Toyota RAV4 VS Toyota C-HR
- Massively practical
- Impressive standard inclusions
- Ultra-comfort ride
- Manual not great
- Thrashy engine
- Might be too big for some
- Cool styling
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added
- Bigger touchscreen now standard across range
- Visibility not great in the second row
- 1.2-litre petrol engine lacks oomph
- Manual transmission dropped from line-up
It speaks to the wide-ranging, seemingly infinite appeal of the Toyota RAV4 that a manual version of it even exists.
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.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
You know the Distracted Boyfriend internet meme? The one where the guy is checking out another lady while his disgusted girlfriend glares at him?
Now, if me actually attempting to translate a meme (and purely a visual gag at that) hasn’t put you off then chances are you’re likely to read this review about the updated C-HR which has just landed, looking like nothing has changed except for the price.
Well, there are changes – some are big such as the addition of a hybrid to the range and a new media system, and some aren’t as noticeable, like the tweaks to the C-HR’s face.
This review will take you through the new prices, reveal the features and safety tech, and tell you what it’s like to drive. And, I promise, no more meme explanations.
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
Not making huge design changes is very Toyota – look at the LandCruiser and the 86 – and if anything, keeping the same styling could improve the resale vale of you C-HR if you decide to part with it down the track. The changes that have been made are good ones: the new, bigger screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; and a hybrid.
The sweet spot in the C-HR range is the FWD petrol entry grade, but if money had nothing to do with it, I’d pick the hybrid Koba for sure.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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.
Absolutely – just look at it. Toyota could have easily just done an SUV version of the Corolla and kept it conservative looking, but they’ve gone all out and risked creating something that might not be to everybody’s tastes, and the company should be commended for the bravery.
The C-HR’s styling is adventurous with that big, fat face, pumped-up wheel guards and protruding tail-lights. Tweaks in this update really are limited to redesigned front and rear bumpers.
I’m a fan of two-tone roofs on all cars and the option to get it on the C-HR enhances the puffed-up body.
I’d say the C-HR has the most interesting cabin of all current Toyotas. Take a close look at the images of the interior with its textured materials and diamond patterns. The new bigger screen really is the only change to the cabin in this update.
You can spot a top-of-the-range Koba from the entry grade C-HR by the privacy glass and larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
The C-HR isn’t a big SUV. Want the dimensions? The C-HR is 4309mm long, 1795mm wide and 1565mm tall. Ah, but is it practical? Let’s talk about that below.
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.
The answer varies between “oh, wow” and “oh, dear”. Oh, wow in terms of rear legroom, because even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare (even headroom is good); also, in terms of boot space – because there’s 318 litres.
Oh, dear in terms of the cool-looking rear door handles being so high (small children might not be able to reach them) and the how visibility is reduced for those sitting in the second row by the way the window line kicks up.
That said, cabin storage is good with four cupholders (two in the back and two up front), decent-sized door pockets, a deep centre console bin and a large hidey hole in front of the shifter.
What’s missing? Not much. Wireless charging would be good, but still there’s a 12-volt outlet and a USB port.
Price and features
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?
Options are limited to premium paint (every colour except for ‘Glacier White’ - $600).
The updated C-HR comes with a small price increase. The update also sees the manual variant dropped from the C-HR line-up. This leaves the front-wheel drive (FWD) base-spec C-HR with the auto transmission as the entry point into the model and the price of this has increased by $550 to $29,540, while the all-wheel drive (AWD) costs another $2000.
The Koba grade with FWD now starts at $33,940 (a $650 increase), with the AWD commanding that $2000 price premium.
New to the range and now the priciest C-HR is the FWD Koba Hybrid at $36,440.
Coming standard on the entry-level C-HR is an 8.0-inch touchscreen (which replaced the previous 6.1-inch display), sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker stereo, fabric seats, LED headlights and running lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Stepping up to the Koba adds 18-inch alloys, privacy glass, leather upholstery, heated front seats, panoramic camera and proximity unlocking.
Engine & trans
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.
The C-HR comes with a choice of petrol engine and, new with this update, a hybrid system.
The petrol variant has a 1.2-litre turbo four-cylinder engine making 85kW/185Nm. Unfortunately, a manual gearbox isn’t offered any more, but there is a CVT auto and you can choose between a two-wheel drive or AWD.
The hybrid combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (72kW/142Nm) and an electric motor (53kW/163Nm). Toyota says the combined power output of the engine and motor is 90kW. A CVT auto does the honours here, too.
The C-HR is screaming out for a powertrain that offers more grunt – imagine a Gazoo Racing variant?
Until that happens my pick is the hybrid, the little nudges of torque the electric motor provides while cruising along are great and you’ll save fuel, too. Read about that next.
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.
Let’s start with the petrol C-HR. Toyota says the FWD car should use 6.4L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads while the AWD uses a smidge more at 6.5L/100km. The petrol engine requires 95 RON premium unleaded.
The hybrid (which is FWD only) is the mileage hero with Toyota saying the combined fuel economy is 4.3L/100km. Urban fuel economy is even better at 3.8L/100km. The petrol engine used in the hybrid system requires 91 RON unleaded.
The Australian launch of the C-HR was on country roads – the hilly, winding, fast sort which should really use up lots of petrol, but after 50km the trip computer said the hybrid C-HR was using an average of 4.9L/100km.
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.
Don’t dismiss the C-HR as being all about the way it looks. This is one of the best driving small SUVs at this price point. There are more popular ones which don’t ride, steer or handle anywhere near as well as the C-HR, and that’s down to the new-generation platform which also underpins the new-gen Corolla.
Until this update only the 1.2-litre turbo petrol was available in Australia and now the hybrid variant has arrived to join it.
I drove them back-to-back at the Australian launch and was reminded how the 1.2-litre with the CVT just seemed to lack the oomph that this SUV could easily handle.
There’s a 2.0-litre version of the car in the United States and I can’t help but feel we’ve been shortchanged in missing out on that gruntier car.
The hybrid became my pick of the two and not just because it’s way more fuel efficient - it was more fun to drive. I enjoyed the little nudges the electric motor gave when I dabbed accelerator while cruising.
Dab the accelerator in the petrol-only C-HR and as with most turbocharged cars there’s a lag or delay and with a CVT there’s a lot of noise before anything happens. The responsiveness from the hybrid won me over.
The suspension in the hybrid C-HR is different to the petrol, too. The hybrid car’s ride felt softer and more comfortable while the petrol sibling was firmer and a bit sportier feeling.
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.
The Toyota C-HR scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017. Coming standard across the range is advanced safety equipment such as AEB with pedestrian detection, active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, auto high beam, and blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
All C-HRs also come with seven airbags, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX points across the second row.
Both grades come with a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor.
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.
The C-HR is covered by Toyota’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Hybrid versions are also covered by the same warranty including the battery.
Servicing of the petrol and hybrid variants is recommended annually or every 15,000km with the first four services capped at $195.