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Toyota RAV4


Mazda CX-3

Summary

Toyota RAV4

An all-new Toyota RAV4 doesn't just happen. Over the life of the model, there have been four generations over 25 years, which suggests that Toyota invests a lot of time and effort in the development of its mid-sized SUVs.

Now there's a fifth-gen version. The Toyota RAV4 2019 model is more advanced, more high-tech, safer, smarter and more spacious than any version that has come before it.

So, what's it like? Presumably pretty good, right? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mazda CX-3

Some cars are just so desirable, so delectably tempting to look at, that they cause people to abandon all logical and practical concerns and buy them anyway. Fortunately, most vehicles in this category of dangerous desirability are stupidly expensive, but when you combine the cuter-than-a-puppy looks of a car like Mazda's CX-3 with a price range that starts in the low $20,000 range, anything can happen.

Throw in the fact that this diminutive darling of a thing is a small SUV - one of the most desirable categories in the Australian market, with sales in the segment doubling in the past five years - and Mazda may need to reinforce the doors in its showrooms with the launch of this new one.

I speak from experience here because my wife loves the look of the CX-3 so much she wanted to buy one. So I explained that it is built on the Mazda2 platform, which means its boot is too small for a family of four, and that the rest of it probably wasn't suitable for us either. But she was still keen.

I know of a young family who bought one because they were so taken with its prettiness, but when they got it home they remembered they had a small child and realised that their pram would never, ever fit in the back. Oh dear.

If you are a young single or a childless couple, of course you can enjoy its alluring looks all you like, and the tight rear seats and small boot volume probably won't bother you at all.

Mazda happily admits the way this car looks is the main reason people buy it, which is no doubt why the new one looks so much like the highly successful old one (more than 58,000 CX-3s have been sold in Australia since its launch in 2015).

So, what actually is new about this incorrigibly cute crossover? We went to the local launch drive to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Toyota RAV48.3/10

This could well be the most complete Toyota model ever made. The brand has nailed the brief with this mid-sized SUV, and in a market where it has traditionally been one of the go-to players, customers now have even more reasons to look at the RAV4 than ever before.

We can't wait to see just how well it stacks up against its rivals in a comparison test. Stay tuned for that.


Mazda CX-37.8/10

If you liked the previous Mazda CX-3 - and just about everyone did - then you're going to love this one even more. It's got a tiny bit more presence, a less busy and more classy interior and marginally better engines with slightly improved fuel economy. Basically, it's a little bit more of the same for this little gem of a compact SUV.

Would you have a Mazda CX-3 over a Mitsubishi ASX, on looks alone? Tell us in the comments section.

Design

Toyota RAV48/10

This is perhaps the most masculine RAV4 ever - it's like the brand is trying to appeal to dads this time around, as well as mums.

And while it might look like it has take a step up in size, a lot of that comes down to the exterior design and the platform the brand has built the new model off.

The dimensions are as follows: the new model is 4600mm long in GX, GXL and Cruiser guise - which is 5mm less than the previous model. The Edge version is a touch longer at 4615mm. In terms of width, the new model is 1855mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) and 1865mm broader in Edge guise - so, 10mm and 20mm wider than the old model. As for height, the new model is 1685mm (GX, GXL, Cruiser) or 1690mm (Edge), which is 30mm/25mm lower than the existing model.

That translates well to interior dimensions, too - there's plenty more space, and the cabin has a lot more design flare than it used to.

But the exterior design is the real talking point - the comments on our Facebook walk around video were divided, but I reckon in person it looks really beefy. The standout is the Edge model, which brings a different look - it gets a model-specific front bumper design, grille, skid plate, wheel-arch mouldings, fog-lamp surrounds and rear bumper. It also rides on distinctive 19-inch alloys.

Lower grade models also look pretty slick, and even the low-grade GX with its 17-inch rims looks pretty smart, especially in the bright blue hue.

You'll have to use your imagination to figure out what it would look like with side steps, or a body kit with a more outlandish rear spoiler... though we have no doubt someone will do it. And hey, if you wish there was another soft top version of the RAV4 like we saw way back in the 1990s, you'll be sadly disappointed - it's a hardtop only affair.

