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Toyota RAV4 2019 review: GXL 2WD

Does this new RAV4 at last live up to the hype?

You might also be interested in the Honda CR-V

image of Honda CR-V Compare to the Toyota RAV4 Book A Test Drive Locate A Dealer

The Toyota RAV4 has long been the SUV staple of choice for Aussie buyers, what with its reasonable handling, comfort and practicality.

It was good, but nothing even approaching great. Which is something I happen to know because we already own a RAV4.

This latest-generation RAV4 marks Toyota's fifth attempt at improving on this record. And for my weekend test I'm reviewing the RAV4 2019 GXL 2WD.

Priced at $35,640, the GXL 2WD variant sits one up from the base GX model. Standard features include LED headlights, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, sat nav, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, a wireless charger, six-speaker stereo, rear privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, proximity key, premium fabric seats, roof rails and 18-inch alloys wheels.

So does this new RAV4 at last live up to the hype? And how much better is it to drive than the previous generation? My kids and I had the weekend to find out.

You might also be interested in the Honda CR-V

image of Honda CR-V Compare to the Toyota RAV4 Book A Test Drive Locate A Dealer

Saturday

Our schedule for the day included my son's soccer game in the morning, followed by lunch, and then we were booked into a dance competition for my daughters in the afternoon.

I think this fifth-generation RAV4 is the best looking to date, with a more muscular and sturdier design than its predecessors. Unlike previous generations, it conveys more off-road promise. The key exterior additions to the GXL over the lower grade GX are roof rails, tinted windows at the rear and 18-inch alloy wheels.

With a more muscular design compared to previous generations, the current RAV4 is a looker. With a more muscular design compared to previous generations, the current RAV4 is a looker.

There's been a big step up in the cabin, too, with a high quality fit and finish used throughout. The dash design is clean with a number of large and well laid out buttons down the centre console and on the steering wheel.

The display protruding from the top of the dash takes up a large amount of real state and looks like an afterthought, though. And while the 8.0-inch touchscreen was easy enough for my kids to use, the interface graphics were fairly basic and largely unimpressive. On the plus side, the touchscreen comes with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and sat nav with SUNA live traffic.

At the centre of the cabin is a 8.0-inch touchscreen. At the centre of the cabin is a 8.0-inch touchscreen.

As of writing this review there is no Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with both to be made available from the last quarter of 2019. Those who purchase before then need not worry as this tech can be added for free once available.

Passenger space was plentiful regardless of where we sat, with the kids in the back making good use of all the room available. Sitting behind my driving position (I'm 180cm), there was a hand-width of space in front of my knees and more again above my head.

Practicality in the rear seats is well suited for kids, with rear air vents, two USBs ports, two cup holders in the centre arm rest and bottle holders in each of the doors. Behind the rear seats sits a decent 580-litre boot that easily swallowed the assorted gear and shopping bags lobbed into it over the course of the weekend.

With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 580-litres. With the rear seats in place, boot space is rated at 580-litres.

There's more storage up front, with a shelf above the glovebox to house odds and ends, a deep centre console, a large area in front of the shifter, and two cupholders. 

Easing the RAV4 around the small local Woolies' car park was easy thanks to front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. It may look larger, but this latest RAV4 GXL is actually 5mm shorter than the previous version. 

Sunday

Our RAV4 spent much of the morning navigating the city, with shopping and a movie at the cinema on the agenda. Then it was back to the 'burbs in the afternoon for a trip to the park.   

Under the bonnet of the GXL lives a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine matched to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic providing a respectable 127kW of power and 203Nm of torque.

As a regular driver of the previous generation RAV4 GXL (owned by my partner), I can say with certainty the driving experience of this latest version is a major step in the right direction.

It's a properly buttoned-down drive that provides a smooth and comfortable ride regardless of the road conditions. Handling around corners is a more refined experience and the steering is well weighted for an SUV of this type, too.

Around the city it felt light and nimble, and although acceleration from a standing start was mild mannered it displayed more urgency at mid-range speeds. The 2.0 litre petrol engine was well matched to the CVT providing enough punch to propel the four of us around in comfort.

Compared to the previous model, Toyota has massively improved the RAV4's driving experience. Compared to the previous model, Toyota has massively improved the RAV4's driving experience.

The five-star ANCAP rated RAV4 GXL scores a smorgasbord of safety kit including AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, road-sign recognition, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and seven air bags.

Like all RAV4s with a CVT, our GXL came with 'Lane Trace Assist' which works in concert with the adaptive cruise control to prevent your RAV4 from wandering out of the lane while also ensuring a safe distance is kept from the car in front.

 For children and babies there are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether mounts across the second row.

There's plenty of rear space for children and two ISOFIX points to install baby seats. There's plenty of rear space for children and two ISOFIX points to install baby seats.

Over the weekend we covered around 250km of suburban and city driving, with the trip computer displaying a fuel consumption reading of 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres. This puts it slightly higher than Toyota's claimed official combined fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km for the auto. The fuel tank capacity is 55 litres, which you can fill with 91RON unleaded. 


The Wrap

The RAV4 2019 marks a major step forward from good to great, and has prompted us to seriously consider an upgrade. For our money, though, it be would the GXL hybrid over the petrol version. 

Is the new RAV4 on your family car shopping list? Tell us in the comments below. 

Likes

Good practicality and space
Ride and handling
Exterior design

Dislikes

Quality of the touchscreen interface
Engine takes a while to wind up

Scores

Dan:

4

The Kids:

4

$35,640

Based on new car retail price

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