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Toyota RAV4 GXL 2018 review

This week I drove the Toyota RAV4 GXL AWD 2.5L petrol SUV for my family car review, and there wasn’t a whole lot to complain about. But there wasn’t a lot to sing about, either. It’s one of those average cars which just… works, as it’s intended.

This model is the middle of a range of three, and I did everything in it - drove to my parent’s, dropped the kids at school and daycare, went to work, and even did that most dreaded of household shopping chores: the IKEA trip. Here’s how it performed over the seven days.

How does it drive?

The RAV4 is a smooth, easy drive. The steering is painless and you can make three-point turns and reverse park with little effort at the wheel, especially with the very decent turning circle of 10.6m.

It’s the bigger of the two petrol engines on offer, so it gets up the hill near my house that I test all cars on quite well. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it does lack a little charm. It’s not an interesting car to drive, but it does the job - it’s reliable and you know it will work time after time.

How does it feel?

That’s a different story. Even though it drives perfectly well, it doesn’t make me feel very excited to be in. Sure, it’s easy, but so is plain toast, and I would much prefer butter and vegemite on my toast for brekky.

The RAV4 is high enough off the road that you do feel the same height as other SUVs, but I don’t feel like I match up in terms of style or pleasure. Steady and predictable are two words I’d use to describe it, but I’m much more inclined to like something if it makes me feel great in it.

How safe is it?

It’s here that Toyota has come through with the goods, because they have just added a whole bunch of safety features that you used to have to pay for on the GXL model. That means things like Auto Emergency Braking, collision alert, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking cameras and active cruise control all now come standard for only an extra $40.

It also has seven airbags, two ISOFIX points and three top tether points for child car seats, with a five star ANCAP rating. So, for a family looking after their children, all of this stuff is important and good value for money.

How big is the boot?

Aha! I have found the reason the Toyota RAV4 is one of the best selling cars in the country. Just walk around to the boot and you’ll see what I mean. The boot is BIG. Really nicely big. I went to IKEA and was able to fit a bunch of flatpacks, plus photo frames, a chopping board, some glasses, a lamp… I won’t go on.

I got the version with the space saver spare tyre, where the boot is 577 litres (with a full-size spare, boot space drops to 506 litres). That’s a whole 174 litres bigger than the Mazda CX-5’s. And I think people underestimate the importance of boot space to a family. Being able to fit boogie boards and sporting equipment and all kinds of things in the back is very useful.

  • The boot is 577 litres.. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The boot is 577 litres.. (image credit: Dean McCartney)
  • the boot is 174 litres bigger than the Mazda CX-5’s. (image credit: Dean McCartney) the boot is 174 litres bigger than the Mazda CX-5’s. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

How does it look?

It’s not particularly new, but it’s not super old. The last design upgrade was in 2015 which is a while ago if you compare it to the Mazda CX-5 or the Volkswagon Tiguan - both are brand new. So it’s not the flashiest car on the block on either the exterior or the interior.

  •  The last design upgrade was in 2015 which is a while ago but it isn't super old. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The last design upgrade was in 2015 which is a while ago but it isn't super old. (image credit: Dean McCartney)
  • The RAV4 isn't the flashiest car on the block. (image credit: Dean McCartney) The RAV4 isn't the flashiest car on the block. (image credit: Dean McCartney)

Nothing is bad about the design, it’s all… fine. It’s just no Manolo Blahnik. Are you looking for a Manolo Blahnik? Then you’re in the wrong place. This is gumboot territory. A nice, painted gumboot, sure, but a gumboot, nonetheless.

Inside, the GXL has fabric seats and fairly basic interior dash design. It won’t win any awards for style, but there’s nothing that stands out as nasty. It’s what I like to call: standard.


What’s the tech like?

The RAV4 comes with a 6.1-inch screen which is on the small side. It synced with my phone easily and I could play my Spotify playlist through it. The sat nav worked but it was a bit clunky to use and punch the address in.

None of the tech is spectacular, but it’s there and is fairly simple to work out. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t think having the latest Apple Carplay/Android Auto technology is important, you’ll be fine.


How spacious is it inside?

There was a lot of legroom up the front in the RAV4. It was comfortable to sit in and drive for an hour in (the longest I was in it at a time).

The back seat was also really quite spacious, with a fair amount of legroom for my four-year old and six-year old, and plenty of room for their legs to grow, too. The cabin is light and airy.

How practical is it for day to day use?

It’s good, not exceptional. There are two cupholders up the front, two down the back in the middle console. Note: up the front there is one bigger one, more for a bottle, and one that is coffee cup size. In the back they are quite small cupholders, designed to fit a small bottle or a cup. Nothing oversized will fit back there.


There’s a bottle holder in each door but again, the ones in the back were a tight squeeze for the CarsGuide bottle, which admittedly, is rather wide.

There’s a small spot to throw your phone and keys in at the front, so it’s not fantastic, but at least there’s a spot for them. The centre storage bin is average size.

The low height of the boot off the floor is a bonus to lift groceries into, you won’t have to hoist them up very high.

What’s the fuel efficiency/ warranty like?

The Wrap

If you’re looking for a super easy, basic car to drive around that is good value for money and ticks boxes like maximum safety, great boot space and reliability, then this will be music to your ears: you’ve found your match. I gave the RAV4 GXL a family rating of 7/10, taking points off because I like a little more razzle for my dazzle.

What kind of things drive you to purchase a car? Tell us in the comments below.


Interior space
Safety features as standard
Big boot


Dated design
Basic to drive
No Apple Carplay/Android Auto




The Kids:


$29,990 - $34,490

Based on 6 car listings in the last 6 months