2013 Toyota RAV4 GX Diesel Manual Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Strong diesel torque, comfortable ride.
What's Not
Lower tow-rating than petrol models, artificial steering feel.
A decent drive, but not the best RAV4 in the line-up.
Tony O'Kane | Jun, 29 2013 | 8 Comments


Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $35,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 110kW/340Nm 2.2 diesel / 6spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km



The Toyota RAV4 is finally available in diesel flavour - it’s a couple of years late, but here it is.

Certainly, the RAV4 is well-recognised among SUV buyers; it and Honda’s CR-V defined the medium SUV segment and for years sat astride it.

But the landscape has changed and it’s now facing off against some very capable and sharply-priced competitors like Mazda’s dominant CX-5, a vastly improved Outlander, Subaru Forester, and others.

So what do we make of it?

In a nutshell, while it holds plenty of promise, the RAV4 diesel comes with some significant shortcomings - a very conservative (some would say “inadequate”) tow-rating among them - and has a battle on its hands for the hearts and wallets of buyers.

So, while it’s not a bad drive, and is neither expensive nor a runaway bargain, the addition of a diesel doesn’t quite give the RAV4 the leg-up we expected.



Quality: Dash plastics look good, and key touch points like the middle of the dash are trimmed in soft vinyl. Only the moulded-in ‘stitching’ on the horn pad counts as a stylistic negative.

The faux carbon-fibre finish on the centre console and door panels looks fine, if a bit out of place, and overall, while a busy interior, it all fits together nicely.

Comfort: The front seats offer plenty of space and comfort, and the tall-ish seating position affords a commanding view of the road.

The centre rear-seat is very firmly padded, but outboard seats are amply comfortable for adult-sized passengers. Headroom is also good, as is knee and elbow room.

Backseaters will appreciated the two cupholders housed in the fold-down centre armrest, but the absence of rear air-outlets is a disappointment.

On the plus side, ISOFIX anchorages are built into the outboard rear seats, which is bound to appeal to buyers with young families.

Equipment: Standard features are about average for the segment, with trip computer, power windows, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and USB audio input as standard.

Bluetooth phone and audio integration is also standard on the RAV4 GX, but we found it had trouble maintaining a rock-solid connection with our phones. The clunky interface on the touch-screen headunit didn’t help things either.

Storage: It’s a fairly sizable boot, but the presence of the optional full-size spare necessitates a high boot-floor and a reduction in capacity to 506 litres.

Loading things like heavy hardware or big prams is harder than it should be as a result, and there’s not a huge amount of space between the boot floor and the underside of the cargo blind either

The second row ‘kneels’ to create a flat load-floor though, which is a positive. A reconfigurable cargo net also improves storage options.



Driveability: The RAV4’s 2.2 litre turbodiesel provides good low-end torque, but quickly runs out of steam above 3500rpm.

There is nothing wrong with the numbers - 110kW of power and 340Nm of torque is strong in any language - but the engine’s ‘breathlessness’ at higher revs has you working through the gears.

We found ourselves skipping second gear entirely when accelerating away from lights.

The diesel has plenty of torque to get away with it, and it actually seems to prefer being worked hard in the lower reaches of its rev range.

The manual is light and easy to use, although we’d prefer to have the optional six-speed automatic instead. With so much torque on hand, an auto would make for a happier powertrain/drivetrain pairing.

But, on the highway, thanks to the ample torque, the RAV4 is untroubled by hills and equally untroubled with a load aboard.

Fuel consumption was decent at 7.3 l/100km over the course of a week, but that’s not quite close enough to the factory claim of 6.2 l/100km. Our figure came with a fairly equal amount of urban and highway driving too.

But where the RAV4 diesel really falls flat is in its tow rating. When launched At launch it was only rated to tow a paltry 550kg, and Toyota only recently increased its braked to limit to 1000kg.

That’s a puny figure for a car with a stout diesel engine and well short of what the RAV4’s competitors can haul.

We understand Toyota’s conservatism and Australia’s climate extremes, but the RAV4 was surely tested everywhere in development from the Oodnadatta track to Siberia - so why such a low figure?

Refinement: There’s plenty of diesel clatter from outside the car, but it’s quite subdued from within the cabin.

The RAV4 is quiet at speed too, with very little wind noise for an SUV.

Suspension: Ride comfort is good on the optional 17-inch alloys of our tester, and the RAV4 exhibits good grip in corners. We didn’t have much opportunity to test the diesel’s AWD system on gravel, but it performed well on wet tarmac

The RAV4’s power steering is now electrically assisted. On the highway it’s fine, but steering weight increases when the wheel is turned more than 90 degrees from centre.

It feels artificial, and at parking garage speeds it makes it a chore to steer from lock-to-lock.

Braking: The RAV4 uses four-wheel disc brakes, with ventilated front rotors. Typically, stopping performance is good in all weather, with good pedal feel.



ANCAP rating: 5-Stars (34.56 out of 37 points)

Safety features: Dual front, dual front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags are all standard, and are augmented by pretensioning front seatbelts.

Stability control, traction control, brake assist, ABS and EBD are also standard.



Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Service costs: Under Toyota’s Service Advantage capped-price scheme, the first six services are capped at $170, and occur every six months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first.



Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport Diesel ($39,470) - Substantially more expensive than the RAV4 (and a mite smaller inside too), but the CX-5 diesel comes with an automatic trans as standard and comes with lots more equipment like sat-nav.

It’s a joy to drive too (there’s a whopping 420Nm underfoot) and if you don’t mind a back seat that’s not as spacious as the Toyota’s, it’s a better buy. (see CX-5 reviews)

Kia Sportage SLi ($35,990) - For similar money to the RAV4 GX manual, the Sportage SLi gives you an automatic transmission as standard, not to mention a 2.0 litre turbodiesel that’s got more power (135kW) and more torque (392Nm) than the Toyota’s 2.2 litre.

It’s a good drive too, and has an interior that’s both spacious and well-featured. Another solid buy in the mid-SUV segment. (see Sportage reviews)

Nissan X-Trail TS ($36,190) - The X-Trail is old and, to be honest, a little bit agricultural when it comes to driving dynamics, but its boxy shape lends it plenty of interior space and it’s built with the great outdoors in mind.

Like the Sportage and CX-5, the X-Trail has more grunt than the RAV4. If you want to tow something, this is your car; with a 2.0-tonne braked tow rating, the X-Trail will haul twice the load of the RAV4 diesel. (see X-Trail reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



The RAV4 GX diesel is a good drive: it’s spacious, certainly well-built, quiet on-road and offers strong, down-low torque for effortless travel.

However, when compared to its key competitors, there are just not enough positives to slingshot this model to the head of the queue. We’d have the diesel CX-5 or Sportage over the RAV4 diesel.

Moving the spare wheel to the boot has robbed it of some utility, but, more critically, the diesel’s puny tow-rating is a major handicap.

So too is the value on offer. It feels a bit too spartan to justify its $35k-plus price tag (it will be up around $40k by the time you’ve got it home). At that money, we think an automatic should be standard.


Pricing (excludes on-roads)

2WD Petrol

  • GX manual $28,490 ($500 less than old model)
  • GXL manual $32,490 (-$1500)

AWD Petrol

  • GX manual $31,990 ($0 difference)
  • GXL manual $35,490 (-$1500)
  • Cruiser manual $42,990 ($0 difference)

AWD Diesel

  • GX manual $35,490 (new model)
  • GXL manual $38,990 (new)
  • Cruiser manual $46,490 (new)

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