Toyota RAV4 SR 150 2.2 D-4D
Bold chrome grille and new headlights are key changes
- Build quality is impressive
- Cabin space is generous and boot should be more than adequate for a busy family
- Standard specification across the range is high
- Likelihood of impressive reliability is reassuring
- Cabin decor is on the dark side and the quality of the plastics is average
- Dynamically behind the best in class
- Noise levels are relatively high when revved
- Despite claimed economy figures, vehicle range is poor
Few credit Toyota with the invention of the 'soft-roader', but the original RAV4 from the early 1990s was the first car to successfully blend the chunky looks and high driving position with car-like dynamics and refinement. The latest version has been revised to keep pace with newer rivals, and includes a front-wheel drive option for the first time.
The silhouette of the RAV4 has become a familiar sight on UK roads and it has always managed to successfully bridge the gap between tough, chunky styling and something that is too aggressive for some tastes. The update brings the most significant changes at the front of the car, where a bright chrome grille and projector-style headlamps give more definition. The front wings and bonnet are new too, and overall the RAV4 wears its years well.
Changes elsewhere are limited to specification tweaks. The entry-level model in the range now comes in two-wheel drive form, and this 2.2 D-4D XT-R model offers a useful cost saving for those unlikely to venture off-road. In addition all engine variants were revised to meet Euro 5 criteria.
The list of kit offered on even the entry-level model is considerable: all versions have dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and automatic headlights/wipers. It stretches to sat-nav, leather seats and electric everything on the top variants, and faced with such generosity only the badge snobs are likely to stay loyal to their respective brands.
For all the RAV4's material charms, don't forget that there's a solid, dependable, reliable car underneath. It will struggle where Land Rover's Freelander won't, but on road the RAV4 feels assured and stable in an environment it will almost exclusively.
Our verdict on the Toyota RAV4 SR 150 2.2 D-4D
Although in some respects the RAV4 is beginning to feel its age, it is unquestionably a safe bet for those who want a low-maintenance SUV. Well-equipped, good value and likely to provide trouble-free motoring, for many people this means all the key boxes are ticked. Anyone wanting a better driving experience, high economy or a premium badge should look elsewhere.
In its bid to ascend the premium ladder, this RAV4 does work out a little more expensive than before. In its defence, residual values should be reasonable for what is a popular car and trips to the dealer should be rare and of the scheduled variety. For a diesel it can require filling up more often than you might imagine.
Space and practicality
Bigger than the car it replaced, this RAV4 is noticeably more spacious both fore and aft. There's a good level of oddment storage on offer, and the rear seats fold with minimal effort to liberate extra boot space. At the rear, the tailgate is unusual in that it opens out from left to right. This isn't great when parked in a confined space, but once opened it reveals a low load lip and a flat floor.
Controls and display
Clear and concise controls and instrumentation are the order of the day in the RAV4. Taking a leaf from sister premium brand Lexus, the main dials are crisp and appear illuminated from behind. The centre console houses the climate control, which is at hand height with the audio unit of combined sat-nav system above. Steering wheel audio controls and voice control for certain functions are model dependent features.
The RAV4's spacious cabin makes it easy for four adults to get comfortable. On the move, road noise is by and large kept to acceptable levels, and only the engine intrudes when extended. Ride comfort is average for the class, and more modern rivals have an advantage here.
The usual alarm and immobiliser system is present on the RAV4, along with remote central locking. On the high end models there's as a 'Smart Key' which allows you to keep the key in your pocket at all times and start the car with the press of a button.
Following the trend set by the firm's Avensis, Toyota's RAV4 comes with an impressive nine airbags - twin front, side, front and rear curtain plus driver's knee. The company's 'Active Torque Control 4WD' regulates power between the front and rear for optimum grip levels.
Easy going is the best way to describe the RAV4s driving appeal: slot the transmission into D and surf along on the strong diesel torque. Just getting on with the job is the RAV4's forte, and it's only when a little more is asked of it that it is less impressive. The ride quality is average and the steering quite artificial, which is undemanding but disappointing and when extended the diesel powerplant makes much more noise for not a great deal more performance.
Family car appeal
If the prospect of a conventional people carrier doesn't fill you with joy, something like the RAV4 should fill the gap. It will seat five - two adults, three children - with ease, boasts an almost go anywhere appeal and will swallow a sizeable amount of luggage, shopping or both. In keeping with the MPV theme, there are plenty of cabin storage options. The leather upholstery isn't so child friendly, though.
First car appeal
There's no reason to dismiss the RAV4 in this context, but the harsh reality is that the car is not cheap to buy and certainly won't be cheap to insure. If you have sufficient funds, the lofty driving position will no doubt be welcome, as will the light touch required to operate the steering, gearshift and brakes.
Quality and image
Once a car sold to fun-loving youngsters, this third generation RAV4 is all grown up. The slick exterior styling and abundance of high-end convenience features now points to a car aimed at Volvo and BMW buyers. On the quality front nothing has changed. Toyota's mission has always been to build cars more reliable and durable than the competition, and with the RAV4 is has succeeded once again.
Being a lofty SUV, accessing the RAV4 cabin might prove to be a struggle for the old and infirm. Small children might also require a helping hand, but once inside the cabin there is plenty of room for an average family. As usual, front seat occupants fare better regarding ingress and egress, but the difference is only small. At the rear, the side-opening tailgate could cause problems in tight spaces, and you'll need to stretch to reach something in the darkest corners of the boot.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Go for the top level SR tested here and the RAV4 has all the audio equipment you could need. A hard-drive satellite navigation system with music storage facility is included, and the audio quality is of a high order. Buttons on the steering wheel and a touchscreen make it easy to control too.
Colours and trim
The move upmarket has had an unusual effect on the Toyota. Where once bright colours were the norm, now dark metallics look more attractive and in keeping with the RAV4's image. Inside, the same is true - dark cabin materials and trim accents help maintain the premium ambience. Light trim is on offer, and does a fine job of adding a youthful, lifestyle element.
While a big, tall car, the RAV4 is not that difficult to park. The view forward is excellent and backed up with big rear view mirrors. Better still, SR models have a reversing camera which takes all the strain out of reversing into a space.
Full size spare attached to tailgate.
Petrol engine option - 2.0-litre (156bhp). Diesel engine option - 2.2-litre (148bhp). CVT automatic gearbox for petrol engine as standard, six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox for diesel depending on engine variant. Trim levels are XT-R and SR.
BMW X3 Costly to buy and own but much better to drive
Nissan X-Trail Good value, competent, easy to drive and stylish
Kia Sportage Value alternative feels more plush than RAV4
Land Rover Freelander More expensive but better on and off-road