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Toyota RAV4 GXL 2018 review

This $38,450 2.5-litre AWD petrol is the middle of the pack.
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Toyota is used to taking hold of a market segment and giving it a good old throttle. For years, the Corolla was king, the Camry was not only made and bought here but sent overseas, and a funny looking, high-riding hatchy sort of four-wheel drive thing came along in 1994. It had a dumb name, attracted opprobrium for

Toyota is used to taking hold of a market segment and giving it a good old throttle. For years, the Corolla was king, the Camry was not only made and bought here but sent overseas, and a funny looking, high-riding hatchy sort of four-wheel drive thing came along in 1994. It had a dumb name, attracted opprobrium for not being a proper off-roader, and was an instant hit.

That was the RAV4, and for years it was quite successful, building the niche small SUV segment with Suzuki, and with Honda tagging along for the ride. It was cosy. Then everyone woke up and realised what they'd been missing out on - the CX-5, the ix35, the X-Trail, the Forester: they all came to cut Toyota's lunch. And what happened? A funny thing, actually. The RAV4 kept on selling, despite not being the latest whizz-bang machine. How did this happen? Well, first, the market was expanding to take these new competitors, but secondly, the Toyota must have been, and must still be doing something right to keep selling the way it does.

Toyota RAV4 2018: GX (2WD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$25,949

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The RAV4 range consists of nine variants, including three GXLs - a FWD petrol, AWD diesel and this $38,450 2.5-litre AWD petrol, the middle child. Standard are 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and tail-lights, auto headlights and wipers, cloth trim, leather gearknob and wheel, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, sat nav, and a six speaker stereo with DAB+ radio.

The 6.1-inch touchscreen setup continues to be my least favourite on the market. The 6.1-inch touchscreen setup continues to be my least favourite on the market.

The touchscreen unit continues to be my least favourite on the market. It might be a 6.1-inch set-up, but it's a mess, with tiny targets, a confusing menu system and ugly graphics. Peugeot's used to be unusable but at least it looked good. This one you wouldn't steal.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

This fourth-generation RAV4 is by far the most distinctive and the bravest since the not very brave first-generation with its jelly bean lights and whopping chunks of unpainted cladding glued to the side. We didn't know it at the time, but this RAV4 V4.0 presaged a new look for Toyota - bolder than before and linked to the delightfully chunky C-HR.

The RAV4 pioneered Toyota's current SUV look. The RAV4 pioneered Toyota's current SUV look.

In GXL form it still looks ever-so-slightly underwheeled (18-inch rims, remember - hardly small) and from the front, it's a riot of lines the closer you get. It's not Honda crazy, but if it were calmer it would look and feel classier. But that's clearly a personal opinion. The sides are a bit slabby but that suits the segment perfectly and the rear echoes the front.

Inside it's a bit dated but perfectly functional. Inside it's a bit dated but perfectly functional.

Inside is looking a bit dated but is perfectly functional. The standard Toyota steering wheel adds to the general blandness but that doesn't make it any less competent. The faux stitched leather actually looks good and lifts the space a little.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

The RAV4 strikes a nice balance between sporty looking and genuinely useful. Five will fit reasonably comfortably, with good headroom and legroom for everyone. Front seat passengers get the same, and I fit very comfortably behind my driving position, as does my 184cm son.

The RAV4 sports a roomy cabin with plenty of legroom. The RAV4 sports a roomy cabin with plenty of legroom.

There are four cupholders, although the front pair are a little haphazardly arranged around a triangular slot good for... um... triangles. There is also a shallow tray that is too slippery to hold anything not rubber or glued down, so there's nowhere really to put your phone. You also get four door-mounted bottle holders.

Boot size is 550 litres with the seats up, 1760 litres with the seats down. Boot size is 550 litres with the seats up, 1760 litres with the seats down.

The boot space starts at a very reasonable 550 litres and with the seats down yields a huge 1760L.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder under the bonnet produces 132kW/233Nm. All four wheels are driven through a six-speed automatic (thankfully not the 2.0's CVT) and the RAV4 includes hill descent control and a centre diff lock, unusual in the segment.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder produces 132kW/233Nm. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder produces 132kW/233Nm.

 

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

Toyota claims the RAV4 will get through standard unleaded at the rate of 8.5L/100km but in my hands it drank at a hefty 12.2L/100km, despite mostly gentle driving. The CX-5's 2.5 produces more power but in our hands returns around 10.0L/100km. Or about $450 less in fuel in a 15,000km year.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

The world is full of SUVs that drive well or ride exceptionally well or both. The Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan and Mazda CX-5 all fall into the "both" camp, while the RAV4 falls into neither.

To be clear, it is not bad, just... disappointing. With a multi-link rear end, it should do well in this category - but for whatever reason, Toyota has opted for a soft car that rolls more than most of the competition (Honda's CR-V is a notable exception) and one that doesn't have particularly good steering.

Part of the steering's problem is the angle of the wheel to the driver that isn't really fixed by its adjustment. It's kind of hard to get right and needs a bit of a heave as it's heavy without having any feel. 

The engine has reasonable pep but the performance is blunted by a slow-to-react transmission and isn't much to listen to.

What do all those complaints mean? Well, not much really. It just means that for those who want a good solid car, they're getting it, without the bells and whistles and talk of finely-judged steering. The RAV is probably one of the better off-road(ish) machines in the segment, which still counts for something.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

Along for the ride for 2018 are seven airbags (including a driver's kneebag up front), ABS, stability and traction controls, rear cross-traffic alert, reversing camera, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, auto high beam, a blind spot monitor system and three top-tether points for baby seats along with dual ISOFIX attachments.

ANCAP awarded the RAV4 a maximum five ANCAP safety stars in 2016.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty and servicing happens every six months or 10,000km. Pricing for servicing is capped at $180 for the first three years or up to 60,000km, whichever comes first.

Roadside assist starts at $78 per year.

Verdict

The RAV4 isn't outstanding in its class, not by a long stretch. It does things well and in this all-wheel drive GXL version is reasonably comfortable, well-equipped and loaded with safety gear. The drive is fairly ho-hum but you don't get into a Toyota (the 86 excepted) rubbing your hands together, do you?

That Toyota badge breeds confidence in its owners and the person who wants to buy it from them. Year in, year out, Toyota sells plenty of RAV4s to people who value that sort of thing.

Is the RAV4 getting a bit crusty? Can it compete with the rest of the pack?

Pricing Guides

$28,985
Based on 744 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$25,500
Highest Price
$42,977

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Cruiser (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $35,880 – 42,977 2018 TOYOTA RAV4 2018 Cruiser (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GX (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $25,544 – 30,990 2018 TOYOTA RAV4 2018 GX (2WD) Pricing and Specs
GX (4x4) 2.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $25,500 – 30,999 2018 TOYOTA RAV4 2018 GX (4x4) Pricing and Specs
GXL (2WD) 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $28,990 – 36,988 2018 TOYOTA RAV4 2018 GXL (2WD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.8
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Driving6
Safety8
Ownership6
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$24,888

Lowest price, based on 138 car listings in the last 6 months

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