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Toyota RAV4


Nissan Patrol

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

Nissan Patrol

Everyone has a guilty pleasure. A sneaky drive-thru burger, Katy Perry on your iPod, or watching The Golden Girls while dressed as SpongeBob. Okay, so maybe not everyone has that last one.

The urban tank that's currently dominating your screen is mine. It occupies enough real estate to support a medium-density sub-division, weighs a sprightly 2.7 tonnes, and is powered by a 5.6-litre V8 that slurps premium unleaded at an ecologically obscene rate.

But it’s soooooo good.

The eight-seat Y62 Nissan Patrol Ti is so clearly built for the ‘Murican market (where it’s called the Armada) it’s a safe bet the human hairpiece has one in the presidential fleet.

A week behind the wheel should have had us sneering, but all we could do was smile.

Safety rating
Engine Type5.6L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency14.4L/100km
Seating8 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.


Nissan Patrol7.4/10

The Nissan Patrol Ti is stress-relief on wheels, designed to help you navigate urban family life in quiet and calm comfort. It’s not perfect, using up a reasonable chunk of the planet’s resources in its construction, consuming more than its fair share of precious gasoline, and assaulting many people’s view of what constitutes good automotive taste. But next time you’re sobbing through a YouTube compilation of military homecoming videos, consider the Patrol. Maybe it’s time to set that guilty pleasure free?

Is this Patrol too big and beefy, or right-sized for your family needs? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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.


Nissan Patrol6/10

Roy and HG dubbed rugby league legend (and political enigma) Glenn Lazarus ‘The brick with eyes’, and it’s not a bad take on the current Patrol’s mammoth presence.

At more than 5.1-metres long, just under two-metres wide, and close to two-metres tall, this is a substantial beast. You’ve never seen 18-inch rims look so small.

Subtle bulges around the wheel arches and along the bonnet go some way to softening the large regions of only subtly contoured sheet metal. The front and rear bumpers are neatly integrated into the flow of the body, and the flashy, three-part chrome grille boldly announces the big Nissan’s arrival.

The profile is bread-box geometric, with more bright metal finish on the window surrounds, door handles, front guard vents and proudly positioned V8 badges. At the back, the Patrol’s upright stance is clear, with more chrome above the licence plate, and oddly intricate LED tail-lights that look like aftermarket specials from Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district.

Vast expanses of high-quality leather cover the faces of the classy and oh-so-comfortable seats, while a mix of gentle curves and arrow-straight borders define the dash and centre console.

But then it’s as if ‘he of the tiny digits’ choppered in and demanded custom touches, like yet more chrome around the console, instruments and key controls, as well as broad bands of high-gloss timber you’d swear was fake, but Nissan says is in fact “high-grade wood” trim.

But aesthetics is always a subjective call, and from a functional point of view the interior layout works beautifully. The switchgear is clean and simple, the multimedia interface is straightforward and intuitive and the ergonomics are thoughtful and considered.

That said, niggles include a steering wheel that just won’t come up high enough (or a driver’s seat that won’t adjust low enough), the lack of a digital speedo read-out, multiple blanked-out switches at the base of the centre stack (not a good look), and an awkward, US-style pedal-operated parking brake. Curse you, middle America.

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.


Nissan Patrol9/10

Space is something this vehicle has in abundance, and with a wheelbase of close to 3.1 metres, passengers are well taken care of. Actually, five out of eight passengers. But it’s likely the third-row seat will be a kid-zone anyway, and if they’re not old enough to vote, they’re not old enough to complain.

The fortunate pair up front will luxuriate in broad but supportive chairs, with heaps of storage on offer, including a giant central console box (with a nifty two-way lid that provides access for rear seaters), a pair of large cupholders, a generous glove box, and big door pockets with space for bottles. There’s also a drop-down sunglass holder in the roof, a 12-volt outlet, as well as USB and auxiliary line-in media sockets.

Second-row accommodation is probably best measured in hectares, but suffice it to say there’s plenty of room. With the driver’s seat set to this 183cm-tester’s position, head and legroom is limo-like, and there’s even enough width for three grown-ups.

