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  • Quick performance; smooth-revving engine; lots of interior space and cargo room; comfortable seats; decent sound system.
  • Styling is dated; no large LCD screen; 5-speed auto; handling not as sound as some newer models; side-hinged tailgate can be impractical

OUR RATING
6 / 10



If you’re in the market for an SUV – and it’s almost a case of who isn’t these days – then you just may have the Toyota RAV4 on your shortlist.

The Toyota Rav4 is the oldest of the car-based off-road-style vehicles, having launched in 1994, and it continues to be one of the most popular models cashing in on the world’s – and Australia’s – obsession with SUV ownership.

SUV sales are already up 26 per cent year on year and the market shows no signs of slowing.

The SUV segment has recently grown from three to four categories – small, medium, large and upper-large – in response to the latest trend for city-sized SUVs.

If you want choice, how do 327 different SUV variants to choose from sound?

There are eight different versions alone for the Toyota RAV4, which now moves from the ‘Compact SUV’ segment to become a ‘Medium SUV’, along with vehicles such as the Nissan X-Trail and Subaru Forester.

There will be a new-generation Toyota RAV4 in early 2013, but with a year still to go we wanted to revisit a model that continues to defy fresher models.

Having notched up over 180,000 sales since its Australian launch back in 1994, it’s difficult to think of a more consistently successful nameplate in the segment than the Toyota RAV4. In the last decade, it has been a top seller three times, second on six occasions and third once.

Toyota RAV4 Review

The RAV4, like the majority of SUV purchases these days, effectively replaces the four-door family car by offering a far more flexible package, especially in terms of cargo space and enhanced visibility for driver and passengers.

It might look positively compact sitting beside a Toyota LandCruiser, but the RAV4 is anything but when it comes to interior space.

The rear cargo bay alone seems larger than you might ever need, but then there’s some additional stowage space in a cleverly concealed compartment under the cargo floor, perhaps to hide more expensive items such as laptops or camera gear.

Although it’s unlikely you would need any more cubic space in the rear cargo area, remote levers located back there automatically lower the 60/40 split-fold rear seats to a horizontal position for longer items such as skis, surfboards or even a ladder.

The rear seats can also be moved forward or back, offering even more versatility.

We also lost count of the number of individual storage spaces hidden around the RAV4 – but more than 20 without even including the dual compartment glovebox.

Then there’s the ridiculously large amount of legroom for rear seat passengers, which would rival that of many vehicles in the large car segment.

Our $39,990 CV6 RAV4 test car is a mid-spec variant, and while it doesn’t come with leather upholstery, the fabric seats are comfortable with a wide design up front for larger body shapes. For those smaller builds there’s enough side bolstering to hold you firm when negotiating twisty roads.

Toyota RAV4 Review

While the interior mixes different plastics and faux-metal accents to try and create a more interesting-looking cabin, there are few soft-touch materials to be found inside the RAV4 and the design is inevitably tiring in the twighlight year’s of this generation’s lifecycle.

There are all the usual electrically operated creature comforts, however, including Bluetooth phone and audio streaming system that is quick and easy to pair.

A colour LCD touch screen with satellite navigation would be better, however, than the very ordinary LCD display that is hard to read in sunny conditions.

We’re not too fussed about the RAV4’s styling, either, notwithstanding its age, but it’s a bit dull when compared to a number of its contemporaries, including the South Korean Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35 twins.

One thing that isn’t lacking is the RAV4’s performance credentials – at least in straight line. Under the bonnet is the most powerful petrol engine in its class – the same 201kW and 333Nm 3.5-litre V6 found in the Toyota Aurion, Toyota Kluger and Toyota Tarago V6. (It’s worth noting that most rivals use only four-cylinder engines, where the RAV4 offers the additional V6.)

It’s fast, too; simply dab the accelerator pedal and the RAV4 leaps off the line quicker than most performance hatches. It might seem unusual to talk about 0-100km/h sprint times for the family SUV, but 7.4 seconds and a top speed of 210km/h is quicker than anything in this category and price range.

Toyota RAV4 Review

The RAV4’s extra grunt makes for safe and effortless overtaking on freeways and country roads as well.

It’s smooth revving, too, and very quiet inside the cabin at idle. In fact, we turned off the air-conditioning at the lights and the engine note was barely audible. However, things can get rowdy during hard acceleration.

An auto with only five speeds rather than at least six ratios is also indicative of the RAV4’s age.

The RAV4’s tyres and all-wheel-drive system (there’s no V6 for front-drive versions) combine to ensure there’s excellent traction, though, even in horribly wet conditions (as we experienced).

Toyota has tuned the RAV4’s electric power steering well, as it’s nicely weighted, with only a small degree of play either side of the straight ahead and plenty of assistance for an easy time with tight parking spots.

The RAV4 runs on 225/65 series tyres, which are a long way from being low profile, so the ride even over blemished road surfaces is pretty good, but it’s not exemplary like that offered by the likes of the new Mazda CX-5.

It’s the same story with the handling, the RAV4 turns in well enough and there’s minimal body roll, but it doesn’t feel quite as composed or planted as several of its rivals.

Naturally, the bigger and heavier engine isn’t going to be as efficient as four-cylinder models, and 10.5L/100km is thirsty by class standards.

Toyota RAV4 Review

A Volkswagen Tiguan 155TSI, for example, offers slightly quicker performance yet uses only 8.8L/100km.

So the Toyota RAV4 CV6 AWD will be ideal for buyers looking for a combination of practicality and performance.

But with a number of areas betraying the number of candles the RAV4 now has to blow out on its birthday cake, Toyota’s engineers and designers have some work to do to match its SUV’s qualities to its popularity.


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TOYOTA RAV4 BREAKDOWN

Toyota RAV4 Review
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Toyota Rav4 Specs

CV6 : GSA33R 08 UPGRADE : 3.5L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 5 SP AUTOMATIC - UNLEADED PETROL - 4D WAGON
Car Details
Make
TOYOTA
Model
RAV4
Variant
CV6
Series
GSA33R 08 UPGRADE
Year
2012
Body Type
4D WAGON
Seats
5
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$17,710 - $20,130
Dealer Retail
$18,870 - $22,440
Dealer Trade
$13,900 - $16,100
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
3.5L
Cylinders
V6
Max. Torque
333Nm @  4700rpm
Max. Power
201kW @  6200rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
121.5W/kg
Bore & Stroke
94x83mm
Compression Ratio
10.8
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
5 SP AUTOMATIC
Drive Type
FOUR WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
2.277
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
60Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
10.5L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1655
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1695mm
Length
4600mm
Width
1815mm
Ground Clearance
200mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1900  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.6
Front Rim Size
6.5x17
Rear Rim Size
6.5x17
Front Tyres
225/65 R17
Rear Tyres
225/65 R17
Wheel Base
2660
Front Track
1560
Rear Track
1560
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Anti roll bar, Gas damper
Rear Suspension
Double wishbone, Coil Spring, Anti roll bar, Gas damper
Standard Features
Comfort
Automatic Air Con / Climate Control
Control & Handling
Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program, Hill Holder, Traction Control System
Driver
Cruise Control, Power Steering
Entertainment
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Exterior
Power Mirrors, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Power Windows
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
6 months /  10,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Front Floor
Country of Origin
Japan