Car Test   R0306
 
January 2003
Brief Test Toyota RAV4
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.0 D4-D VX 5-door
Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs)- a sort of cross between a 4x4 and an estate car with a dash of MPV thrown in for good measure- are proving immensely popular these days. The Toyota RAV4 is no exception.
  
   The fact that the vast majority of these vehicles are bought to ply the school run and collect weekly groceries, rather than getting down and dirty off the road, seems largely irrelevant to their buyers. They cite a lofty, safe-feeling cabin, reasonable agility and the reassurance of all-weather mobility (should they ever need it) as the reasons for choosing an SUV over an MPV or a more conventional estate car.
  
   The fact remains, however, that SUVs’ substantial build and all-wheel drive running gear mean they use more fuel. As a result, not only is diesel power being increasingly offered in this class, but, when available, it usually matches or even out-sells its petrol counterpart.
  
   The RAV4 was unveiled with only 1.8 and two-litre petrol power, but within a year Toyota’s D-4D common-rail turbo-diesel joined the underbonnet line-up. Mustering an extra 5bhp over the same engine used in the Avensis (courtesy of a variable-nozzle turbocharger), it offers a wealth of constant, wall-to-wall pulling power between 1800 and 3000rpm, yet promises almost 40mpg overall.
  
   Right from the off, the RAV4’s diesel makes its presence heard. But the din subsides once up to speed, when the lanky gearing and modest cabin noise result in relaxed, fatigue-free cruising. Admittedly, fuel economy suffers during brisk motorway blasts, but, this apart, the RAV4 mops up the miles in a tranquil and impressively untroubled manner.
  
   With light (almost too much so), responsive steering, easy-going controls, clear displays and lofty seating, plus a wealth of creature comforts and cubby holes around the cabin, life aboard the RAV4 harbours few hassles.
  
   Thanks to its 33cm overall ‘stretch’ (boosting mainly luggage space rather than back seat legroom over the three-door), the five-door retains most of the shorter model’s lithe, light-on-its-feet ride and on-road refinement, but with less fidgeting over the bumpy bits.
  
   Unlike the dock-tailed three-door (which seats only two in the back), the five-door is a full five-seater, with nearly twice the load space allowing ample room for everyone’s luggage, too. There’s a liberal supply of tie-down hooks and side locker storage, but the rear shelf/roller-blind cover is a bit of an afterthought, while restricted opening of the side-hinged tailgate remains one of the biggest day-to-day irritations.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • supermini fuel bills with SUV versatility
  • lithe on the road, pleasingly capable off it
  • MPV features such as removable rear seats
  • lofty, commanding view from cabin
and GRIPES
  • restricted opening of side-hung tailgate
  • diesel can get quite loud (and pricey)
  • lever-type recline adjusters won't suit everyone
  • rear seats don't tip/fold to vertical
VERDICT
The bigger, roomier five-door RAV4 is more family-friendly and feels more mature than its stubby sibling, with the extra doors and load space boosting the model’s already abundant appeal. Diesel power further bolsters its attraction by helping to cut fuel bills, although its modest pace and at times vocal nature mean that it lacks some of the three-door’s cheeky, chuckable personality.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1995cc, common-rail turbo-diesel, 114bhp at 4000rpm/184 lb ft at 1800rpm-3000rpm with chain-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves
drive 5-speed manual, full-time four-wheel drive
suspension front: independent MacPherson coil spring/damper struts, anti-roll bar
rear: independent double wishbones and trailing arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 6.5in alloy with 235/60R16 tyres (NRG and VX), steel with 215/70 R16 (NV and GX); full-size spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with standard ABS and electronic brake-force distribution on all versions
CO2 emissions 190g/km
0-62mph~ 12.1sec
official combined mpg 39.8
~ maker's figure

THE RAV4 RANGE
size and type upper medium (mid-priced) 3- and 5-door Sport Utility Vehicle   trim levels NV and NRG (3-door); NV, GX and VX (5-door)
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.8 litre/123bhp (3-door front-wheel drive only), 4/2.0/147
diesel: 4/2.0/114
  drive full-time 4-wheel drive, 5-speed manual; optional 1.8/front-wheel drive (3-door only) and 4-speed automatic (2.0 petrol only)
notable features air conditioning, roof rails and ABS on all version, 3-year 60,000-mile warranty, MPV-style slide/fold/removable rear seats, leather upholstery and CD autochanger on top spec VX model

VITAL STATISTICS (cm)
length x width (inc mirrors) 426x196
front
- legroom 84-110
rear
- typical legroom 98
- typical kneeroom 73
- headroom 97
- hiproom 128
load space (litres/cu ft) 380/13.5
load length 65/107/155+
load width 98-132
load sill height (inside/outside) 2/55
boot height 60*
load aperture height 101
+ rear seat slid fully back/folded/removed  * under load cover in upper position
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