Check out the interior photos to see what you make of the fake leather trim... More on the interior below.


Mazda CX-39/10

In the right light, in the right colour, (obviously the hugely popular red), the CX-3 can move beyond being just small and sweet looking and reach the point of genuinely striking. There's a lovely, criss-crossing line that swinges down the sides, crossing over at its mid point. It's what Mazda calls pure Kodo design - simple, sleek and slightly sexy.

The angle most people fall in love from, though, is front on, with the CX-3's toothy grin only slightly changed for this new version with a new "more assertive" grille, with a  solid, detailed design featuring horizontal bars of different thicknesses.

The goal here, as CX-3 program manager Takata Minoru explained, was to make "no unnecessary changes" and only to "refine the beauty and enhance the quality feel".

The new grille is supposed to give the car a sharper look and a greater feeling of depth, but to us it just looked like a new grille. Mazda says the new car is defined by being "exquisite" and "edgy", but it's not clear what that means in terms of new-ness.

The sTouring and Akari grades get a new line of chrome along the front bumper and sides, which is pleasant enough, while there are also new fog light bezels in gloss black on Maxx Sport variants and above. 

Oh, and the rear lights, in the top two grades, have adopted a cylindrical shape for the facelift version, because round things are classier than square ones. Apparently.

Colours, of course, in a car so pretty and feminine, are a big deal, and there are now eight to choose from - 'Soul Red Crystal Metallic' (as opposed to just Soul Red Metallic) and 'Machine Grey Metallic' are new and join 'Dynamic Blue Mica', 'Titanium Flash Mica', 'Jet Black Mica', 'Snow Flake White Pearl Mica', 'Ceramic Metallic' and 'Eternal Blue Mica'.  Brown is not an option, happily.

In short, it's a good looking car, much like the old one, and it's hard to imagine a vehicle of this size and shape being any more attractive. It's surprising, then, to learn that the CX-3 is only the second-best seller in its segment, behind the Mitsubishi ASX. 

Ground clearance for the CX-3 is 160mm unladen. So, no rock hopping then.

Practicality

Toyota RAV48/10

The cabin of the new RAV4 is a big step up in quality, but also in terms of space smarts.

There is good storage available throughout, with a cup holder count of four (two front, two rear in the fold-down armrest), bottle holders in all four doors, and reasonable loose item storage up front near the shifter, between the seats, and even a small Kluger-like shelf in front of the front passenger. Rear seat occupants get a map pocket, and it's not one of those nasty mesh ones.

Human room is really good, too.

Up front there's great seat comfort and pretty good levels of adjustment, though the front passenger seat is quite high in all models, and you can't get electric front passenger adjustment on any model.

The second-row space is exceptional - possibly class leading, in fact. I'm 182cm (six-feet in the old money) and with the driver's seat set to my position I had inches of legroom space, good toe wiggle room, good shoulder room and excellent headroom. If you're a parent with tall teens, this will definitely do the trick - and if you're kids are little, there's easily enough room for a pair of child seats (maybe even three, but we'll have to get CarsGuide Family reviewer Nedahl Stelio to conduct that test on the new RAV4!).

The luggage capacity is a big improvement, too - the boot size is now 580 litres, up 33L on the existing model, with the boot space dimensions extended by 65mm. The boot also features a reversible liner for the dual-level boot floor setup, and there's a cargo cover (or tonneau cover, if you prefer) for the storage space as well. Fleet buyers or dog owners will be able to get a cargo barrier at some point, too. My main complaint for the boot is the electric tailgate system is quite slow.

The GXL, Cruiser and Edge models are fitted with roof rails - helpful for adding a roof rack system.


Mazda CX-37/10

Considering the external dimensions of the car, the CX-3 does quite well. Allow me to illuminate you with my own example, which is that I recently spent 10 days driving one of these around Italy, with my wife and two young children on board, plus a significant amount of luggage. 

