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Toyota RAV4


Holden Trailblazer

Summary

Toyota RAV4

It speaks to the wide-ranging, seemingly infinite appeal of the Toyota RAV4 that a manual version of it even exists.

But here we are, with one of the country’s most popular mid-size SUVs in 2019, with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Sure, only the base car can be fitted with it, and we’re confident it will impress those vocal few people in every single comment section who demand it, but is it actually any good? Or does a manual gearbox tarnish the rather excellent package that is CarsGuide's Car of the Year 2019 overall winner?

While we’re at it, we’ll also give you the low-down on what the cheapest RAV4 is like. Read on to see what we thought.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Holden Trailblazer

SUV wagons based on their ute stablemates are by no means a new thing – just look to Toyota Fortuner (based on HiLux), Ford Everest (based on the Ranger) and Isuzu’s MU-X (based on the D-Max) for evidence of that.

But the strategy is not always a successful one and these ute-based wagons have already gone through a stage or two of tweaking and refining in an attempt by car makers to shed some of the lingering ute-related niggles (such as work-focused suspension tunes) and improve the final products so they're better suited to a life of work and play.

The 2018 Trailblazer (formerly known as Colorado7, and based on the Colorado ute) is another clear sign that these wagons are indeed getting better, but are those improvements good enough to attract the cash of an otherwise ute-fixated public?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.8L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8.6L/100km
Seating7 seats

Verdict

Toyota RAV47.9/10

When Toyota launched the new RAV4 it couldn’t afford to get it wrong.

It didn’t. Even this absolute base car is incredibly well equipped, superb when it comes to comfort, and offers the largest cabin in the mid-size segment.

I’m as surprised as you possibly are that Toyota even sells it as a manual, but honestly, it’s this car’s worst attribute. It only serves to tarnish the drive experience. Pay the extra and get the auto.


Holden Trailblazer7.3/10

The Trailblazer is a solid all-rounder and deserves the consideration of those in the market for a decent seven-seater 4WD. It does everything well without ever really excelling at any one thing.

Is it fantastic? No. Is it a game-changer? No. Does it represent pretty good value for money in the grand scheme of things? Yep. 

The pick of the bunch for me is the LTZ – solid, off-road capable, and suburbs-friendly with just a hint of leather-appointed class. In the LTZ, you get everything worthwhile in the Trailblazer mob and if you’re a family man you won’t feel the need to fork out an extra $1000 for the Z71’s try-hard window dressing.

The Trailblazer is a mostly comfortable SUV wagon, stacked with features and is well worth your consideration if the Isuzu MU-X, Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner don’t float your boat.

What do you reckon? Get a new one of these, or spend your money on a second-hand LandCruiser?

Design

Toyota RAV48/10

The RAV4 has come far in its design and aesthetic since the previous generation. It’s much better at grabbing your eye as it cruises past, and although it borrows a lot from the Kluger which has been on the market for a while now, it still strikes the eye as modern and angular.

The double-barreled snout, air dams and chunky wheelarches add a sense of capability to its contemporary guise. Even this base car gets chunky alloys and is covered in contrast black plastic cladding, adding to its look over base-model competitors. The blue tinge of LED headlights rather than the dull tones of halogens seal the deal.

Around at the rear it modernizes the dated Kluger formula with squared-off light fittings and a roof spoiler. The wholly unnecessary dual-exhaust is nice, too.

The interior is where the most base model tells are. You’re greeted by a sea of grey plastics, although to Toyota’s credit, many of them are soft to the touch. It’s all too easy to notice the blanked-out buttons, covered over climate control dials and six-speed gearshifter that looks like it was dropped out of a last-generation Corolla.

While the big screen nestles in the dash, 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen and silver highlights help counteract the base-model blues, there’s no escaping a nasty plastic steering wheel.

The overall visual aesthetic of the RAV4 is still cool, though. On the inside there are great textures hidden everywhere. There’s a triangular pattern in all the storage areas designed to help stop objects from moving, stripped rubbery textures on the inside of the door handles and rubbery turbine patterns on the air-con and volume knobs. Nice touches.

