Toyota RAV4 VS Mazda CX-8
- Good safety gear
- Solid and dependable
- Roomy interior
- Poor media system
- Noisy diesel
- RAV4s are not cheap
- Easier to park than a CX-9, with almost as much space inside
- Much more useful boot than CX-5
- Very comfortable to drive
- Big price jump between Sport and Asaki
- No CarPlay until late 2018
- No petrol option
You can't stand still, even if you're often number one on a car buyer's list and your name is Toyota. Reputation is hard-won and easily lost, and the Japanese company hasn't dropped the ball on that score. Toyota's huge and often top-selling range of SUVs has cemented it's place in the Australian motoring landscape.
The evergreen RAV4 recently enjoyed an upgrade to its specification for the MY18 version. The vast bulk of the MY18 upgrade is to do with the inclusion of a comprehensive list of safety gear to keep it in the ring with the all-conquering CX-5. It hardly needed it - the RAV consistently outsells younger, cheaper rivals with the exception of the Mazda.
With prices up on most models and down on a couple, it's time for a thorough review of the RAV4 range.
Read More: Toyota RAV4 Reviews
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Remember Mr McGreg from The Simpsons who copped the brunt of Dr Nick Riviera? "With a leg for an arm and an arm for a leg."
It may have the long wheelbase and seven-seat layout of a CX-9 but the narrower width of a CX-5, and the headlights from the latter and tail-lights from the former, but it's all for good reasons, and plonks the new model right between the two in Mazda's very appealing SUV line-up.
This is indeed a foot in both the mid-size and large SUV camps, but also gives Mazda an answer to the emerging range of seven-seat mid-sizers like the CR-V, Kodiaq, 5008, X-Trail, Outlander, and upcoming Tiguan Allspace.
Its journey to Australia has not been an easy one, being classified as a Japan-only model when it was revealed late last year and arriving with a relatively limited model line-up and no petrol drivetrain option.
With the coat-tails of CX-5's five-year run as Australia's favourite SUV to ride on, combined with the CX-9's credentials forming the other half of its gene pool, there's a very good chance a lot of Australians will be glad it made the trip.
We were among the first to drive the CX-8 at its Australian launch this week.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
The RAV4 remains a dependable medium SUV with a spacious interior, excellent build quality and a good range of features and options. It's also an expensive option when compared like-for-like against its main rivals from Mazda, Subaru, Hyundai and even Volkswagen. None of them have the pedigree or reputation of the Toyota and that's clearly worth money. But some of them will throw in floor mats.
The best of the RAV4s has to be GXL 2.5 petrol AWD. It tows the most, has the best specification level and is the most competitively-priced.
The RAV4 is almost the default choice in the medium SUV market. Where does it come on your list?
Mazda has taken a little of Column A and a little of Column B to bridge the gap between CX-5 and CX-9 quite nicely. It could only be better with the CX-9s petrol engine and perhaps a few more trim levels, but it's a good thing. Having said that, the sweet spot is definitely the two-wheel drive Sport, because it comes with what I consider to be all the important features, and represents the best value.
Will the CX-8 tempt you up from a CX-5 or down from a CX-9? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The segment in which the RAV4 plays is filled with stylish cars, so Toyota has brought a more interesting styling language for its mid-sizer's exterior design. While not aggressive-looking and there's nothing in the way of a body kit or sport edition, each model has a tiny rear spoiler. Racy it isn't, but there's a clear theme emerging on Toyota SUVs from the C-HR to the Kluger.
The different models are distinguished by wheel designs and a bit more chrome and metallic finishes on the exterior.
The RAV4 is a five-door SUV hardtop (no soft top - sorry folks), with a good wide rear tailgate for access to the cargo area.
You can add a bit of ruggedness with a roof rack or side steps from the dealer accessory list. Extras like a bull bar or nudge bar will require you to look further afield, the same for a snorkel, different rims, wheel arch extensions and more comprehensive tool kit.
Where is the Toyota RAV4 built? Our supply comes from Japan.
Rather than a smaller CX-9, it's fairest to describe the CX-8 as a long-wheelbase CX-5 given it shares all panelwork from the B-pillar forward with the latter. Everything rearward is unique aside from its tail-lights, however.
CX-8 development boss Hideki Matsuoka explains his team started with the CX-9 though, with the seven seat layout a core element of the project. Rear legroom was another key criteria, which is why it uses the CX-9's 2930mm wheelbase to match the large SUV.