I had sleepless nights before picking up the car, because I was sure we'd never get it all in, or be able to breathe if we did, but not only did we fit, we were quite comfortable and happy with the luggage capacity.

Rear leg room is just bearable for an adult, but no problem at all for small kids (although it wouldn't suit teens). The boot space, at 264 litres, is very small, and even calling it adequate seems generous. What it will not fit, though, due to its narrow dimensions, is a pram of any sort, so young families should look elsewhere. Although if they don't, there are two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points for child seats.

The biggest change for the new model in cabin terms is the inclusion of an electronic park brake, which has allowed Mazda to include a new centre console/armrest, with two handy cup holders of different sizes, there are also bottle holders in all four doors, and (for Maxx Sport spec and above) a rear armrest with two more cupholders).  

Indeed, Mazda says the cupholders have had their depth and diameter revised so they can now fit giant, American-sized cups if required.

That centre console also offers useful, deep storage and there are two USB points handily located in front of the shift lever. The control buttons for the MZD media system are also more ergonomically positioned thanks to the electronic park brake.

The rear seat armrest, with built in storage box, is said to "embody the human-centred philosophy by increasing comfort and reducing fatigue". I know I always find that armrests make me less tired, but then I wouldn't volunteer to sit in the back of a CX-3 anyway. 

The overall goal with the new interior was to make it more minimalist and Japanese, and when you compare it with photos of the old one it does look less busy and less cluttered, with classy touches here and there. That is only slightly offset by the cheaper, harder feeling plastics around the doors on their armrests.

Top-shelf Akari models come with genuine leather seats in black or white, sTouring gets grey with black leatherette and everything beneath that gets a black interior with black cloth seats. 

A sunroof is available on the Akari models.

Price and features

Toyota RAV49/10

How much is a Toyota RAV4? Well, that depends on which model in the range you choose. Here's a price list - model by model - that should act as a guide to the trim levels. These prices are before on-road cost (also known as RRP), but not drive away prices. You may have to wait a little while for deals.

The line-up kicks off with the GX, the standard features levels are generous.

Standard gear includes auto LED headlights (hoorah - no xenon, projector or HID bulbs!), taillights and daytime running lights as well as LED front fog lamps, heated and folding electric exterior mirrors, auto wipers, 17-inch alloy wheels with temporary spare (optional full-size wheel available), fabric seat trim, a urethane steering wheel, air conditioning with rear vents, an 8.0-inch multimedia touch screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a sound system with six speakers stereo, AM/FM/DAB radio, one USB port, plus a GPS navigation system with SUNA live traffic is standard - yep, sat nav on every model.

There is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto - yet. The brand has announced it will be fitting the iPhone iOs / Android mirroring tech to all models from the fourth quarter of this year, and every version sold before then can be retrofitted with the integration. No DVD player, though, and no CD player or CD changer. You'll just have to upgrade to the MP3 age, man.

Hybrid GX models add dual-zone climate control AC and smart key / keyless entry central locking with push button start. All GX models get an electric park brake and rear mudflaps.

The safety on offer is also solid, with all grades getting auto emergency braking with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee).

Next up the model range is the GXL, which adds roof rails, window tint at the rear, 18-inch wheels with a 17-inch temporary spare, front and rear mudflaps, "premium embossed fabric seats", a leather steering wheel and shifter, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone climate control, Qi wireless phone charging, keyless entry and push-button start.

The camera has active guidance lines on the display, plus you get three front USBs and two rear USBs.

Third up the ranks is the Cruiser grade, which is visually differentiated by a silver grille, chrome door handles, a "moon roof", 19-inch alloy wheels with a temporary 18-inch rims for the petrol versions (18-inch black alloys with a temporary 17-inch spare for hybrid versions).

The Cruiser's interior almost feels like it has been with the "premium package", with leather-accented seats, heated front seats, 10-way electric driver's seat adjustment with memory settings, leather-accent door trims, a 7.0-inch driver info display, ambient lighting, a reversing camera with a 360-degree monitor, a power tailgate and a nine-speaker JBL sound system with subwoofer.