The seats are in a plain pattern but nice to the touch and should be fairly easy to clean as they are comprised of a rugged synthetic material.

All that adds up for a cabin ambiance that easily outclasses most price-competitors, and even higher-spec cars from rival brands.


Holden Trailblazer7/10

The Trailblazer is a solid-looking wagon – all clean, tight lines from front to back – and overall it has a real squat and substantial presence. If we’re going to get all ‘fancy Dan’ with our hyperbole: chrome-accented daytime running headlights swoop back along the chunky body to slick LED tail-lights. If we’re sticking to basics: the Trailblazer looks good.

Inside, the tweaked interior has a tidy if rather basic feel to it – but that’s not a bad thing in a wagon that will have to cop dirt and dropped ice creams amid the general chaos of day-to-day life.

The leather-trim seats add a touch of class to otherwise family friendly dimensions and environment.

Practicality

Toyota RAV49/10

I parked this RAV4 next to a last-generation Toyota Kluger and really shouldn’t have been surprised how close they were in size. Still, bracket creep means the RAV4 is now truly gigantic compared to its forebears and that means family practicality all over.

It’s things as simple as the fact that both doors are massive and open very wide, allowing for super easy access to any seat for less mobile passengers, those lifting cargo up into the cabin, and those who might need to fit child seats.

Leg and headroom for the front two passengers is stellar, and the driver’s position is very adjustable, even with the base manual-adjust seats. Visibility is up with segment leaders like the Subaru Forester, as the RAV4 is essentially a glasshouse with massive windows and wing-mirrors.

Even the dial cluster is huge and legible, and there are big dials for operating the air conditioning and multimedia while you keep your eyes on the road.

You’ll find storage areas everywhere with that triangle pattern for holding objects in. All the bottleholders (two in the doors, two in the centre console) are massive, and there’s a huge trench in front of the shift-knob suitable for even the largest phones.

There’s even a long trench above the glove box for… aesthetic purposes? It has the no-slip surface, but objects would hurtle towards passengers under heavy acceleration, so I fail to see the point of it.

There's one USB port, one 'aux' jack, and one 12-volt socket for front passengers.

In terms of rear legroom, your second-row passengers will hardly be flying economy. I had a abundance of legroom behind my own driving position. Arm and headroom were also plentiful.

All doors have a soft strip across them for elbows. There’s a drop-down arm rest even in the base car, and the same chunky, grippy doorcards with a big bottle holder.

Rear passengers get a set of air vents on the back of the centre console, too.

The boot is ridiculous with a class-leading 580-litres (VDA) of space. It’s wide and unimpeded by styling bits, and you can even stow the roller cover under the floor paneling when not in use.

The GX ships with a space-saver spare, but you can upgrade to a full-size alloy spare for $300. If you do so you’ll remove the false-floor paneling.


Holden Trailblazer7/10

Climbing in is easy enough with a sturdy "overhead assist handle" for all comers and goers.

All of the Trailblazer’s seats are mostly comfortable except they are quite flat and hard, which may prove a hindrance over longer trips. The driver’s seat is six-way electrically-adjustable and there is little in the way of lumbar support.

The second row will better suit two passengers than three for long-distance comfort but there is enough room all round – head, shoulders and legs – to avoid most complaints, for a little while anyway.

Third-row passengers will need to be children or those of a shorter stature to cope with the ‘back of the bus’ squeeze – and even then trips should be kept to shorter distances to avoid an in-car riot. It’s not a terrible place to be, in the third row of this thing, but it’s not ideal either – pretty much in keeping with the rear-row offerings of its rivals.

Back up the front again and the dash design is clear, user-friendly and easy to get used to with day-in, day-out use.

There is a fair bit of storage space in the cabin but some of it is awkward to access and actually use. The glove box is big enough to cope with one or two handfuls of bits and pieces. There is a sunglass holder up near the rear-view mirror.

There are two cup holders in front of the small centre console housing the USB port which, when used, eats into that available space.

