Toyota’s Rav4 manages to be distinctly eye-catching with its blocky pumped-up styling. Picture: SUPPLIED
Toyota’s Rav4 manages to be distinctly eye-catching with its blocky pumped-up styling. Picture: SUPPLIED

Toyota’s decision to create a new compact crossover segment against the backdrop of its hugely successful land marauders in 1994 has been a brilliant move.

The newest iteration of the Rav4 is already going great guns in the market and proving just as popular as the outgoing model, despite determination from many rival brands to match its popularity in the family transport market, with only a few coming close.

It’s practical, well made and efficient, but it does sit at a curious midpoint. It’s a mid-size SUV that is a 4x4 and has suggestive features such as a “rock & dirt” and “mud & sand” mode control, a clever enough four-wheel system yet no low-range gearing, a fairly limited 200mm ground clearance and 20º departure angle.

Toyota RAV4

WE LIKE: Looks, size, refinement

WE DISLIKE: Not a hard-core off-roader

VERDICT: A very sensible buy

This pales against the Toyota Rush, a cousin so far removed from this class that stands 220mm off the ground with a far superior 26° departure angle.

It’s not an ideal off-roader then, this Rav4. Instead, look at it as a butch-looking thing that brings with it the commanding driving position the market likes and built primarily to play in urban jungles, with the ability to romp some of the worst gravel paths.

There’s no intriguing new selling point. It’s a straightforward experience, but where the Rav4 does succeed is with an excellent and refined drive quality, good fuel economy and a generous equipment catalogue inside its surprisingly enormous cabin.

Using its nearest sales rivals as reference, its 4,600mm length and 2,690mm wheel base trumps the VW Tiguan and Hyundai Tuscon. It’s a sumptuous enough cabin to sit in, with enough of a digital suite of functions and convenience features to enjoy from the comfort of good-quality leather and electrically operated front seats.

There’s a Lexus similarity in the luxury furnishings inside the RAV4. Picture: SUPPLIED
There’s a Lexus similarity in the luxury furnishings inside the RAV4. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Toyota is rated to tow a lower 1,500kg braked trailer while the front-wheel drive Hyundai is able to haul 1,900kg and the 4Motion Volkswagen 2,200kg.   

On test here is the range-topping Rav4 2.5 AWD VX petrol model, which means 152kW and 243kW outputs from a non-turbo four-cylinder 2.5l engine mated to an eight-speed automatic. If you want a manual you will have to buy down the range to the entry-level 2.0 GX.

The 2.5’s output figures look fairly meek but the shove is actually healthy. It has strong acceleration and reaches and maintains highway speeds sufficiently. It’s also noteworthy that comfort on the move is retained even on gravel roads, supremely so, which is a big dealmaker.

Living with the car didn’t unearth any nasty surprises whatsoever. It’s a car you can enjoy driving all day and all year long. Add the brand’s peace-of-mind ownership experience that has been honed over decades and no foreseeable rival to throw a spanner into the works, and you’ll understand why it’s SA’s favourite mid-size SUV.


Technical specs

Engine

Type: Four-cylinder petrol

Capacity: 2,487cc

Power: 154kW

Torque: 243Nm

Transmission

Type: Eight-speed automatic

Drivetrain

Type: Permanent AWD

Performance

Top speed: N/A

0-100km/h: N/A

Fuel consumption: 7.3l/100km (as claimed) 7.6l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 166g/kg

Standard features

Brake assist, ABS, stability control, seven airbags, rain-sensing wipers, LED daytime running lights, Xenon headlamps, adaptive headlights, keyless access, USB port, climate control, leather upholstered and heated front seats, panoramic roof, run-flat tyres, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, electric folding mirrors, auto on/off lights, alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, park distance control front with camera, trip computer, multifunction steering wheel

Cost of ownership

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Maintenance plan: Six services/90,000km

Price: R586,500

Lease*: R12,556 a month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Toyota RAV4

WE LIKE: Looks, size, refinement

WE DISLIKE: Not a hard-core off-roader

VERDICT: A very sensible buy

Motor News star rating

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Performance * * * *

Economy * * * * *

Safety * * * * *

Value For Money * * * * *

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Competition

Mazda CX-5 2.5 AWD Individual, 143kW/258Nm — R569,100

Ford Kuga 2.0T AWD ST Line, 177kW/340Nm — R552,400

Nissan X-Trail 2.5 4x4 Tekna, 126kW/233Nm — R523,800

Honda CR-V 1.5T Executive AWD, 140kW/240Nm — R626,900

Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 GLS Exceed, 123kW/222Nm — R559,995

Renault Koleos 2.5 Dynamique 4WD, 126kW/233Nm — R489,900

Subaru Forester 2.0i-S ES, 115kW/196Nm — R524,000

Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 Summit Auto, 122kW/225Nm — R485,900