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Toyota RAV4


Toyota Fortuner

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

Toyota Fortuner

If you remember the Toyota 4Runner from the 1980s, then you’ll totally get the Fortuner.

For those of you born before the advent of the mobile phone, the Fortuner wagon is based on the same platform as the HiLux ute, save for its coil-spring rear suspension.

The cost of a Toyota Fortuner has taken a huge cut for the 2018 model year, and it’s gained a couple of tweaks along the way. Let’s do a model comparison of the range in more detail.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.8L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8.6L/100km
Seating7 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.


Toyota Fortuner 7.4/10

Dropping the price of the Fortuner range will improve its fortunes – but it will no doubt upset customers who bought them at first blush.

The Fortuner is an interesting device; it’s civil enough around town but its skillset really lies in the bush or the snow. While the entry grade GX is the pick if you’re intending to use it in the dirt a lot, we’d probably favour the mid-grade GXL if we were staying on the tarmac for the most part. The Crusade is nice, but its spec level over and above the GXL isn’t that compelling – although the LED headlights are brilliant.

Is Toyota's Fortuner on your seven seat 4WD SUV short-list? Tell us 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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

The exterior design of modern 4x4 wagons runs the gamut from the straight-bat Isuzu MU-X all the way through to the radical and unorthodox Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.

The Fortuner sits somewhere between those two extremes. It's certainly not something that you'd miss in a car park, but it's not quite as… erm, challenging as something like the Pajero Sport. 

The LED headlight array and extra chrome on the Crusade may not appeal to some, but as a package, the Fortuner looks futuristic and quite resolved, without the need for a bodykit (except side steps).

Inside, it manages to hide its commercial origins quite well across all three grades. However, there are still some hard plastics within view, including on top of the door cards and centre console bin, which can be irritating should you rest your elbow there on longer trips.

Thankfully, we can report, that the centre console bin lid is padded in the Crusade. Cheaper versions of the Fortuner have seen us actually tape pieces of foam mat on top of the lid in the search for extra comfort.

It's a bit early to talk second hand price, but the Fortuner will take a hit in resale thanks to the cut.

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

In terms of dimensions and size, the 4795mm-long Fortuner is a centimetre longer and 30mm wider than the Pajero Sport, but it’s almost 100mm shorter than the big Everest. 

It’s sold as a seven-seater, with two fold-down seats in the rear (folding up and into the sides of the cargo area).

It’s not a very practical way to carry them when stowed, though, as the folded seats intrude into the rear interior dimensions significantly. A flimsy hook arrangement secures them in the locked position, and you even need to fold down the inside seat rail before locking them into place.

Boot space drops to 200 litres when the third-row seats are in use, as well, but boot dimensions grow to 1080 litres with the seats stowed. Still, they are a luggage capacity killer. No cargo barrier is fitted.

Once locked in place, the third row can be accessed by tumbling second-row seats forward, but given how low they’re mounted, are only suitable for smaller people.

The second row gets roof vents and a fan control, but there’s no such joy for third rowers. All three rows are covered with the curtain airbag, though.

Row two gets a 12-volt power socket (as well as a proper 220-volt socket in the Crusade) while a pair of fold-up hooks in the front seat backs can handle up to four kilos of shopping bags each. 

Legroom is adequate, though the seat base is mounted quite high which intrudes on headroom for taller passengers.

There’s a pair of ISOFIX mounts for a baby car seat and three top-tether points, as well as two cupholders in the centre armrest and bottle holders in each rear door.

Up front, meanwhile, reside a pair of manually operated seats in GX and GXL, and a powered driver’s seat in the Crusade, while an oddly half-wrapped steering wheel on GXL and Fortuner wasn’t a favourite with testers; the shiny veneer finish at the top of the wheel rim was decidedly slippery if grabbed during a parking manoeuvre.

Bottles can be stashed in all doors, while a pair of cupholders graces our auto-equipped tester’s centre console. However, manual-equipped cars miss out on front cupholders all together.

A USB and 12-volt socket are covered by rubber flaps, which along with the heavy duty rubberised floor mats are a hint to the car’s rugged aspirations.

On the negative side, the middle belt on the second row is mounted in the roof, and is a pain to access. It’s a long way up into the cabin from the ground for shorter folks, too, while the folded-up third row seats completely obscure the rear three-quarter windows when stashed.