All doors have a moulded bottle bulge, which wouldn’t cop our CarsGuide water bottle without forceful encouragement.

The second-row passengers get a fold-down centre arm-rest/cup holder when there’s no one sitting in the middle. Passengers in the back also get air vents and manual aircon control.

With all seats up, if you pack to the roof, there is 235 litres of cargo space at the very rear; with the 50/50 split-folding third-row seats folded down, there is 878 litres; with the second-row (60/40 split-fold and tumble) and the third-row seats down, there is 1830 litres of cargo space. There is a retractable cargo blind stowed away under the floor at the rear.

With the second-row seats folded forward, it is easy enough to get into the third-row seats; no contortionist moves required.

There are two 12-volt outlets in the centre dash; one at the back of the centre console (for second-row passengers); and one in the rear cargo area.

Up top, the roof rails are rated to carry 100kg.

Price and features

Toyota RAV48/10

That’s right. The GX manual is the cheapest way to get into a Toyota RAV4 today. Starting at $30,640 (MSRP – before on-road costs) we’d even consider it great value despite the manual 'box.

To understand why you just have to take one look at its specification sheet. Remember, this mid-sizer competes against the (also surprisingly still manual) Nissan X-Trail ST ($29,890), Honda CR-V Vi (auto - $28,290), and Mitsubishi Outlander ES ADAS (auto - $33,290).

If you’re happy milling your own gears, you get better kit than the auto entry-level CR-V, the manual X-Trail ST and even significantly undercut the entry-level Outlander (if you include the fact that the Mitsubishi requires the ADAS pack to even compete on safety).

Included spec on this absolute base car includes not-so-budget stuff like 17-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (which will ship have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto imminently, but if you buy a current-stock car you will have to return to the dealer for a software upgrade), DAB+ digital radio, built-in sat-nav, manual air conditioning (this base grade strips the cool little screens out of the dials), auto LED headlights, a 4.2-inch display in the dash, front and rear parking sensors, and heated auto-folding wing mirrors.

Other regular sort of spec items include six speakers and a reversing camera.

That’s the best kit at this price in the mid-size SUV world by a solid margin. That’s not all though, even this manual RAV4 features the full 'Toyota Safety Sense' suite. More on that in the safety section of this review (spoiler: It’s good).

Among the few giveaways that the GX manual is the cheapest one is the turn-key ignition, cloth seat trim, and urethane steering wheel. Still… are you really going to complain against its unprecedented list of inclusions at this price?

The closest you can get to competing to the base RAV4 on value is possibly the base Forester ($34,690) but you’ll pay to have all-wheel drive and auto.

Options are limited to premium paint (every colour except for ‘Glacier White’ - $600).


Holden Trailblazer7/10

The Trailblazer is available in three spec levels, each with a market-competitive price: base-spec LT (from $47,990, excluding on-road costs), LTZ (which we tested; from $52,490) and the limited-edition Z71 (from $53,490).

But those prices soon start to climb when you add in accessories such as all-weather floor mats ($130 for a pair), boot lip protector ($80) and a rigid cargo barrier ($960). Our test vehicle had a Power Blue (prestige paint) colour on the exterior, at a cost of $550.

All models have the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The 4WD system is a dual-range part-time shift-on-the-fly set-up.

The LT’s standard features include cloth seat covers, 17-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen to go with its Holden MyLink infotainment system, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, front fog lamps, signature daytime running lights, side steps, limited slip diff, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera.

The LTZ gets all of that (although its touchscreen is eight inches) and more: integrated satnav, blind spot alert, forward collision alert and heated front seats and leather-appointed seat trim. It has 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Z71 has all of that gear as well as a distinctive sports look, replete with black bonnet, black mirrors, black exterior door handles, Z71 leather-appointed trim and 18-inch black alloy wheels.

Engine & trans

Toyota RAV47/10

The six-speed manual version of the GX as tested here can only be had with a 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol engine.

Those power figures are so-so and you’ll need to push up the rev-range (and compromise your fuel economy while doing so) to make the most out of them because there’s no turbo.