The rear doors have been extended accordingly to optimise rear seat access, following a formula only used by the Kodiaq, 5008 and Tiguan Allspace to date.
Retaining the CX-5's 1840mm width was also important for easier manoeuvrability, but it's worth noting that the CX-8's 11.6m turning circle is closer to the CX-9's 11.8 than the CX-5's 11.0.
The 129mm narrower body, shorter front and rear overhangs and 175mm shorter overall length than the CX-9 are certain to be beneficial when parking though.
The net result can look like an elongated CX-5 from the front three-quarter view – surprise, surprise – but in isolation it's yet another fine Kodo-era SUV design.
The interior is a similar package, with the dash and door trims from the CX-5 blending with the split-lidded centre console from the CX-9. Everything rearward is also unique, and the top-spec Asaki's presentation nudges premium brands with actual wood trim on the dash and nappa leather on the seats, particularly in the optional and CX-8-specific 'Dark Russet' colour.
The RAV's interior dimensions are nothing to sneeze at. While size isn't everything in this segment, it certainly helps. Our interior photos illustrate a roomy cabin with good storage space for passengers and luggage capacity, with particularly good rear legroom.
The question of how many seats is easily answered - the RAV4 is a five-seater, there is no third row seat option. Passengers are well-looked after with places to put their things, with four cup holders, bottle holders in each door and on the GXL and Cruiser a decent sized front centre console. The glovebox easily swallows the owners manual.
The boot size is 550 litres. Dropping the seats obviously brings an increase in boot space dimensions and an increase in volume to 1760L. It's a big space once you remove the standard retractable cargo cover. If you trawl through the accessories list you can also add a rubber boot liner and cargo barrier and the roof is ripe for bike racks with roof rails on the GXL and Cruiser. You can have the dealer fit roof rails to the entry-level GX for a price.
Mazda defines the life stage of a typical CX-8 owner as having two kids under their belt and considering a third, with the need to often bring their friends along for the ride.
This sits above the CX-3's 'young people or young couple' profile and the CX-5's 'couple thinking about kids or have a kid', but beneath the CX-9 as the go-to for large families.
The key element of the CX-8's remit is clearly the third row of seats, which has been designed to suit heights up to 170cm, which essentially means taller kids. This 172cm tester found it quite cosy, but possible, so you wouldn't want to push it much further. Legroom is officially within 5mm of the CX-9, but the limiting factor is headroom.
Access to the third row is as easy as you could hope for thanks to those long doors opening 80 degrees, with the second row sliding forward from either side with a single action. The third row also folds flat with a simple single action for either pew.
The second row is really just a narrower version of the CX-9's with the same legroom and ample headroom for this tester. It won't swallow three adults or child seats as comfortably as a CX-9, and you'd need to choose your child seat carefully if attempting the latter.
The sliding second row seat is likely to make for much more comfortable front seating with a rearward facing child seat fitted, too.
On that note, the CX-8 has the same child seat anchorage layout as the CX-9, with ISOFIX mounts for the outward second row seats, and top tether points for all five rear seats.
Despite having a shorter rear overhang than the CX-9, the CX-8 still manages to have a useful 209 litres (VDA) of space in the boot (loaded to the roof) with the third row upright, which expands to 742 litres VDA (loaded to the roof), or a much bigger space than the CX-5 with the third row folded.
Both rear rows fold flat to reveal 1727 litres (VDA) in total, and there's a further 33 litres of underfloor storage.
The CX-8 retains all the other important practicality elements, including bottle holders and cupholders for all three rows, 12-volt and USB points, and there's tri-zone climate control that gives second row passengers an extra zone, but like the CX-9 there's no individual ventilation for the third row.
If you're looking to tow with the CX-8, it carries the same 2000kg braked tow rating as the CX-9, which is 200kg ahead of the figure applied to all CX-5s.
Price and features
There are three trim levels in the RAV4 range - GX, GXL and Cruiser - to which you can then choose fuel type, engine size and number of driven wheels.
How much is a Toyota RAV4? How big is the range? Does Toyota offer drive away pricing? Read on for the answers to these questions, with a price list, specification guide and model comparison from the bottom to the top of the range.
Common to all RAV4s is the 6.1-inch touchscreen which powers the multimedia and sound system, which includes DAB radio, CD player (but no CD changer or DVD player), six speakers (but no subwoofer) and basic smartphone integration via USB or Bluetooth, both iPhone and Android. It works, but the interface is very basic and only baby's fingers can accurately hit the tiny targets.
