This is the fourth-generation RAV4, or to give our test car its full title, the Toyota RAV4 Invincible 2.2 D-4D. Let’s pick that mouthful of a moniker apart and find out if the new RAV4 can cut it against the Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V in the school-run soft-roader class.
Invincible? That’s quite a claim for the new RAV4…
Toyota doesn’t actually promise the new RAV4 is infallible; ‘Invincible’ is the top-spec trim level, costing £25,595 (£28,195 as tested, with cost-extra metallic paint and top-spec infotainment.) Sitting above entry-level Active (from £22,595) and mid-range Icon (£24,295), the plushest RAV4 gets roof rails, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, and leather seats, heated up front. Active-spec RAV4s ride on 17-inch alloys – the rest of the range get 18s as standard.
What are the engine options for the 2013 Toyota RAV4?
There’s a choice of 2.0-litre diesel or 2.0-litre petrol engines – the former’s is six-speed manual only, and the latter auto only. Higher-spec models have the option of a 2.2-litre diesel in automatic or manual guise. Here comes the 2.2 D-4D bit: our test car had the 147bhp/251lb ft 2.2-litre diesel, mated to a manual gearbox and part-time four-wheel drive. It’s a powertrain good for a claimed 49.6mpg and 149g/km of CO2, and will dust the 0-62mph sprint in 9.6sec.
It’s a fairly vocal engine, but the Toyota’s power makes up for the lack of manners. The RAV4 feels quicker in-gear than its figures suggest, though swift in-town getaways are inhibited by a combination of a long-travel, high-biting point clutch pedal and a clunky gearbox. Some of the CAR team liked the shift action’s mechanical feel, but rivals like the Mazda CX-5 do the sporty gear-change act better. In any case, the steering is vague, so the meaty gear-change is where the GT86 comparisons begin and end, unfortunately.
How’s the handling?
Unremarkable, which will do the job just fine for those looking for an easy-going family workhorse. Show the RAV4 a series of challenging bends and you’re met with understeer and a fair degree of body roll. Then again, if it was supposed to be sporty, it’d be the ‘SAV4’, not the RAV4…
What’s life like inside the new Toyota RAV4?
Climb aboard and you’re greeted by an uninspiring dashboard that can’t be lifted simply by the application of a stitched leather panel, as Toyota has attempted. The central touchscreen ‘Touch & Go system’ is shared with the new Auris and Yaris – it’s allowed Toyota to ditch the fussy button clusters of the old model.
What isn’t as intuitive is the hidden dashboard panel with controls for the heated seats,: sit up straight like your mother told you and it’s impossible to tell what setting the bottom-warmers are on until you’ve singed off the seat of your pants. The auxiliary USB and 12V sockets, and a ‘Sport’ button, which allegedly sharpens throttle and steering response, are also oddly tucked away. The driving position isn’t as car-like as a Ford Kuga or Honda CR-V either, due to too little reach adjustment in the steering wheel.
As you’d expect from a Toyota though, there’s not a flimsy join in sight, and the space on offer is excellent. The rear seats get exec saloon-like legroom, though that might be thanks to Toyota pinching room from the boot. At 410 litres with the seats up, it’s way smaller than the 456-litre Ford Kuga, 589-litre Honda CRV and 503-litre Mazda CX-5. At least it’s easier to access in tight spaces than the old car, thanks to a conventional roof-hinged tailgate in place of the old side-hinged door.
Toyota invented the soft-roader segment back in 1994 with the original RAV4. The new car’s nowhere near as revolutionary – it couldn’t possibly be – instead the RAV4 has evolved into a middle-ground player. It’s a safe-as-houses choice, but that jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none vibe isn’t enough to come out on top in such a fiercely competitive class.
To these eyes, the bluff styling’s pretty iffy, the cabin unwelcoming compared to European rivals, and the driving experience is forgettable. We’re sure it’ll offer many years of faithful family service, but rivals from Land Rover and BMW offer higher brand cachet, while you get more for your money if you go Korean. An equivalent top-spec Kia SportageKX-4 is £27,195 –£1000 cheaper than the Toyota as tested – and don’t forget the Kia’s seven-year warranty outstrips the RAV4’s five-year cover.
What the new Toyota RAV4 represents is the best and worst of occupying the car market middle-ground. On the up side, it’s a safe, completely inoffensive mid-sized SUV. However, as an object of desire, innovation, or driving giggles, you can do better for the money.