Top of the range in the model comparison is the RAV4 Edge, which almost looks like a sport edition for outdoorsy people. It can be had in "Jungle Khaki" paint - none of the others can - and inside there is "Softex" fake leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, but the driver's seat weirdly loses the memory function. A panoramic sunroof is optional ($1300) in this grade.

No model comes with a heated steering wheel, nor is any equipped with a seat belt extender or Homelink smart garage door opening. But you will find a tool kit and a spare wheel under the boot floor in each instance - no tyre repair kit here.

On the topic of colours (or colors, if that's how you spell it where you're reading this), there is only one no-cost option colour in the range - Glacier White. The other options are Crystal Pearl (white - not available on GX or Edge), Silver Sky (not available on Edge), Graphite (grey), Eclipse Black, Atomic Rush Red, Eclectic Blue and Saturn Blue (dark blue - not available on Edge). There is no proper green hue, to speak of, but the Jungle Khaki paint for the Edge is close enough.

As for accessories, you should be able to get floor mats in every one of these straight off the showroom floor, and you should be able to get a bull bar, nudge bar or snorkel if you shop around.

How many seats in the RAV4? Five is the answer - there is no third row seat setup, so if you need seven seats, you'll have to shop up to a Kluger or Fortuner.


Mazda CX-38/10

Comparing the differences between the CX-3 range, there really is a variant for all budgets, with an entry price of $23,990 drive-away for the Neo Sport with a six-speed manual, cloth seats and steel wheels, rising all the way to $37,490 for the leather-filled, sunroof-topped Akari LE, which gets some impressive tech previously only seen in German cars, like a driver-attention monitor and radar cruise control with full stop and go functionality. 

Prices have risen over the previous model, but Mazda says this pricing reflects the fact that you're getting more equipment in the new version. 

You are also, undeniably, getting a less busy and more classy interior, although the changes to the exterior design are so small you wouldn't want to be paying for them. Nor would you want to change a look that is this pretty, and successful.

Standard kit for your $23,990 drive-away Neo Sport (that's manual, auto adds another $2000) includes 16-inch steel wheels, body-coloured powered mirrors, black cloth front seats with height adjustment, electric parking brake, Bluetooth functionality, a 7.0-inch full-colour 'MZD Connect' touchscreen to control your infotainment and sound system with DAB and six speakers (but no CD player and no GPS), and a multi-function 'Command Control', plus keyless start, rear parking sensors, a reversing carer and 'Smart City Brake Support', which works in both forward and reverse. It's a (very) good-looking package at a tempting price.  Apple CarPlay, which would helpfully allow you to run navigation from your iPhone in the base model, is not yet available, but it's coming soon, and a kit to retrofit it will be available at Mazda dealers in the near future.

The Maxx Sport adds 16-inch alloys, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a fold down armrest with two cupholders for the rear passengers, leather-wrapped gear shift knob and steering wheel, climate-control air con, sat nav, 'Blind Spot Monitoring' and 'Rear Cross Traffic Alert'.

Step up to the sTouring and win 18-inch alloy wheels, LED lights all round, slightly nicer black 'Maztek' and cloth seats, a handy head-up display, keyless entry and start, 'Driver Attention Alert', from parking sensors and 'Traffic Sign Recognition'.

The Akari does feel noticeably nicer inside with its softer dash material and leather seats in white or black, plus 'Mazda Radar Cruise Control' with start-stop function, a 360-degree view monitor and adaptive LED headlights and lane-departure warning.

Personally, I'd be quite happy with my value at $25,490 for a manual Maxx Sport. Indeed, it's a bit of a bargain.

The prices we've listed here are drive-away (no more to pay!), which is something new for Mazda and does provide wonderful clarity.

Engine & trans

Toyota RAV47/10

If you love nothing more than deciphering specifications and ratings, you're in for a treat.

The GX, GXL and Cruiser can be had with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which is only available in front-wheel drive layout, but can be had with either a six-speed manual transmissions (GX only) or CVT auto gearbox (GXL and Cruiser). The 2.0-litre motor is good for 127kW of power and 203Nm of torque.