The media systems still doesn't feature Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but the GPS navigation system slightly cushions the blow of the sub-par infotainment.
The GX opens the range and is available with all three engines. Standard features include 17-inch steel wheels, automatic LED headlights (no HID, projector or xenons here), fog lamps, auto wipers, Bluetooth, remote central locking, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, push button start and daytime running lights.
There are five GXs: the 2.0 manual FWD at $29,450 (up $900) and the GX auto FWD at $31,490 (up $900), which is actually a CVT. Stepping up to the 2.5 auto will cost $34,490 (up $840) and is a proper auto. Another step is the 2.2-litre diesel, starting at $39,060 for the manual and finally the GX auto sells for $41,100 (both up a hefty $2350). More than $41,000 for a car with steel wheels strikes me as a little stiff.
The GXL picks up 18-inch alloy wheels (16 and 17 inch alloys wheels are not available), dual zone climate control (as opposed to the standard ac), smart key with keyless entry and start and privacy glass (a darker window tint on the rear windows).
You have a choice of three GXLs, all automatic - the 2.0 FWD CVT for $35,490 (up a modest $100), the 2.5 AWD is $38,490 (up an even more modest $40) and the 2.2 diesel AWD is $41,100 (again, a whopping $2350 increase).
The premium interior pack is available on the 2.0 GXL FWD and adds heated and power adjustable leather seats with two memory positions while maintaining all the good stuff from the rest of the range, including sat nav.
Step up to the Cruiser and you get what is effectively a GXL with the premium package on any of the available engine options plus different wheels, power tailgate and an 11-speaker JBL-branded stereo with MP3 compatibility. Available in just 2.5 petrol automatic for $44,490 (down $910) and 2.2 diesel for $50,500, the Cruiser escapes the MY18 diesel model price rises.
Toyota's website offers drive away pricing, but you'd be mad not to negotiate on those prices.
Not available are a panoramic sunroof, homelink, seat belt extender, heated steering wheel, or tonneau cover.
Across the range, you can choose from eight colours - Glacier White, Liquid Bronze, Hazel, Silver Sky, Graphite (a charcoal grey), Ink (very dark blue), Blue Gem and Atomic Rush (red).
If you pick the GXL or Cruiser, you have two more to choose from: Crystal Pearl (fancy white) and Peacock Black. Sadly, green is off the menu.
As there is a space-saver spare, Toyota does not supply a tyre repair kit. A steel full-size spare is available for $300, but won't match your alloy wheels if you have them.
Unlike the broad variant spectrum available with other Mazdas, the CX-8 is limited to just two trim levels; Sport and Asaki.
The Sport is available in two- and all-wheel drive configurations, which carry list prices of $42,490 and $46,490 respectively and sit a significant margin beneath the $61,490 Asaki.
The CX-8 Sport slightly undercuts the petrol-only CX-9 Sport by $1400 in either two- or all-wheel drive (AWD) forms.
The nearest diesel CX-5 would be the GT diesel at $46,590, but remember that every diesel CX-5 comes with AWD.
The CX-8 Asaki is only available with AWD, and priced $12,300 more than the top-spec CX-5 Akera, but $3300 less than the top-spec CX-9 Azami. In a nutshell, it's a bit cheaper than the CX-9 at either end of the range.
The Sport's standard feature list includes all the important safety gear, which you can read about in detail below, plus cloth seat trim but leather steering wheel, three-zone climate control, 7.0-inch multimedia screen with sat nav and digital radio, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto until it becomes optional later this year.
Sports also come with a head-up display, active cruise control, LED auto headlights, auto wipers, heated and power folding door mirrors, plus auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and can be best identified on the outside by their 17-inch alloys.
Over the Sport, the Asaki adds things like nappa leather seat trim with power adjustable front seats, seat heaters for the first two rows, a heated steering wheel, Bose stereo, real wood trim, rear window blinds, a power tailgate, proximity keys, a 360 degree camera system, front parking sensors, adaptive headlights, plus LED daytime running lights and fog lights.
Does that sound like an extra $15,000 worth? I'm not sure, particularly given the best way to pick the Asaki on the outside is by its bigger 19-inch alloys.
Mazda expects the two-wheel drive (2WD) Sport to represent 60 per cent of CX-8 sales, with the AWD version just 10 per cent, and the top Asaki making up the remaining 30 per cent.
Engine & trans
The range has three engine options and a choice of 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrains along with three gearbox types. Absent from the range are full EV, plug-in hybrid or LPG versions. Not all engines are available in all specification grades.
