Toyota RAV4 VS Suzuki Vitara
- Good safety gear
- Solid and dependable
- Roomy interior
- Poor media system
- Noisy diesel
- RAV4s are not cheap
- Good interior space
- Reasonably priced
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- Lack of advanced safety
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|
Suzuki's much-loved Vitara returned in 2015 and it was a happy day for people over a certain age. Over the years, Suzuki has tweaked and trimmed the range, ditching the diesel (much to the chagrin of towing fans) and leaving us with three Vitaras with the subtly updated 2019 model - the entry-level, the Turbo and the Turbo Allgrip.
The entry-level Vitara is a lot of car for the money but there is a small catch - instead of the excellent 1.4-litre turbo engine of the other two, it ships with a 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine that has significantly less power than anything else in the segment.
That doesn't seem to bother the target market, though - the base Vitara is by far the biggest seller in the range.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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?
It's frustrating that the Vitara is a good car fitted with such a weak engine. It's got great interior space for less money than a Qashqai, a big boot and some nice touches.
The ledger for the base model Vitara is more balanced than the higher grades. While the turbo-engined machines get along very nicely, the ride and handling are great and all the Vitara's strengths are magnified, the entry-level struggles against similarly-priced competition.
The Vitara Turbo is the one to get if you can stretch to it. The Vitara isn't ruined by this engine, but it is compromised.
Is engine power a big deal for you? Or is the Vitara's lack of pace and refinement secondary to its undeniable charms? Let us know 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.
Not everyone is a fan of the new Vitara's looks, but I am. Most of the colours are fairly vivid and everyone seems to buy it in metallic green, so it was nice to have it in this grey/silver (optional) colour.
The chrome grille can be a little bit much, but I really like the purposeful, chunky profile. Wasn't sure about the new rear lights at first, but as I said in the Allgrip review, they had already grown on me.
The Vitara's interior isn't going to win any materials quality awards, but it seems like it will last a long time. There's nothing amazing about it apart from the fact it's roomy and everything looks and feels honest.
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.
Passenger space in the Vitara is excellent for a compact SUV. Part of the reason back seat occupants do so well is because the roof is high, the doors aren't very thick and the seat is a long way off the floor, meaning the distance between the front and rear seats isn't made smaller by angled legs. It's comfortable, too.
Which is lucky because you won't have anywhere to put your drinks or phones or your inboard elbows, which is a shame.
Front seat passengers have somewhere to put their elbows and there are two cupholders. All four doors have a bottle holder.
The boot has a false floor under which you can hide a decent amount of stuff, including small bags. Its volume starts at a decent 375 litres (beaten only by Honda's HR-V and Nissan's Qashqai). Drop the rear seats and space increases to 1120 litres.
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.
Engine aside, there is much to like about the base model Vitara - in fact any Vitara - and this one is a pretty decent $24,990.
That lands you, all the way from (somewhat unexpectedly) Hungary, 17-inch alloys, climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, sat nav, leather steering wheel, cloth trim, power windows, four-speaker stereo and a space-saver spare.
That four-speaker stereo is run from the same touchscreen found in pretty much every Suzuki. The basic software is okay but the hardware itself is a bit iffy. Cleverly (and unlike Toyota), Suzuki knew an easy fix for that is to throw in Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sorted.
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.
The 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated engine in the base Vitara wheezes up just 86kW and 156Nm, easily the least-powerful in its class, and by some margin.
I often joke that it's almost like there is legislation about how much power a compact SUV must have. The Vitara is proof there isn't. The $29,990 Turbo has 102kW/220Nm, for comparison.
As with the turbo cars, the 1.6 has a proper six-speed automatic driving the front wheels. You can also get a five-speed manual for $23,990. Luckily it weighs bugger-all at 1180kg.
The Vitara offers 1200kg towing for braked trailers and 400kg unbraked.
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 non-turbo Vitara clocks up an official combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 6.0L/100km, 0.1L/100km worse than the Turbo.
My week with the car saw an indicated 9.2L/100km which is almost a litre worse than the Turbo Allgrip I last tested, and a whole lot less fun.
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.
As has been the case since the Vitara's re-emergence a few years ago, it's a good car to drive. Light steering, supple ride and good body control mean progress is smooth and, if you're going downhill, fun.
For a modern car, it's a featherweight, but without the bounciness of some other cars of this weight. It's also quite maneuverable and is unexpectedly slim, meaning you can thread it around easily and it's not a bother in car parks or tight city streets.
It's good on urban streets, too, because it soaks up bumps and lumps very well.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Vitara is a good car. But in this spec, it's a good car with a deeply ordinary engine.
It's noisy, which wouldn't matter except to get anything like decent movement, you have to rev it. If you use anything more than quarter throttle - and you really have to - the transmission kicks down to try and find the scraps of torque on offer. It might be light, but the torque figure just isn't enough to move the Vitara with any urgency.
The base Vitara is slow and noisy and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition. Compounded by a lack of refinement from both engine and transmission, it highlights what a good engine is the 1.4-litre turbo.
The Vitara is slow and noisy, and from that perspective is no match for its similarly-priced competition.
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.
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.
Suzuki offers a three year/100,000km warranty, but there's a small catch. If you continue to service it at Suzuki dealer every six months/10,000km, you're extended to five years/100,000km. That seems like a decent deal.
Somehow, the 1.6 costs more to service than the more complex 1.4-litre turbo, working out at an average $516 per year over the first 60 months.