Stepping up in engine size, the GX, GXL and Cruiser models are also available with a 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid, which teams a four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine (with 131kW and 221Nm) to an 88kW/202Nm electric motor. The total combined power output is 160kW for the 2WD. The figure jumps to 163kW for the AWD, which gets an additional on-demand 40kW/121Nm electric motor at the rear axle. As is Toyota's way, there's no combined torque figure. All hybrid models run a CVT automatic transmission as standard, and you can run on EV mode under light loads.

The top-spec Edge variant is the only model not available with a hybrid powertrain. Instead, it cops a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder engine with 152kW of power and 243Nm of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic transmission, and comes with all-wheel drive - the AWD system can split torque between 100 per cent front bias down to a 50:50 ratio front/rear, and rear-axle dynamic torque vectoring. It's not a proper 4x4 system, but Edge models also get a terrain select system with mud & sand, rock & dirt, and snow modes.

Now if you're wondering about the diesel vs petrol argument, forget it - there's no turbodiesel available. Nor is there an LPG model, and there's no plug in hybrid either. No turbo petrol, either.

Towing capacity varies depending on the model - but it's safe to say that if you plan on fitting a tow bar and pulling a large load, you ought to get a version with AWD as the load capacity is bigger and better.

The GX/GXL/Cruiser 2WD (or 4x2) petrol models can deal with 800kg braked towing, while the 2.5L AWD Edge model has a maximum braked towing capacity of 1500kg.

The GX/GXL/Cruiser front wheel drive hybrid models offer a measly 480kg maximum towing, while the AWD hybrid models match the Edge, with 1500kg braked towing.

No gross vehicle weight is specified, but the RAV4 range spans from 1515kg (kerb weight) for the entry-level petrol up to 1745kg for the AWD hybrid.

If you're concerned about manual transmission issues, clutch and gearbox complaints, automatic transmission problems, or battery concerns, check out our Toyota RAV4 problems page.


Mazda CX-37/10

Mazda is offering a new SKYACTIV-D turbo-diesel engine with the CX-3 -  which has increased in capacity from 1.5 to 1.8 litres, which takes power from 77kW up to 85kW, while torque stays at 270Nm - but you have to wonder why. Mazda Australia predicts the diesel will make up a measly one per cent of sales, which probably explains why they didn't bring one along to the launch for us to drive.

Almost everyone, then, will be choosing the revised  SKYACTIV-G 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine, which makes 110kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 2800rpm, an increase of exactly one kilowatt  and three newton metres from the previous model. 

Changes to the engine have focused on improving fuel consumption, and variations in that consumption caused by seasonal changes and usage patterns. Apparently the new version offers improved combustion efficiency when under heavy load - climbing hills for example - and thermal-management tech to reduce excess fuel consumption when it's cold outside.

New high-pressure injectors also help to improve torque delivery, with the amount of torque on offer throughout the rev range increased by "one to two per cent". Fuel economy is also improved by the same percentages. Not huge improvements, then. 

You can also choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic transmission, and between front-wheel or all-wheel drive (not on the base Neo Sport, though). Not surprisingly, for a city crossover like this, 92 per cent of CX-3s sold will be FWD, and 90 per cent will be automatics. 

Having driven the manual version myself on holiday, I would highly recommend it, because it allows you to get the most out of the engine. With a weight of 1266kg it's useful to be able to get involved in shifting.

The CX-3's engine uses a timing chain rather than a belt and you should check our problems pages to see if there are any reports of problems with automatic transmissions.

Fuel consumption

Toyota RAV49/10

The 2.0-litre petrol model claims official combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres for the manual, and 6.5L/100km for the auto. We've leave you to figure out the km/l numbers!

Fuel economy for the 2WD hybrid is 4.7L/100km, while the AWD uses a claimed 4.8L/100km -two new petrol benchmarks for the segment. It's like an eternal eco mode!

