In a busy medium SUV segment, the Toyota RAV4 is a stalwart in the class - having been on sale in Australia for over 22 years and counting.
Though now larger, safer and more powerful than before, the RAV4 range still tries its best to combine adventure, utility, and versatility into an appealing family-oriented package.
These days flexibility and safety matter more than they did when the original launched in 1994, and the RAV4 faces off against many more competitors, but can Toyota’s urban-adventure machine still deliver where it counts?
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $38,450 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 132kW/233Nm 2.4-litre 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.5 l/100km | Tested: 9.5 l/100km
In the middle of the Toyota RAV4 range sits the GXL we're testing here, and it's a popular choice owing to its balance of standard equipment, roomy interior and relatively affordable pricing - though it does start to get a little pricey when you include an automatic transmission and all wheel drive our test car.
As part of an update introduced in 2016, the RAV4 also offers an optional Tech Pack, which adds top-level safety features like lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and radar cruise control, bringing additional peace of mind to young Australian families.
A few strokes of the designers pen have also given the RAV4 range a visual boost, making the medium SUV look more like its smaller C-HR sibling that arrives next year with revised lighting and bumpers, removing some of the ‘upsized Corolla’ look of the previous model.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth seat trim, dual-zone climate control, automatic LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and start, cruise control, leather-trimmed steering wheel, multi-function trip computer, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: Six-speaker audio, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, 6.1-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Aux and USB input, CD player, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity
- Options Fitted: Tech Pack, $2500
- Cargo Volume: 577 litres minimum, 760 litres maximum
The interior of the RAV4 is more down-to-earth and less premium than some of its competitors, with a strong focus on robustness and user-friendliness.
The materials are designed to put up with the rigours of an active lifestyle, and there’s plenty of storage options, from the open upper space ahead of the passenger, to the multi-segment centre console and absolutely huge door pockets.
The fabric trimmed seats are serviceable for family duty, but the flat front seats aren’t quite supportive enough to provide long haul comfort and the backrests appear to be shaped for broad shoulders, making them a loose fit for smaller-framed drivers.
Dropping the rear seats is a quick and easy procedure, and doing so reveals a flat and low floor thanks to seat bases that drop down, making the rear of the RAV4 highly versatile. An array of boot-side storage doo-dads also helps boost utility.
At 6.1 inches the GXL’s touchscreen infotainment unit isn’t as big as some, but includes standard navigation and Toyota’s suite of smartphone linked apps, though mobile phone mirroring is still absent.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 132kW/233Nm 2.5 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, on-demand all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, Independent wishbone rear
- Brakes: 296mm vented front discs, 281mm solid rear discs
- Steering: (type, electrically assisted, variable-ratio rack, etc, turning circle)
- Towing Capacity: 1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Under the bonnet of the RAV4 GXL is a 2.5-litre petrol engine, shared with the Camry sedan, producing 132kW of power at 6000rpm and 233Nm of torque at 4100rpm.
Those figures are down just a little on Australia’s favourite medium SUV, the Mazda CX-5 which also runs a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated engine, and is a long way off the available torque in newer turbocharged offerings, like the Volkswagen Tiguan.
Put to the test in Melbourne’s grinding peak hour traffic, the 2.5 is a decent engine. Although not particularly swift off the line, it is able to cope with the RAV4’s bulk and keep up with surging start-stop traffic.
As the road opens up the petrol engine keeps noise levels at a respectable level unless you really push hard, as you would in spirited driving or while overtaking.
Part of the RAV4’s under-the-skin overhaul also includes changes to the rear to make the structure stiffer, suspension revisions designed to increase comfort and road holding, and additional sound deadening for a quieter ride.
The changes are noticeable, but in some areas the RAV4 still trails its competitors with high levels of road noise and a lumpy ride that doesn’t feel at ease on anything besides glass-smooth roads, making it jiggly when the going gets rough.
On slippery surfaces it was hard to fault the RAV4’s all wheel drive system - the rear axle reacts to front wheel slip, so it isn’t as capable as a proper 4x4, but on loose gravel roads the assistance from the all-wheel drive system helps increase confidence and a lock mode for low speeds can be engaged on more challenging paths.
All-wheel drive versions of the RAV4 also feature a traditional six-speed automatic transmission in place of the CVT auto that comes with two wheel drive variants. A more familiar driving feel, with none of the lag or drone of the CVT auto, and with the extra urge of the 2.5-litre compared to the 2.0-litre front wheel drive version the RAV4 GXL has a more confident on-road feel.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the RAV4 scored 34.56 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2016.
Safety Features: Standard features include seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee), front force-limiting seatbelt pretensioners, ABS brakes, rearview camera, rear park sensors, electronic traction and stability control.
Adding the Tech Pack brings automatic high beam, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with steering assist, fatigue detection, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: The Toyota Service Advantage program offers capped price servicing with intervals set at six months/10,000km up to 36 months or 60,000km (whichever comes first). Each service is set at $180 for eligible customers with some terms, conditions, and exclusions applied.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The completely new Volkswagen Tiguan blends impressive tech, family-friendly interior touches, and a new (if familar) style. Punchy engines and smart transmissions help cement the Tiguan’s premium feel.
With a new Mazda CX-5 set to arrive early next year, the value proposition on runout stock of the current model makes it a very attractive alternative, particularly considering the Mazda’s impressive fuel economy and infotainment.
Comfortable and quiet on the inside, the Honda CR-V also boasts attractive pricing, though it may not quite match the equipment list of the RAV4 GXL it’s not far behind.
The new Renault Koleos shares tried and tested mechanicals with the Nissan X-Trail, wrapped in an appealingly styled exterior with a plush and high-tech interior giving it a much more premium feel than the plasticky RAV4
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With a solid, practical interior and a strong emphasis on versatility the RAV4 maintains its family friendly appeal. However with a fully-loaded price pushing past $40,000 for an all wheel drive GXL with Tech Pack included the RAV4 might not be the most budget friendly option.
But at its core the RAV4 ticks a lot of boxes. The boot is huge, and flexible, thanks to true flat-folding rear seats, the drivetrain behaves well, and niceties like dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation add some glitter to the basic package.
Certainly with a stronger 2.5-litre engine and a conventional six-speed automatic, the all-wheel drive variants of the RAV4 range are more pleasant than their two-wheel drive, 2.0 litre, CVT equivalents and that alone makes the extra spend worthwhile.
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