The two petrols are both four-cylinder naturally-aspirated engines and available with front wheel drive or AWD. There aren't that many turbo petrol options in this segment, so it's no surprise there isn't one in Toyota's line-up.
The 2.0-litre engine is available in manual or CVT and delivers 107kW and 187Nm. Its towing capacity is listed at 800kg for a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked.
If you want a bit more horsepower or just like a bigger engine size, the 2.5-litre engine is available only in AWD with the six-speed auto. The specifications sheet says it produces 132kW and 233Nm. The 2.5-litre's towing load capacity jumps by quite a lot, with a trailer ratings of 1500kg braked and unbraked at 750kg.
Finally, the 2.2-litre diesel knocks out 110kW and 340Nm. The diesel models are all-wheel drive only but are available in manual if you like a clutch, or a six-speed automatic for those lazy left-leggers out there.
The turbo-diesel, curiously, has less towing capability than the 2.5 petrol, with a 1200kg braked and 750kg unbraked rating. Usually the diesel vs petrol argument is settled on what you can drop on the tow bar, but not here.
Timing belt or chain? The diesel and petrol engines all have timing chains. Each RAV4's battery can be found under the bonnet but is easily accessible. Oil types differ by model, each with varying capacity.
Yes, the CX-8 is diesel only, in a similar way to the CX-9's petrol-only status. The CX-8 was designed exclusively for diesel-loving Japan, which doesn't get the bigger CX-9 which was largely developed to suit petrol-loving US tastes.
Australia's proven love for Mazdas – currently the number two brand in our market - got the local business case across the line, which also included New Zealand. Fun fact: This leaves the Antipodean markets as the only two in the world to retail both CX-8 and CX-9.
The CX-5's relative breadth of drivetrain options comes down to the mid-size SUV's global appeal.
The 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel is the same revised 140kW/450Nm unit fitted recently to the CX-5 and Mazda6. Maximum torque is available from just 2000rpm, which helps mask the six-speed torque converter auto's relatively low ratio count.
AWD versions come with the clever 'i-ACTIV' drive system, which embraces numerous sensors to predict surface changes before the tyre encounters them and react accordingly.
As there are so many drivetrains from which to choose, fuel consumption is a big question.
Claimed fuel economy on the 2.0-litre petrol is rated at 7.7L/100km on the combined cycle, 8.5L/100km for the 2.5 and the diesel is good for 6.7L/100km. If you want to flip that around, you'll get about 13km/L for the 2.0, 11.76km/L for the 2.5 and just under 15km/L on the diesel.
The fuel tank capacity is 60 litres in all variants.
In our testing, the eco mode doesn't do a great deal for the mileage.
The 2WD CX-8 Sport carries an impressive 5.7L/100km official combined fuel consumption figure, and the two AWD variants are only 0.3L behind at 6.0L/100km.
The 2WD CX-8 figure matches diesel CX-5s, which are AWD, and compares with the 8.4 and 8.8 figures applied to 2WD and AWD versions of the CX-9 respectively.
With the 72 litre fuel tank from the 2WD CX-9, this suggests a very impressive theoretical range of 1263km for the 2WD CX-8, or 1200km from the AWDs.
The RAV4 is a classic Toyota - well-built, solidly engineered but not particularly exciting to drive. Let's get the complaints out of the way first, because there aren't many.
Road noise is a little higher than on most of the competition, the former owner of the noise crown being the old Mazda CX-5. While it isn't hugely noisy, it isn't as quiet as most of its competitors. The diesel is a bit clattery around town and when you accelerate for, say, an overtake, it really lets you know what kind of fuel it is drinking.
It also took me a while to find a driving position I liked and the electric power steering is a bit inconsistent and hard to read. Lastly, it's not a lightweight, either, with kerb weights between 1465kg and 1635kg and gross vehicle weight between 2000kg (GX manual) 2280kg (Cruiser diesel auto).
There, that's the worst of it out of the way. In every other way, the RAV4 is an agreeable machine. While not fitted with off road tyres, its off road capabiliity is better than most of its rivals. Part of that is down to the centre diff lock (activated with a button) and a fairly traditional sort of all-wheel drive system.
Toyota does not quote a wading depth so proceed with care should attempt a water crossing.
The suspension can handle a fair bit of punishment and puts the car high in the air, with a ground clearance figure of 197mm. Front suspension is McPherson struts and the rear trailing arm double wishbones with coil springs, which is fairly advanced but mighty good for on-road manners and ride quality. Live rear axle fans will have to look at the Fortuner.