Fuel use for the Edge's AWD 2.5L engine is 7.3L/100km - this engine is only in the Edge model, yet it still undercuts most of its rivals with similarly-sized engines and AWD.

The fuel tank capacity is 55 litres in size across all models, but it's fair to say your mileage will vary based on the drivetrain.

On test, I was extremely impressed by the dash-displayed average in the AWD hybrid models I drove - 5.5L/100km in the car that we drove through the city and outskirts of Adelaide to the hills; and 5.8L/100km for the version that did a longer freeway stint.

The Edge model saw a return of 10.5L/100km displayed, while the GX 2.0L manual indicated 8.3L/100km, and the GX 2.0L CVT was showing 9.2L/100km.


Mazda CX-38/10

One of the aims of upgrading the CX-3's engine was better fuel economy, and yet the Mazda engineers admit they managed an improvement of just "one to two per cent" on the 2.0-litre petrol engine and 3 per cent with the diesel, which has grown from 1.5 to 1.8 litres and still manages to use slightly less fuel, at an impressive 4.7L/100km.

The 2.0 petrol has claimed figures of 6.6L/100km for the FWD manual, 6.3L/100km for the FWD auto and 6.7L/100km for the AWD automatic. People who are chasing better economy would go for the diesel, but customers for this car obviously aren't that bothered, or are happy with mid-sixes, because Mazda tips just one per cent of sales will be the diesel.

Driving

Toyota RAV48/10

The all-new RAV4 lives up to our expectations.

The brand has some form when it comes to vehicles that have been built off the "Toyota New Generation Architecture", or TNGA, which underpins the new Corolla, Camry, C-HR and Prius. So we expected the RAV4 to be good to drive, more fun than the last one and more confident and refined, too. And it is.

The drivetrains are perhaps the most impressive piece of the puzzle - and yes, the hybrid is the standout. The way the petrol engine, CVT transmission and electric motors work together to ensure the best propulsion in any given circumstance is, quite frankly, excellent.

There is easily enough performance for the vast majority of families, too - sure, you won't be bragging about a scorching "0 100 acceleration" time, but the hybrid RAV4 gathers speed with less effort than you might think, as the battery can give you a boost when you plant your right foot.

And it doesn't sound bad, either, aside from a little bit of whirring from the drivetrain at lower revs. There's a little bit of road noise to contend with - the bigger the wheels, the thinner the tyres, the more noise you'll notice - but it's never deafening, even in the back seat.

The braking confidence of the hybrid model is good too - there's very little of that 'wooden' feel that some hybrid brake pedals exhibit, and it pulls up strongly.

I thought the 2.0-litre base petrol engine might feel undercooked - but it isn't. It's really quite vibrant. I sampled it with the six-speed manual (which was an absolutely charmer - admittedly one that will only account for about two per cent of sales) and the CVT auto, which is going to be vastly more popular.

It isn't a 'regular' CVT - like the Corolla it has the brand's 'Launch Gear' system, a conventional mechanical first gear that then steps across to a variable ratio when it reaches 'second' gear. It worked an absolute treat, and I was impressed by the amount of power available, and likewise the refinement of the engine. It's better than you think it might be.

The 2.5-litre non-hybrid in the Edge model has a bit more of a raucous nature to it. The eight-speed automatic does a real good job, and some people will prefer that to a CVT auto for obvious reasons. It was gusty and eager, and on the rainy test loop we drove it, the mechanical all-wheel drive system did a great job at stopping it from spinning up the front tyres, pushing power to the rear axle with a pleasant (yet very minor) drivetrain thunk.

But with the drivetrain tech being so finessed in the hybrid, it's hard to see why you would choose the top-spec Edge over one of the more affordable petrol-electric versions... aside from the look, of course.

As for ride comfort, things are mostly pretty good. There's a bit of jitter at higher speeds over less-than-perfect surfaces, but it was comfortable enough on the highway, and even better around town - an important stipulation, given most people will spend a lot of time running around in their RAV4.

The electric power steering is very nice - predictable and accurate, with some feel to proceedings that other SUVs in the segment simply can't match. It's engaging to drive, and a huge improvement over its predecessor in that regard.