There are more sophisticated powertrains available in this segment with superior outputs, although not many at this price.

The manual transmission does let you wrangle the most out of this engine, although I was less impressed with the way it feels. More on that in the driving segment.


Holden Trailblazer8/10

The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine punches out 147kW at 3600rpm and its big-gun 500Nm at 2000rpm and is well-matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. This Trailblazer is, on paper, a very good tow vehicle with so much torque available and from down so low.

Its towing capacity is 3000kg (braked), but I’d prefer to see how it fared in a real-world tow test before I pass judgement.

Fuel consumption

Toyota RAV47/10

The manual version of the RAV4 wears a claimed/combined fuel consumption rating of 6.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. That’s pretty low, although nowhere near as low as the Hybrid auto’s amazing 4.7L/100km combined rating.

Over a week of driving in conditions I would consider true to combined freeway/urban driving, I scored 8.0L/100km which is not bad at all considering the RAV4’s size.

The RAV4 drinks base grade 91RON unleaded petrol and a 55L fuel tank. There’s no diesel version this time around.


Holden Trailblazer7/10

Claimed fuel economy is 8.6L/100km (combined). We recorded 9.6L/100km fuel consumption after 200km of mixed driving, including about 30km of gravel tracks, and 10km of hard off-roading. As mentioned earlier, it has a 76-litre fuel tank.

Driving

Toyota RAV47/10

The idea of a six-speed manual with rev-matching technology (complete with three modes) sounds fantastic on paper. Comment section pundits will be overjoyed. The bad news is it’s simply not that great.

It seems to be geared quite tall, and there’s a long throw between each cog. There’s not much feel to it locking in, nor is there any feel through the extremely light clutch pedal, so I admittedly ground the gears on more than one occasion.

As much as I hate to admit it, I prefer the CVT auto in this SUV for the same reasons I believe all SUVs this size should have spongy suspension.

It’s not meant to be a driver’s car. This is a practicality appliance for families that just so happens to have wheels. It should be comfortable and easy to use.

Thankfully, the rest of the RAV4’s drive experience is exactly that. The suspension has a lovely soft comfort-focused tune, and the combination of soft springs and small wheels (shod with relatively high profile rubber) makes for a quiet and refined cabin.

Of course, the trade off is that the RAV4 is hardly a corner carving sport machine, but ask yourself – do you need that?

The steering is very light, making the big body easy to swing around city streets, but it does lose a little feeling at speed.

As already mentioned, the visibility is excellent out of this car, the amenities are easy to use without becoming distractions, and it’s reassuring that the safety stuff is all really rather good.

A riveting drive the RAV4 is perhaps not, but it nails the brief as an easy-to-use family machine.


Holden Trailblazer7/10

The LTZ is 4887mm long (with a 2845mm wheelbase), 1902mm wide (excl mirrors), and 1846mm high. It has a kerb weight of 2203kg.

Its turning circle is 12m but it feels like more of a cumbersome beast when trying to manoeuvre in the bush or in the city, though not enough so for that characteristic to be any sort of deal-breaker.

The tilt-adjustable, electrically assisted steering lacks any reach-adjustment, which is annoying, but it can still be counted on to deliver a precise feel – light at low speeds, heavier at high speeds – when pushing the Trailblazer along at a fair clip on open roads or in and out of corners.

Acceleration seems livelier now; there is more off-the-mark oomph for take-offs and safe, smooth overtaking, even on long gradual climbs, than before. The torquey engine and six-speed auto – with its smooth changes and gear-holding when appropriate – make for a high-achieving combo.

Ride and handling seem better than in Colorado7 guise although the tweaked suspension – Aussie-tuned coil-spring front and coil-spring live-axle rear – and Bridgestone Dueler H/Ts tyres* may account for some of that. However, we did feel some body-roll while driving along back roads, unlike the last time we were in a Trailblazer LTZ. (*The Trailblazer has a full-sized 18-inch spare.)

