4's six-speaker audio system should not to be underestimated.

The entry GX grade is pretty well spec'd with 17-inch steel wheels, projector headlights, a CD thingo and fabric seat coverings. The GXL has alloy wheels, reversing camera, display audio, sports seats, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, keyless smart entry and push-button ignition and Cruisers add Satnav, a blind-spot monitor, power cargo door, high-intensity discharge headlights, eight-way power driver's seat and a glass sunroof.

Most also get a sport button, which sharpens torque distribution and steering and auto transmission response.

TECHNOLOGY

The petrol engines are a 2.0-litre 107kW/187Nm and a 2.5-litre 132kW/233Nm, while the debut turbo-diesel is a common-rail 2.2-litre unit producing 110kW/340Nm. All three come standard with new six-speed manual transmissions. Interestingly, the GX 2WD has the option of a seven-step CVT, said to be best for economy, but AWD models get a six-speed auto. Difference is 7.4 litres/100km with the CVT, 8.4 with the auto.

The diesel is rated at 5.6 manual and 6.5 with the self-shifter. There's new suspension too, Macstruts up front and a sophisticated double-wishbone set-up at the rear. Oddly, the high-torque diesel has the poorest tow capacity: 550kg as opposed to the GX's 800kg and the AWD 2.5's 1500kg.

How so? It's new and we'd rather be conservative, was the unconvincing answer.

DESIGN

The car has a dynamic look, which Toyota calls the `strong athlete'. But with its bright, narrow, slanted eyes and flared nostrils, it looks rather like a cat about to pounce. It has a rearward-sloping roof and a character line, and the top-hinged tailgate and 17-inch wheels, alloys on all but GX - which add to the action image.

DRIVING

The new RAV4 has a stiffer frame that, with the new suspension, helps in the handling section. The car, slightly bigger inside than before and a smidgen smaller outside, has 577 litres of cargo capacity. It is a pleasure on the road, and can also handle a fair degree of offroad action.

Yes, the AWD did display surefootedness and agility on the twisty ups and downs of the Sapphire Coastal roads. Looked jolly good too, with its LED daytime lights aglow and with a gentle purr from its diesel motor. The windscreen pillars are thinner, the bonnet edges a bit higher, which make for better forward vision and more precise parking.

The RAV4 has the latest in stability control and the safety package includes traction control, ABS, hill start assist and the rest of the electronic aid alphabet.

VERDICT

The cat's whiskers of the compact SUV class.

Pricing guides

$18,990
Based on 207 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$12,300
Highest Price
$26,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Altitude (2WD) 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $10,700 – 15,730 2013 Toyota RAV4 2013 Altitude (2WD) Pricing and Specs
Altitude (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $12,700 – 18,370 2013 Toyota RAV4 2013 Altitude (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Cruiser (2WD) 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $10,600 – 15,620 2013 Toyota RAV4 2013 Cruiser (2WD) Pricing and Specs
Cruiser (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $15,999 – 26,990 2013 Toyota RAV4 2013 Cruiser (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Pricing Guide

$9,800

Lowest price, based on 224 car listings in the last 6 months

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