And if you're interested in how the tech performed, the blind spot monitor came in handy because there's quite a blind-spot over your shoulder when you driving, and while the lane departure warning is a little eager, the lane assist system that keeps you centred on highways is quite handy.

If you're wondering about off road specs, here are the details: approach angle - 17.5 degrees; departure angle - 20.0 degrees; break-over / ramp-over angle - not listed; ground clearance mm - 195mm for petrol models, 190mm for hybrids.

How does that translate to off road capability? Luckily, for this launch review, we had a chance to sample the RAV4 in the rough stuff at JAKEM farm outside Adelaide - and look, the tracks that were chosen were probably doable in a Corolla, for the most part, but there was a section of moguls where we managed to get a feel for the hybrid version's active torque split and torque vectoring system (for the rear axle) and it was pretty capable, even on big wheels. The off road drive modes help in that regard, allowing the VSC (stability control system) more leeway, and the Edge model has a centre diff lock, too.

That could be the biggest downfall of the RAV off-road - the rim sizes are big. You might want to fit some 17 inch alloy wheels or steelies with off road tyres, instead of the 18s and 19s that are on higher-grade versions. Sure, they mightn't look quite as tough under the Edge's wheel arch extensions, but the grip improvements could be worth it if you're serious about adventure.

We didn't get to test the wading depth of the RAV4 - and the brand doesn't state a figure, as such. But the 11.0-metre turning radius meant it was easy to pivot through tighter corners off road. The front suspension was a marginally more resolved than the rear over choppy surfaces, but honestly, I wouldn't be thinking of this as a successor to the FJ Cruiser - even if it does have funky design on its side.

One omission is a downhill brake assist system, or hill descent control. You can get that on some rivals in this segment.


Mazda CX-38/10

In a world of constant downsizing, a 2.0-litre engine might sound brutish and bold in a car of this size, but 110 is certainly not an overpowering number of kilowatts. As a result, the petrol-powered CX-3 feels spry and sprightly, but certainly never sporty.

There is a Sport button you can press, but all it seems to do is hold the gear you're in for longer, causing the engine to drone on like a Peter Dutton speech, and not really making much happen in excitement terms.

A sports car this is not, obviously, so perhaps the words "more than adequate" are best for describing the car's performance. You're not going to fly up any hills, but you can zip off traffic lights with reasonable aplomb, and you're never genuinely found wanting for power. More torque would be nice for overtaking, but you could choose the diesel for that (if you're a ‘one percenter'). 

One of Mazda's goals with the new CX-3 was improving NVH and they've done a stellar job with that. While the old car was bit of a buzz box at times, the new one is far quieter and more refined in terms of road-noise intrusion, but if you are tempted to push on, the noise from the engine remains strident, and at times strained. 

In most driving conditions, however, it's a pleasant cabin to be in, with negligible road noise (although it's more noticeable with the optional 18-inch wheels). And if you do enjoy a slightly lower driving position, you have the ability to drop your chair to a point where you feel more like you are sitting in the car rather on it.

The newly fettled electronic power steering is sharp and fun to use, falling at that point just before it becomes too light and wafty to give proper feedback. The engineers concentrated on "rolling plushness", which is the feel you get through the wheel, basically, and produced an 18 per cent reduction in buzziness through the steering wheel.

Ride control is good over most surfaces - and with ground clearance of 155mm you won't  be going too far off road - but there's still a bit clatter over really sharp impacts. Overall, it's a very comfortable cruiser, even on our more brutal country roads. Mazda says it worked on "reducing choppiness", or vertical body movement, and it seems to have succeeded.

Cornering is something you can actually enjoy, if you care for that kind of thing, and this CX-3 benefits from Mazda's 'G-Vectoring Control' (GVC), which is meant to provide "neutral cornering" by minutely reducing torque output to the appropriate wheel to cancel out understeer, or oversteer moments.