The centre console bin, too, isn’t padded in the GX and GXL, and as mentioned, gets VERY annoying under your elbow after a couple of hours.

The bonnet, too, is ridiculously heavy. In fact, many people may struggle to lift it high enough to lock the support stay into place.

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).


Toyota Fortuner 8/10

The Fortuner comes in three grades, all with the same engine and four-wheel drive (4WD) set-up. How many seats, you ask? Seven, all told.

At the bottom of the price range, the GX costs $42,590 in six-speed manual guise or $44,590 with a six-speed auto. That’s a hefty $5400 cut in price, and it’s been slightly improved for 2018, with 17-inch alloy rims instead of steel wheels, and a set of rear parking sensors to complement the reversing camera.

LED taillights, air con, a cloth interior, cruise control, a chilled bin, a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system and seven seats are all standard. A polyurethane steering wheel, basic multimedia system with Bluetooth (but no nav or Apple Carplay/Android Auto) and rubber mats round out the spec. The old-school radio CD player is a thing of the past, and there's no DVD player.

The $47,490 Fortuner GXL is the beneficiary of a $5500 price cut; it’s now as cheap as the GX was at launch.

Toyota has added a new multimedia touchscreen system, incorporating satellite navigation, to the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel powered GXL, which comes stock with a six-speed manual gearbox. Also on the standard equipment list are, LED tail-lights, air conditioning, cloth interior, a chilled centre console bin, the aforementioned 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with a GPS-based navigation system and Bluetooth, as well as seven seats.

It also has push-button start with automatic door lock and keyless entry, roof racks, a colour TFT display for the dash, hill descent control, roof rails and fog lights over the GX. A half-leather wrapped steering wheel and old-fashioned rubber mats round out the spec.

A six-speed auto is $2000, while an all-leather interior with powered front seats is available for an additional $2500, if you're looking to know how much.

The list price of the Crusade is $5000 cheaper at $56,990, and only comes in auto. It offers a few extras on top of the GXL, including leather seats with heated fronts, padded centre console bin lid and a powered driver’s pew, a JBL-branded multimedia system with 11 speakers, daytime running lights, smart key and more satin-touch interior finishes including around the gearshift.

As with all the Fortuners, it comes with a locking rear diff and high-low range 4WD. Other niceties in the Crusade include a powered tailgate, but no sunroof is offered from the factory.

The range competes against the Ford Everest (even though Ford says it matches itself against the Prado), the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and the Isuzu MU-X.

When it comes to picking one of the three, we’d lean towards the auto-equipped GXL. It has all the essentials with a few nice touches, and really only misses out on a padded centre console bin lid in terms of comfort.

When it comes to colours, the Fortuner comes in black, white, blue, brown, red, grey and silver.

Toyota offers a factory-approved accessories, including a bullbar, snorkel and nudge bar for the Fortuner. Floor mats are rubber, and rims are alloy. You'll need to source your own dual battery system if you want one.

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

The (1GD-FTV) 2.8-litre turbo four-cylinder diesel, sourced from the HiLux, offers the same engine specifications, with maximum power of 130kW at 3400rpm and peak torque of 420Nm between 1400 and 2600rpm in manual guise. The automatic version loses 30Nm of that torque value.

If you're wondering if the engine uses a timing belt or chain, it uses the latter. Oil capacity is 7.5 litres. Toyota doesn't offer a 0-100km/h acceleration speed figure for the car.

Linked to an Aisin-built six-speed manual with a well-weighted clutch, it’s a relatively quiet and pleasingly smooth, tractable engine. The six-speed (conventional, torque converter) auto, too, is well matched to the engine's horsepower, and the steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles were rarely, if ever, employed.

If it came to a question of manual vs automatic, we'd plump for the self-shifter every time.

The Fortuner range comes with a high range 2WD/4WD and low-range 4WD system activated by a dial on the centre console, while a locking rear diff is also standard. As mentioned, suspension is steel springs and dampers, with MacPherson struts up front and a beam set-up at the rear. There is no rear air suspension.

The manual variant also offers a slightly higher braked towing capacity of 3000kg, versus the auto’s 2800kg. 

Weights for the car vary between 2110kg and 2135kg, and the gross vehicle mass (car plus payload, including people) is 2750kg – with four average people on board, you’ve got about 400kg of payload to play with.

