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Toyota RAV4 2019 review: Cruiser 2WD


Toyota has celebrated 25 years of the RAV4 with a new model range, that features hybrid offerings for the first time.

The new RAV4 is bold and brash, packed to the hilt with inclusions and still a fine example of why SUVs continue to remain in the ascendancy.

We let the kids roll around in the back seat of the 2WD Cruiser for the week.

What does it look like?

This fifth-generation RAV4 sports a chunkier, more masculine look with a slightly curved rear to add a touch of softness.

A chrome grille and door handles set the Cruiser apart from the rest of the range and it stands proudly on sporty 19-inch alloys.

Roof rails not only enhance the edgier look but are also practical should you wish to add a roof rack system. (image: Vani Naidoo) Roof rails not only enhance the edgier look but are also practical should you wish to add a roof rack system. (image: Vani Naidoo)

Roof rails not only enhance the edgier look but are also practical should you wish to add a roof rack system or strap on the canoes as we did this week.

The drive to keep the RAV4 current and appealing resonates on the inside, too, where Toyota depends on a mix of materials, a sensible layout and some funky design elements to keep in step with the competition.

Leather-trimmed seats are well shaped and comfortable with a 10-way electric adjustment on the driver's seat making it easy to find the ideal position.

It stands proudly on sporty 19-inch alloys. (image: Vani Naidoo) It stands proudly on sporty 19-inch alloys. (image: Vani Naidoo)

The front passenger seat sits a little high, though, which for taller occupants, like my husband, can result in restricted headroom.

The cabin feels expensive and well put together with good fit and finish and thought given to storage and ease of use.

Rubber encased climate control dials seem a little incongruous on an otherwise sleek dash but work well on the move, while the sporty leather-trimmed steering wheel not only fits nicely in the hands but is thankfully not overcrowded with fingertip controls.

A chrome grille and door handles set the Cruiser apart from the rest of the range. (image: Vani Naidoo) A chrome grille and door handles set the Cruiser apart from the rest of the range. (image: Vani Naidoo)

How spacious is it?

The new Toyota RAV4 may be slightly smaller than its predecessor but clever design equates to a more spacious interior.

A larger glasshouse, narrower A-pillars and a lower beltline improves visibility for adults and little people, which for the latter not only means a better view but also decreases the possibility of car sickness.

There is oodles of room in the back seat, among the best in the class, with adults able to travel in comfort even with tall occupants in the front seats.

There is oodles of room in the back seat, among the best in the class. (image: Vani Naidoo) There is oodles of room in the back seat, among the best in the class. (image: Vani Naidoo)

This is great if you have growing teenage children who often seem to be all limbs, although if your kids are younger, there are ISOFIX points in the two outboard seats and three top tethers, too.

We managed to fit two child car restraints and a booster seat across the back with relative ease, but you may have to play around with the combination depending on the seats you have.

The boot (585 litres) is larger than the outgoing model which in real-word terms means you can carry the shopping, a pram and even the school bags all at once.

A powered tailgate and wide opening make loading and unloading much easier, further helped by a low boot lip.

The boot (585 litres) is larger than the outgoing model. (image: Vani Naidoo) The boot (585 litres) is larger than the outgoing model. (image: Vani Naidoo)

How easy is it to use every day?

The appeal of SUVs lie of course in their spaciousness, improved visibility and ease of entry and exit for passengers. As an early adopter, Toyota is well aware of how to push home the advantage and has certainly used that in this new RAV4.

The Cruiser was impressively equipped with keyless entry, heated front seats, wireless phone charger, dual-zone climate control, auto LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, heated and folding electric mirrors and powered tailgate, all of which make family driving that little less stressful.

A small shelf above the glove box and a deepish centre console bin are also useful. (image: Vani Naidoo) A small shelf above the glove box and a deepish centre console bin are also useful. (image: Vani Naidoo)

Storage is good, too, with cupholders in the front and rear, door pockets that will hold your water bottles and a seat pockets to hold books and electronics.

