NOW APPROACHING ITS FOURTH BIRTHDAY, TOYOTA'S FOURTH-GENERATION 2016 RAV4 GETS A 'NIP-AND-TUCK' FOR THE NEW YEAR.
Now standard are LED headlights and new tail-lights, while the interior ditches horrible fake carbonfibre for a classier metallic-grey garnish.
While the changes appear minor, Toyota claims major surgery has occurred beneath the fresh façade. The rear body of the Toyota RAV4 is now stiffer, the suspension overhauled to improve ride comfort and extra sound insulation has been installed.
These were all RAV4 sore points. We're driving it to see if the changes have worked for this popular model from Toyota.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $44,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/233Nm 2.5 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.5 l/100km | tested: 10.5 l/100km
The new RAV4 line-up kicks off from $27,990 (plus on-road costs) for the two-wheel-drive 2.0-litre petrol manual, rising to $32,990 (plus orc) for the all-wheel-drive 2.5-litre petrol automatic and $35,990 (plus orc) for the also-AWD 2.2-litre turbo-diesel manual.
Those prices are for the base GX model-grades (GXL and top-tier Cruiser versions come at a premium - see full price list, link below).
In the case of the petrol Cruiser we’re testing here, pricing has dropped $500 to $44,490 (plus orc).
Despite the price drop, it now comes with substantially more equipment included as standard, including active cruise control, front parking sensors and pre-collision warning with autonomous braking function.
- Standard equipment: active cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, trip computer, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, front heated seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, electric sunroof, power tailgate, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, LED headlights with automatic high-beam
- Infotainment: 6.1-inch touchscreen display with 11-speaker JBL audio, USB/AUX, Bluetooth phone and music streaming, digital radio, ToyotaLink apps connectivity and satellite navigation
- Cargo volume: 577 litres (760L back seat folded)
Buyers of SUVs reportedly love a high driving position. The Toyota RAV4 however boasts a snug, sporting seating point that adds a 'driver's feel' to the interior.
Up-front visibility is excellent, however, and the subtle interior styling changes – new grey trim, colour screen between the speedometer and tachometer – gives a real lift to the impression of quality.
The touchscreen however remains smaller than class average, though the sat-nav is straightforward to use and the JBL speaker quality outstanding.
The only downside is that included app connectivity, such as Pandora internet music streaming, first requires users to download a ToyotaLink app.
Other competitors, such as the Mazda CX-5, can simply ‘plug and play’ with a USB cord to any phone with Pandora installed.
Function otherwise still rates ahead of form inside the RAV4. Headroom is plentiful for all occupants, while rear legroom is vast.
Disappointingly, there are no rear air-vents (standard in Hyundai Tucson Highlander, but not CX-5) and the back bench itself is flat, failing to match the snug support of the front buckets. The highlight however is the reclining rear backrest.
At the pull of a lever, the whole rear seat also effortlessly folds into the floor to create a near-flat loading space.
The RAV4 already boasts one of the largest and most usable boots in the class, and dropping the rear seats only further extends its lead.
Leather trim quality is only average, although the inclusion of an electrically adjustable driver’s seat – though not for the passenger – and sunroof, certainly help cement the Cruiser’s luxury-specification appeal. There’s plenty of storage space and many gadgets to play with.
Improved, certainly, but this facelifted RAV4 still doesn’t have the classiest interior in the class.
It does however boast one of the most generously-appointed cabins for the money and continues to deliver more sheer space than most rivals. We'd expect medium SUV buyers to be very happy with that trade-off.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 132kW/233Nm 2.5 4cyl naturally-aspirated petrol
- Transmission: six-speed automatic, part-time all-wheel-drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering: electrically assisted, 11.2m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked), 1500kg (braked)
It’s as simple as this: the facelifted Toyota RAV4 is substantially better to drive than the model that has been in showrooms since 2012.
The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine is unchanged. It remains however an honest toiler with a surprisingly meaty power delivery when the accelerator is given a solid prod.
It is also now far quieter than before; where the previous model could sound a little raucous when being worked, engine noise is now nicely distant.
The six-speed automatic however still works the engine hard, dropping gears quickly on hills and holding revs high (so the extra sound deadening is especially appreciated).
The 132kW and 223Nm under the bonnet can keep the RAV4 at the head of traffic, and provides quite reasonable urge when overtaking, but there is a penalty at the bowser thanks to its portly 1600kg.
In mixed driving conditions this Toyota slurped 10.5 litres per 100 kilometres, 2.0 l/100km more than the combined cycle claim.
The previous model RAV4 had a ‘butch’ feel to its driving dynamics (a bit like its blocky, sturdy dashboard) - the steering was too heavy and ride quality too firm.
Toyota has now eased the steering weighting, making the Cruiser an easier 'cruiser’ through city streets.
It is better, but not perfect, with a vague pillowy on-centre patch the main downside.
Ride comfort is substantially improved. There’s still some juddery behaviour over successive minor road imperfections, but a newfound ability to cushion really big hits from potholes and broken tarmac is particularly impressive.
The highlight, though, has to be that the RAV4 no longer shudders through the rear of the cabin over sizeable bumps.
The RAV4 isn’t as plush as a Tucson, nor as dynamic as the CX-5, but, on-road, this new version strikes a neat middle ground.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.56 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Seven airbags including dual-front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee, ABS, ESC, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, pre-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The RAV4 Cruiser has gone from being one of the least well-equipped cars in the class to being one of the most generously appointed. No rival can match Toyota’s capped price servicing plan, either – at just $180 for the first six services.
A $39,490 (plus orc) Subaru Forester 2.5i-S blows every competitor away with luxury and active safety equipment.
However the Toyota closely duels with the $43,490 (plus orc) Tucson Highlander that misses active cruise control, premium audio and apps connectivity (though it gains 19-inch wheels, ventilated front seats and panoramic roof). The RAV4 also soundly beats the equivalent $47,410 (plus orc) CX-5 Akera.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The facelifted Toyota RAV4 is quietly impressive in flagship Cruiser specification. As a side note, we wouldn’t bother spending another $5000 on the underpowered diesel version, particularly now that this petrol engine is so refined.
For a smidge under $45K, the RAV4 Cruiser now offers plenty of cabin and active safety equipment, a responsive powertrain and pleasant driving manners.
It doesn’t quite hit particular high notes of its fierce rivals (Forester for value, Tucson for comfort and CX-5 for sportiness), but it instead delivers newfound consistency.