The turning radius is reasonably tight, resulting in a turning circle of 10.6m
None of the models are known for its 0 100 acceleration or top speed performance, but obviously it's not that kind of car. The 2.0-litre in either manual, CVT (FWD) or auto (AWD) form is never going to set the world alight and if you want to tow even a modest load, it's not for you.
Stepping up to the 2.5 petrol fixes the towing issue and, bizarrely, tows the most of any of them. It's a refined, unstressed unit and when matched with the unfussy six-speed automatic, is probably the most relaxed - if not cheapest to run - of the RAVs.
The turbo-diesel is punchy and economical but, ultimately, it would probably come down to range requirements - you won't have to fill up as often in the diesel but it is also the most accomplished on the highway. As mentioned, it's a little noisy and its figures aren't earth-shattering when viewed in comparison with Hyundai, Mazda and Volkswagen.
My first impression behind the wheel is very diesel CX-5, which is of course a good thing.
If you've been following Mazda's recent efforts with refinement in the updated 6 and CX-5, you'll be pleased to know the same formula has been applied to the CX-8. These cars are achieving their goal of troubling the established premium brands for comfort.
You can certainly feel the extra length over the CX-5, and for the most part this means better ride comfort over bumps as there's less pitching forward and backwards.
It also feels longer when chucking a U-turn or parking – don't forget that extra 60cm of turning circle.
As always, the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel makes for relaxed cruising, but you can feel the effect of the extra 200 kilos of weight over the CX-5. It's not quite as spritely, but still more than enough for highway overtaking, and it's still more nimble around corners than a proper large SUV.
The CX-8 would probably be a better package with the CX-9's turbo-petrol, but the diesel's economy will probably win over a lot of buyers, particularly with that huge theoretical range between fills.
The recent MY18 update brought with it a stack of safety features in additional to the seven airbags, ABS, stability control (VSC), traction control and brake assist.
All RAVs now come with Toyota Safety Sense which includes a basic lane assist technology in the form of lane departure warning. Safety Sense also adds auto high beam, forward collision warning and auto emergency braking (AEB).
The RAV4 GXL and Cruiser variants pick up a blind spot monitor system.
As far as park assist technology goes, you have reverse cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking sensors depending on the model.
Your baby car seat can be fitted using the three top-tether anchor points or two ISOFIX points.
The RAV carries a five star ANCAP safety rating, the highest available.
The CX-8 is yet to be tested by ANCAP to see if it's worthy of the maximum five star ratings applied to the CX-5 and CX-9, but an announcement is expected in the near future.
Mazda expects it will get top marks, so our safety score is a tentative on that basis. Do check before signing on the dotted line.
Both trim levels come with airbags covering all three rows, front and rear AEB, reversing camera, rear parking sensors with cross traffic alerts, traffic sign recognition, auto high beams, blind-spot monitoring, lane guidance and lane departure warning.
The Asaki adds rear parking sensors, proximity keys and active headlights.
One feature Japanese CX-8s miss out on, which Australian versions don't, is 'Intelligent Speed Assistance'.
This coordinates the active cruise control with the traffic sign recognition to automatically adjust your speed as you pass through different speed zones. This is likely to be particularly popular with Victorian CX-8 owners...
Toyota offers a standard three year/100,000km warranty, which will give you peace of mind should any problems or issues arise. Toyotas enjoy high reliability ratings and the RAV4 is no different, but should any defects or problems arise, the dealer network is extensive. An extended warranty is also available from dealers.
As for servicing, service cost is dependent on the model and capped price servicing is available, including labour, oil, fluids and some parts. Service intervals come in at six months or 10,000km. Servicing for the petrol-engined cars is capped at $180 per service and for the diesel at $240 per service.
Toyota offers a service called Express Maintenance at some dealers, which puts your car at the front of the queue to get it done while you wait.
Resale value is strong, with few common faults reported in the usual places. Occasional transmission issues or automatic transmission problems have been reported, but generally in older models before 2010. The same goes for power steering issues, but again, these appear on earlier versions of the car. A second hand RAV4 is rarely a bad buy when properly looked after and serviced.
The CX-8 is covered by Mazda's regular three year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is starting to look a bit brief among the many five year and beyond periods on offer from other manufacturers.
The 'Mazda Service Select' capped price servicing plan applies, if 12 month/10,000km intervals are adhered to. Base scheduled maintenance for the first three services will set you back $318, $458 and $318 respectively.