A small shelf above the glove box and a deepish centre console bin are also useful. There are rear air-vents for those in the back seat and two USB ports to bring the total to five overall.

Storage is good, too, with cupholders in the front and rear. (image: Vani Naidoo) Storage is good, too, with cupholders in the front and rear. (image: Vani Naidoo)

How does it drive?

Buoyed by the fun we recently had driving the Toyota Corolla hatch and Toyota HiLux, we expected decent things of the RAV4 and were far from disappointed.

This SUV offers an improved performance with comfort over ruts and bumps and a more agile ride overall even in our 2WD form.

It is an uncomplicated drive benefiting noticeably from local tuning, approaching road irregularities without fuss and then settling without wallowing or dipping.

The RAV4 Cruiser is as happy in the city as it is on the open road with excellent maneuverability, predictable steering and accurate breaking.

The front passenger seat sits a little high, though, which for taller occupants, like my husband, can result in restricted headroom. (image: Vani Naidoo) The front passenger seat sits a little high, though, which for taller occupants, like my husband, can result in restricted headroom. (image: Vani Naidoo)

The 2.0-litre petrol engine is a capable little unit but did at times, especially under load, need some encouragement.

It copes well with changes in direction, will accelerate quickly and smoothly and remains confident in a range of driving conditions.

While the RAV4 hybrid models make more sense for those wanting to save at the bowser, the petrol Cruiser was fairly economical on the road.

Our week behind the wheel saw fuel consumption figures of 7.9L/100km, a touch off the claimed 6.5L/100km, but pretty good for an SUV of this size.

How safe is it?

The RAV4 combines active and passive safety systems quite seamlessly in a comprehensive package that includes seven airbags, AEB (with day and night pedestrian detection), blind-spot monitoring which helps negate the thicker C-pillars, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic assist.

There is also a reversing camera with guidelines, front and rear parking sensors and a surround-view camera.

It does miss out on rear AEB, which can be found in the Mazda CX-5 and features like park-assist and head-up display but it does have speed sign recognition which we found very accurate in practice.

The RAV4 hasn't received its ANCAP rating yet, but Toyota expects the maximum five stars.

What's the tech like?

It feels like Toyota has missed the mark when it comes to the in-car multimedia system and supporting technology, which given the rest of the RAV4's impressive qualities, is quite disappointing.

An 8.0-inch colour touchscreen perched on top of the dash fronts the media system.

I didn't mind its position except it was less useful in full sunlight.

An 8.0-inch colour touchscreen perched on top of the dash fronts the media system. (image: Vani Naidoo) An 8.0-inch colour touchscreen perched on top of the dash fronts the media system. (image: Vani Naidoo)

We didn't much care for the buttons that line the perimeter of the screen or the quality of the graphics, while the system itself an be a little counter-intuitive.

Bluetooth phone pairing and music streaming is simple enough but there will be no smartphone mirroring through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto until late 2019.

This feature will be fitted at dealerships free of charge to RAVs bought earlier in the year. We did love the five USB ports though which meant no squabbling to charge devices.

How much does it cost to own?

The new RAV4 range is dearer than the outgoing models with the 2WD CVT Cruiser starting at $39,140, before on-road costs.

It is packed with features, though, and does come with Toyota's new five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Capped-price servicing will see you pay $210 for the first five services with intervals at 12 months/15,000km.


The Wrap

We loved our week in Toyota's new RAV4. We were impressed by the creature comforts, the spacious interior and the near effortless drive. The technology could be improved and smartphone mirroring when it arrives later in 2019 will help, but all in all, this is an impressive offering in a crowded segment. The RAV4 makes real sense for families with kids of all ages and will work equally well for buyers thinking of starting a family or empty-nesters dropping their youngest off at university.

On reflection, despite the lure of the Cruiser, the hybrid models are probably a cleverer pick especially since Toyota does hybrids so well.

Likes

Decisive new looks
On-road manners
Good inclusions

Dislikes

Outdated multimedia system
High front passenger seat
2.0-litre engine can be lethargic

Scores

Vani:

4

The Kids:

4

$39,140

Based on new car retail price

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