The locally tuned suspension is, at times, a bit too firm; when we hit heavy bumps and deep potholes on rough gravel tracks several times, we were unsettled because the Trailblazer’s suspension bashed its way over and through.

NVH levels on open-road bitumen can still tend towards the rougher side of things with diesel engine clatter, tyre roar and wind rush clattering a tune on your ear drums.

We completed a series of emergency braking scenarios – on bitumen and dirt – and the Trailblazer’s disc brakes – 300mm at the front and 318mm at the rear – helped rip us into a controlled stop.

Off-road, we had a ball because the beefy Trailblazer seems a much better fit for gravel-track fast blasts and slow-going bush driving than it does for any jaunts in the stop-start city.

Our drive loop included a decent bit of four-wheel driving – coastal sand, bush tracks peppered with rocks of all shapes and sizes, and shallow mud in a dried-out dam. Drive modes can be switched via the centre console dial between 2H, 4H and 4L; high range modes are actually represented by an ‘up’ arrow on the dial; low range is a ‘down’ arrow. Bonus: the Trailblazer’s 500Nm of torque is readily available from way down low.

The Trailblazer has a limited slip diff, 218mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 600mm, which was never tested as our usual creek crossings were so bone-dry they were more like puddles. Approach, departure and ramp-over angles are 28, 25, 22 respectively.

Its armoury of off-road tech – auto hill-start assist, hill-descent control and more – make it almost unstoppable, straight out of the showroom, for anything demanded of it on a light- to medium-difficulty adventure weekend.

Its 76-litre fuel tank, however, hinders any claim it has to off-road touring potential.

The Trailblazer has 3000kg towing capacity (braked); 750kg unbraked.

Note: Holden has persisted with a system which, when you open a door, the front windows automatically slide down a bit, an action aimed at reducing air pressure when you close the doors. It remains annoying but we still weren’t annoyed enough to actually bother to check the owner’s manual for a possible hack to switch it off.

Safety

Toyota RAV49/10

Even though this is a rare manual, it doesn’t miss out on much of the RAV4’s impressive standard active safety suite.

Included is auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist detection day and night), active cruise control (yes, even on the manual), lane departure warning (with lane keep assist), but no ‘lane trace alert’ available on the auto, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

That’s among the best active safety in the entire mid-size SUV category, and it’s all on the manual base model. Toyota’s here to win.

The RAV4 also has an above-average seven airbags, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera (pretty good), and ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer two rear seats.

It also has the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.

Somewhat unsurprisingly once you’ve digested all that, the RAV4 wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (with excellent scores across the four new categories) as of May 2019.


Holden Trailblazer8/10

The Trailblazer range has a five-star ANCAP rating. The LTZ has seven airbags, and electronic stability control (ABS, EBD etc), rear view camera, front park assist, rear parking sensors, forward collision alert, blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a tyre-pressure monitoring system and trailer sway control.

The second row has three child restraint anchor points and one ISOFIX child restraint anchor point.

Ownership

Toyota RAV48/10

The RAV4 is covered by a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty that Toyota thankfully upgraded to earlier in 2019.

But that’s not quite the whole story. If you keep your service record genuine and up-to-date Toyota will cover the engine for an extra two years, and you’ll also be covered by seven years of roadside assist and a 60-day money-back guarantee (if your car should suffer an issue which renders it ‘undrivable’ inside that period).

The five-year base coverage also includes panel work and any genuine accessory you might have fitted.

The RAV4 requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km whichever occurs first, and is covered by a capped price of just $210 (incredibly cheap) for the first four years.

The RAV4 is built in Japan.


Holden Trailblazer7/10

The Trailblazer comes with a three-year/100,000km warranty. Lifetime capped price servicing includes a free inspection at one month, then $299 (at nine months/15,000km), $399 (18 months/30,000km), $479 (27 months/45,000km), $479 (36 months/60,000km) and so on.

(At time of writing, the LT was being offered for $45,990 driveway with a seven-year/175,000 warranty.)

Potential problems might include cumulative driveline wear and tear from people towing heavy loads (horse floats, boats etc).