It's all about giving the driver that sense of "oneness" with their vehicle that Mazda likes to call "Jinba-ittai" - horse and rider as one. In terms of horsepower and performance figures, they're not something CX-3 buyers are going to worry too much about, clearly, as Mazda makes no mention of  the car's 0-100km/h time. A bit of research uncovered the fact that it ranges from 9.0sec for the manual to 9.5 for the auto.  Not terrible, then.

Overall, much like the Mazda2 this vehicle is based on, the CX-3 is one of those cars that is genuinely as much fun as it looks, and slightly more fun than you expect it to be.

Throw in its good looks, economical engines and reasonably affordable pricing and it's a complete package. Up until the point where you have kids, and you're forced to upgrade to something that can actually carry a pram.

Safety

Toyota RAV48/10

At the time of writing, the hasn't yet been an ANCAP safety rating awarded to the new RAV4 - but the company has stated it anticipates a five-star score under the strict 2019 criteria.

A lot of that comes down to the features available in the new model - and there's plenty of safety tech fitted across the entire range.

All grades are fitted with auto emergency braking (AEB) with day/night pedestrian detection and daytime cyclist detection, lane keeping assist (manual models with a slightly lower-grade system), adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go for auto models, high-speed only for manuals), auto high beam lights, road sign recognition and alerts, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

That spec list is strong, but it doesn't have rear AEB which you get on every CX-5, and there's no head-up display, either. That, combined with an unknown safety score, mean the model range can't quite get a top score here.

All models have a reverse camera along with front and rear parking sensors, but there's no semi-autonomous park assist like you'll find in a Tiguan.

Every RAV4 has seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain and driver's knee), and there are dual ISOFIX baby car seat attachments, and three top-tether hooks, too.

Where is the Toyota RAV4 built? Australian-delivered models are sourced from Japan.


Mazda CX-38/10

Mazda says its new CX-3 is part of its "aim for a safe and accident-free automotive society", which means the company is living slightly in dream land, but at least you know it's thinking about safety.

The 360-degree view monitor is very handy, but you can only have it on the Akari, where you'll also get eight parking sensors, while the base model makes do with rear ones only. 

Indeed, the base model goes without most of the safety goodies that are sprinkled across the more expensive variants - blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, traffic-sign recognition, adaptive LED headlamps, driver-attention alert (with a coffee cup popping up to remind you that you might be tired) and the very handy, almost autonomous radar cruise control with full stop and go function. 

What you do get on the entry Neo Sport is 'Smart City Brake Support', which works when moving forwards or backwards and is basically Mazda's name for AEB. The system works with both cars and pedestrians at speeds of up to 80km/h. The previous CX-3 received a maximum five-star ANCAP rating.

Ownership

Toyota RAV49/10

Toyota recently introduced its new customer promise - a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, which can be extended to seven years extended warranty provided your car has "logbook servicing" - and that doesn't necessarily have to have been carried out by Toyota's own dealer workshops, either.

The brand also has a capped price servicing plan for the RAV4, and no matter the model, the service cost is the same - $210 per maintenance visit, and these are due every 12 months/15,000km, whichever occurs first. That's incredibly good value.

If you're concerned about potential problems or common faults - possibly around battery defects or or issues - Toyota will do a "battery health check" at the five-year point, and will monitor the battery health every year thereafter, with the warranty for that part of the hybrid model drivetrain spanning 10 years.

Our Toyota RAV4 problems page is the best destination if you want to understand reliability ratings find out common complaints, and it should even give you an idea about resale value, too. Oh, and while you might find the info online, it also pays to check the owners manual for info on oil type, capacity and consumption.


Mazda CX-37/10

Surprisingly, Mazda claims its customers are completely unconcerned by the fact that it doesn't offer free roadside assistance as part of its new and improved five-year warranty, although it does occasionally offer it as a promotional thing. I'd be negotiating hard to have it included in the price. 

The five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, from Mazda Motor Corporation itself, is a real selling point, however.

Servicing is due every 10,000km or 12 months and the first one will cost you $289, the second $317, third $289, fourth $317 and fifth $289. Seems to be a pattern there.