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Toyota RAV4 2009 Review

We live in an age of allergies that feeds an industry of preventative medicines and an army of taxpayer-funded advisors.

Each of us has some food-related allergy or, at least, an intense dislike to what's on the dinner plate.

All foods, that is, except chicken.

You never hear a kid complain about KFC.

You never get the aircraft scenario where the flight attendant pushing the food trolley down the aisle is asking: "Chicken? Chicken anyone? No, I'm very sorry sir, the fish and the stew are all gone."

Everybody likes chicken. It's every menu's safe bet.

And if a car was listed on the menu as chicken, it would undoubtedly be served up with a Toyota badge.

Like chicken, everybody likes Toyota. It's the safe bet.

I thought the world had passed by the Toyota RAV4. It's now three years old and the new kids on the block — notably the VW Tiguan, Nissan Dualis and Subaru Forester — are flavorsome options.

Yet the RAV4 still impresses and sales shows that despite the newcomers, the RAV4 is Australia's second most popular Compact SUV after the Forester.

It's about the same price as its rivals and technically and feature-wise, is on par. That makes it a hard sector for buyers to pick their next car.

Toyota knows that so there are nine RAV4 models that start with this one here, the base-model CV with automatic transmission.

Yes, you can buy a 3.5-litre V6 version and scare the pants off Commodore owners.

But to me the CV auto is the essential RAV4 — neat, cleanly styled, very functional and fairly priced at $35,490 (plus on-road costs).

The five door wagon seats four adults. The back seat slides on rollers so the luggage area can be expanded — at the expense of legroom, of course — and that feature should be a no-brainer for all SUVs.

The side-hinged tailgate looks cumbersome with the spare wheel — a full-size spare, by the way — hanging off but is actually light and well supported by gas struts.

I like the underfloor bins for small-item storage, the netting for shopping and the flip down rear seats for added cargo space.

It drives like a small car with light steering feel and simple dashboard controls. Nothing fancy, just efficient.

The four-speed auto is a bit archaic in a market with five and six-speed boxes, but the Camry-derived 2.4-litre engine is lazy enough so there's a broad power band.

Performance is adequate rather than elating, though I caught myself smiling once so I left the grey cardigan in the wardrobe.

More important is an upgrade by Toyota that made electronic stability control (in Toyota-speak it's VDC) standard along with traction control and active head restraints. The latter reduces whiplash injury.

The CV gets two airbags but there is an optional package that adds five airbags — you have to use your other hand because that's seven in total — and climate-control, dual-zone airconditioning. No, I don't know why aircon and airbags have become allied.

Along with its easy driving manners, the RAV4 is quiet and comfortable. Yes, some conventional sedans — the Corolla for example — are quieter and indeed safer, but the small SUV market promises more flexible cabin space.

Though economical to purchase, the RAV4 is a bit thirstier than expected. Toyota claims 9.6 litres/100km and I was into the 10s and sometimes 11s. Compared with a similar size sedan — the Corolla, again — which is rated at 7.4 l/100km, the RAV4 will put its hand deeper into the weekly household spend.

On the plus side, there's a set service cost for the life of the three year warranty which is cheaper than most rivals.

But I like the RAV4 for its simplicity. It's just like chicken.


Snapshot
TOYOTA RAV4 CV
Price: $35,490 (plus dealer and statutory charges)
Engine: 2.4-litre, 4-cylinder
Power: 125kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 224Nm @ 4000rpm
Economy (official): 9.6 litres/100km, (tested): 10.5 litres/100km
Emissions: 227g/km
Transmission: 4-speed automatic, constant 4WD
Rating: 85/100

Rivals: Ford Escape ($33,990) — 80/100; Honda CR-V ($33,990) — 86/100; Jeep Patriot/Compass Sport ($29,990) — 79/100; Mitsubishi Outlander LS ($32,990) — 85/100; Nissan X-Trail ST ($32,490) — 84/100; Subaru Forester X ($30,990) — 86/100; VW Tiguan 125TSI ($33,990) — 86/100

Pricing guides

$11,000
Based on 125 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$6,500
Highest Price
$15,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cruiser (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $6,913 – 14,995 2009 Toyota RAV4 2009 Cruiser (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Cruiser L (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $9,200 – 13,860 2009 Toyota RAV4 2009 Cruiser L (4x4) Pricing and Specs
CV (4X4) 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $6,500 – 14,990 2009 Toyota RAV4 2009 CV (4X4) Pricing and Specs
CV6 3.5L, ULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,500 – 11,550 2009 Toyota RAV4 2009 CV6 Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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