Roof-mounted air-con vents are controlled by a digital panel in the back of the front centre console, there are specific reading lights, big bottle bins in the doors, and a pair of small-ish cupholders in the folding centre armrest.

Yes, third-row legroom is tight for adults, but access is easy thanks to a simple fold-and-roll function on both sides of the centre-row seat. Once back there, the kids have no less than four bottle/cupholders at their disposal, as well as air vents in the roof. And the third row can slide through 20mm for more legroom or storage space.

Even with the third-row seats upright there’s 550 litres of cargo space available. Enough to hold the CarsGuide pram (on its side), or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). Plus there’s a full-width stowage box under the floor. For reference, a full-size Holden Commodore sedan’s boot holds 495 litres.

In this configuration, there are still six cargo tie-down shackles available, with a light and 12-volt outlet also provided. There’s also a full-size (alloy) spare wheel.

Fold the third-row forward, and capacity increases to 1490 litres, which is enough to swallow the pram and luggage set, with room to spare.

Flatten both the rear rows and it’s like looking down the belly of a C-130 Hercules, with no less than 3170 litres of load space liberated. And if weight is a factor, you have a 734kg capacity to play with.

Worth noting the cargo floor, with seats folded, isn’t flat, the ramp angle increasing the closer you get to the front seats, and weirdly, there’s no electronic control for the tailgate. You need the top-spec Ti-L version for that.

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).


Nissan Patrol8/10

When it launched here in early 2013, the Y62 Patrol Ti was priced at $92,850, with an entry-level ST-L ($82,200) below, and the flagship Ti-L ($113,900) above it.

This positioning kicked the evergreen four-wheel drive into new territory, given the most expensive version of the previous (Y61) model weighed in at $72,690.

And sure enough, by mid-2015 the market had spoken, and Nissan Australia ‘repositioned’ the range, culling the base ST-L and lopping a massive $23,400 off the Ti’s price, adding some extra fruit to its specification at the same time.

That $69,990 pricing remains in place, substantially undercutting the V8 petrol-powered Toyota LandCruiser VX, which sits at $94,070. But the Toyota steamroller continues to flatten the Patrol in terms of sales.

When you look at the Patrol Ti’s standard features list, though, you have to marvel at the power of the LandCruiser brand, because this Nissan is loaded.

Included on the Ti spec sheet is, keyless entry and start, ‘leather accented’ trim, eight-way power front seats (including height and lumbar adjust), tri-zone climate-control air con (with rear control), cruise control, sat nav with 3D mapping, ‘leather accented’ steering wheel and shift lever, 8.0-inch colour multimedia touchscreen, ‘Around View Monitor’ (with reversing camera), six-speaker CD/DVD audio with 9.0GB hard drive and Bluetooth connectivity, glass tilt and slide sunroof, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, side steps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Not bad at all, but it’s worth noting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are missing in action.

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.


Nissan Patrol8/10

Nissan’s all-alloy, 32-valve, quad-cam VK-series V8 engine started life 15 years ago, debuting in the third-generation Infiniti Q45 (which never saw the light of day in Australia).

It's since gone on to power a range of other Infiniti and Nissan models, and in this most recent 5.6-litre (VK56VD) iteration, develops 298kW at 5800rpm, and a thumping 560Nm at 4000rpm.

The big V8 features ‘VVEL’ (Variable Valve Event and Lift) technology (on the intake side) as well as direct injection. And in case you think the torque peak arrives high in the rev range, 90 per cent of that maximum (504Nm) is available from just 1600rpm.

It’s matched with a seven-speed automatic transmission featuring sequential manual mode (available via the console shifter only) and ‘Adaptive Shift Control’ logic.

Drive can be directed to the rear wheels or all four (in high- or low-range) via Nissan’s ‘All Mode 4x4’ system, offering specific off-highway settings for sand, snow, and rock, as well as a rear diff-lock.

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.


