Toyota RAV4 VS Volvo XC60
- Massively practical
- Impressive standard inclusions
- Ultra-comfort ride
- Manual not great
- Thrashy engine
- Might be too big for some
- Great looks
- Strong diesel
- Advanced safety technology
- Smallish boot
- Diesel doesn't suit sporty driving
- No full-sized spare
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|
A Volvo XC60 R-Design D5, eh? Not only are you looking at a Volvo, but you’re looking at a diesel one, too.
So, you’re thinking out of the Benz and BMW box, but with a practical element as well, because as anybody who has ever towed a caravan or anything else knows, nothing quite beats diesel pulling power and the fuel saving advantages that go with it.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
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.
The Volvo XC60 R-Design D5 is an alternative take on the prestige mid-sized SUV. There’s the cabin that feels more like modern art, the pioneering safety technology, and it’s easy and enjoyable to drive. The diesel engine can be noisy, and you’ll be busy shifting gears to keep the grunt under your right foot, but in return you’re getting great pulling power.
Would you chose the XC60 R-Design D5 over a Mercedes-Benz or BMW rival? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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.
The XC60 is a beautiful beast – long bonnet, the raked windscreen and set back cabin make for a sleek profile. I’m a fan of those carved-out door panels and the wing style rocker panels, and those famous Volvo hallmarks are strong with this model – that stately grille with is giant badge and the vertical tail-lights.
The R-Design D5 looks almost identical to its petrol twin the R-Design T6 and top-of-the-range R-Design T8 hybrid with its 21-inch matte black and polished alloy wheels and the matte silver mirror caps.
The R-Design D5’s interior is modern and minimalist. The R-Design Sports seats look like those super expensive office chairs that are good for your posture, although I don’t find them overly comfortable (the office chairs and the D5’s seats).
The 9.3-inch vertical touchscreen isn’t quiet as impressive as the giant display in the XC90, but it’s still a unique looking set-up. With that screen taking care of air-con, vehicle settings and the media system the cabin has been de-cluttered, with minimal buttons on display. An aluminium mesh trim snakes its way along that cleanly designed dash, around that display, and the oversized air vents.
The XC60 is a mid-sized SUV with dimensions similar to its Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 rivals. The XC60 is 4688mm long, 2117mm wide and 1685mm tall.
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 XC60’s cabin is spacious but not overly so, with plenty of head, leg and shoulder room, while in the back, even at 191cm, I can sit behind my driving position with about 30mm to spare. Headroom back there is excellent.
Storage inside is good, with two cupholders and large door pockets in the front, and two cupholders and smaller door pockets in the back. The centre console storage area under the centre armrest is also a decent size.
A boot capacity of 505 litres (with rear seats up) isn’t huge. Rivals such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC have 550 litres of cargo space.
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 XC60 R-Design D5 lists for $73,990, which positions it high up in the range for this model. While the D4 and T5 engine variants are available in a couple of trims, the D5 only comes with the R-Design treatment, which includes the R-Design steering wheel, sports seats, pedals and carpet.
The standard features list is extensive. There’s the 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen and a 12.3-inch driver display, sat nav, 360 parking camera, auto parking system, head-up display, 10-speaker stereo system with digital radio, leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, power adjustable driver and passenger seat, proximity key, paddle shifters, roof rails, LED headlights, power tailgate and 21-inch alloy wheels.
All XC60s come with an armoury of advanced safety equipment – you can read about it in the safety section below.
At this price the D5-Design is good value, and you’re getting more features for your money than the T8, which I reviewed as well.
How does the XC60 compare to other SUVs? Well the Mercedes-Benz GLC 250d is a good match for size, features and price at $73,200. There’s also BMW's X3 xDrive 20d M-Sport for $73,450, and Audi’s Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro Sport for $70,700.
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 D5 has the most powerful and torquey diesel engine in the XC60 range – a 2.0-litre twin-turbo which makes 173kW/480Nm.
Using two turbos sequentially means turbo lag is reduced, with the first spooling up to 'pre-charge' before the second kicks in at higher revs.
I need to ask you a personal question: why are you thinking of buying the diesel? Please say it’s because you tow. If so, then it’d be a good choice because all of that 480Nm of torque comes in low at 1750rpm and that provides good pulling power.
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.
Volvo says the XC60 D5 should use 5.6L/100km of diesel over a combination of open and urban roads. The trip computer in my car said I averaged 9.4L/100km after a roughly 120km test drive through The Royal National Park (south of Sydney), highways and inner city. While I was using the stop-start system to save fuel, I wasn’t driving to conserve it either.
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.
The XC60 D5 feels special just to sit in with its well-crafted, stylish interior and the driving experience goes a long way to matching that high-quality impression, too.
Steering is effortlessly light but accurate, acceleration is swift, and those brakes are responsive, with great pedal feel.
It’s not all perfect, though. That turbo-diesel engine is noisy, but the cabin is so well insulated you’ll only notice it if you accelerate hard or you put the window down (like I did, to stop and talk to a mate who then told me the engine was loud).
But then the diesel in the X3 xDrive 20d I drove to work in today is also noisy. Even in 2017, that’s the nature of these engines.
The other issue you’ll find with diesel engines is the need to shift up through the gears low in the rev range to take best advantage of the torque on offer. That makes for a busy time on the shifting paddles if you want to have a blast through twisty roads.
The sequential turbo set-up reduces lag impressively – although response is not instantaneous.
The D5 comes with a 'sports-tuned' chassis, but it’s on the firmer side. If you’re planning to spend money on options, throw it all at the air suspension for $2490 - the T8 I tested had it, and the ride was cushioned and composed.
Those LED headlights are excellent and cut through the darkness ahead with impressive brilliance.
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.
Safety is Volvo’s ‘thing’ and the maximum five-star ANCAP score it was awarded this year doesn’t reveal just how impressive its safety performance is.
This new generation XC60 is fitted with AEB, which can detect and stop for animals, humans and other cars. Plus, there’s steering support, blind spot warning, front and rear cross traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
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 XC60 is covered by Volvo’s three-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months.
Volvo offers two service programs: the basic 'SmartCare' and the more comprehensive 'SmartCare Plus'.
The SmartCare three-year/45,000km plan is $2225 (SmartCare Plus costs $3050); a four-year/60,000km version is $3500 ($5200 with SmartCare Plus) and the five-year/75,000km agreement costs $4230 ($6400 with SmartCare Plus).