The gross combined mass (car, trailer, gear and people) for the two transmissions is 5745kg (manual) and 5545kg (auto), meaning the Fortuner can legally tow 2995kg or 2795kg of trailer respectively when it’s fully loaded. 

Downball weight (the weight pushing down on the towbar ball hitch) is 250kg, and Toyota recommends the fitting of a weight distribution hitch if you’re hooking up something biggish. Watch this space for a tow test review.

There have been reported problems with the automatic transmission, with fixes in place to improve oil flow via changing a lock ball pin for fifth and sixth gears. As well, the tailshaft in some Fortuners has needed aligning to fix a gear selection problem.

There is no evidence of engine problems with the turbo powered Fortuner at this stage, though anecdotal evidence of fuel injectors lasting only 100,000km has been called out in various user groups.

There are no other common problems, complaints, defects or issues of note.

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.


Toyota Fortuner 8/10

Against a claim of 7.8 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle for all three grades and both transmissions, we used 66 litres of diesel to achieve a real-world figure of 8.9L/100km over 756km of testing in the GXL. 

The dash-indicated fuel consumption figures of 8.6 and 8.9 in the GX and Crusade bear out this claim.

There is an 'Eco' mode button on the dash, but it only changes the throttle map and doesn't really do much for economy; we used it for about 200km on a highway stint and mileage didn't improve noticeably.

When it comes to petrol vs diesel or LPG... wait, it doesn't matter. You'll never get a petrol version.

Its 80-litre tank offers a theoretical range of around 1000km between fills. No long range tank is fitted.

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

All three cars are essentially the same underneath, save for the 17-inch rims on the GX. The Crusade’s 18-inch wheels are fitted with more road-biased tyres, as well.

Instead of load-lugging leaf springs as in the HiLux, the Fortuner uses coil springs and a beam axle to improve ride quality.

We took the GXL for a an extended test, and it was a comfortable and competent alternative to a more car-based SUV.

It’s noisier inside thanks to its dual-purpose tyres, there’s no digital speedo (a strange omission, given there’s a multi-function digital centre screen between the dash gauges), the steering could be more precise at the speed limit, and modern safety aids like adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning would have been nice to have, but we emerged after each leg in good condition.

The long-travel suspension is firm at low speeds, but frees up the faster you go, providing a more comfortable ride over square-edged bumps and rougher roads.

Steering is reasonably direct, though not especially precise, and you need a steady hand to stop it wandering off centre – a trait of most 4WDs of this size, to be fair.

The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel feels strong at part-throttle, and the long travel accelerator pedal is easy to modulate. The engine sounds and feels laboured when it’s put under load, though, and runs out of steam as it nears 3000rpm. Blame the engine size - we're all used to bigger, leggier diesels.

Outside noise is well suppressed inside the cabin, and visibility is largely okay, save for the rear three-quarter view which is completely blocked by those stowed third-row seats.

To test its off-road ability, we ran the Fortuner up and down steep, rutted, gravel-strewn fire roads that would easily defeat a stock SUV. With its locking diff, on-demand low- and high-range 4WD, and a hill-descent switch, the Fortuner was far from troubled, walking down the slope with ease and climbing up again in H4 without drama.

Its ground clearance is 225mm (not 279mm as first stated by Toyota at launch), and has a wading depth of 700mm. Its turning radius is 11.2m.

Its 80-litre tank and approximately 1000km range may not be large enough for remote explorers, though.

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.


Toyota Fortuner 7/10

All grades of Fortuner miss out on AEB, park assist, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, but seven airbags, a reverse camera and sensors as well as stability and traction control means it still scores a top five-star ANCAP safety features rating. 

It offers trailer sway control as standard across the range, as well as hill descent control on the GXL and Crusade grades.

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.


Toyota Fortuner 8/10

Toyota offers a fixed service cost program for the Fortuner, which costs $240 per service for the first six services over three years or 60,000km. 

Service intervals of 12 months or 10,000km are recommended, and a warranty of three years/100,000km is provided as standard. Toyota doesn't offer extended warranty, but the brand is well regarded for reliability. Just make sure your owner's manual is stamped.

A mid-grade GXL auto bought new in 2016 has lost around 20 per cent if you're looking at resale value.