Nissan Patrol6/10

Nissan claims 14.5L/100km for the combined (urban/extra urban) cycle, and doesn’t even venture into the area of stated CO2 emissions.

Without any injudicious use of the right-hand pedal, over roughly 250km of city, suburban and freeway running we managed to exceed that figure by close to 15 per cent, recording an average of 16.5L/100km.

The other not so good news is the V8 turns up its nose at anything less than premium unleaded, so if you live in a capital city, get ready to shell out around $210 dollars to fill the 140-litre tank with 95RON juice.

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.


Nissan Patrol8/10

Driving the Patrol Ti is like eating a freshly baked marshmallow – soft, sweet, and delightfully indulgent.

It’s an effortless, stress-free experience, thanks mainly to the engine’s huge reserves of torque, and the independent (double wishbone front and rear) suspension’s magical ability to soak up even significant imperfections.

You have to consciously remind yourself this is an old school, body-on-frame design. But the magic bit that transforms the Patrol’s ride and handling, is Nissan’s ‘Hydraulic Body Motion Control’ suspension tech.

The system is managed by nitrogen-charged accumulators, with cross-linked piping allowing the transfer of hydraulic fluid between shock absorbers to actively control suspension travel.

In cornering, stiffness is increased to reduce body roll and, in straight running, overall ride quality is enhanced… a lot.

The seven-speed auto is ridiculously smooth, the seats remained comfy and supportive after lengthy stints behind the wheel, and the interior is supremely quiet.

And with all that heft barrelling down the road, big disc brakes (358mm front/350mm rear) with four-piston calipers at the front, consistently pull this sturdy unit up without a hint of drama.

But with the soft sweetness comes a hard truth. The light ‘speed-sensitive’ steering twirls through roughly 5000 turns lock-to-lock, and produces approximately zero road feel.

Nissan makes no bones about the fact the Patrol is aimed at city types, with its 4WD ability mostly applied to towing. And the Ti is able to haul 750 unbraked kilos, with a healthy 3.5-tonnes in scope if your boat trailer or caravan is braked.

Another standard feature that comes in doubly handy when manoeuvring a substantial vehicle like this is the ‘Around View Monitor’, combining bird’s eye, front, rear, and side views. It’s brilliant, and panel beaters should hate it.

While this isn’t an off-road test, if you do decide to take the tribe on a Top-End adventure, standard ‘Hill Descent Control’, ‘Hill Start Assist’, rear diff-lock, helical LSD, and the All Mode system are ready for action.

For the hardcore off-roaders, ground clearance is 283mm, approach angle is 34.1 degrees and the departure angle is 25.9 degrees.

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.


Nissan Patrol7/10

Standard active safety tech includes, stability and traction control, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, ‘Cross-Traffic Recognition’, and a tyre pressure monitoring system. But no AEB.

If you want higher order features like, ‘Blind Spot Warning’, ‘Blind Spot Intervention’, ‘Distance Control Assist’, ‘Forward Collision Warning’ and ‘Intelligent Cruise Control’, they’re standard on the ($86,990) VTi-L.

On the passive side of the ledger, there’s driver and front passenger head and side airbags, as well as side curtain airbags covering all three rows. 

ISOFIX child restraint anchor points and top tethers are included in the outer second row seat positions, with another tether hook in the third row.

The Patrol has not received a safety star rating from ANCAP or EuroNCAP.

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.


Nissan Patrol7/10

Nissan supports the Patrol with a three year/100,000km warranty, with three years roadside assistance included.

Sure, Nissan has a well-deserved reputation for reliability, but with the likes of Kia upping the game to seven years/unlimited kilometres, surely it’s time for a warranty adjustment.

The scheduled service interval is six months or 10,000km, which is a pain when most of the market is at 12 months.

A six year/120,000km ‘Service Certainty’ program locks in pricing for those 12 services, with a low cost of $375, and a high of $1240 (100,000km), which equates to an average of $608 per visit. You’ll also need to factor in $42 for brake fluid every two years/40,000km.