I purchased my 2009 Toyota RAV4 some four years ago. It was a car I test drove on a whim while looking around car yards. It is one of those cars that you agree to buy in your head on the test drive because you just don't want to give it back.
The 2009 was, for me, a big step up from the previous generation. It's where the RAV4 crossed from fun runabout to something more serious. This shows not only in the size and engine variants, but in the overall experience of the car.
The drive is surprisingly powerful. The V6 petrol offered only in this era provided 201kW of power and 333Nm of torque when new and I would not think this has slipped far.
The steering is a little unclear on direction however not so much that it's an issue for what this car is designed for. Around town the driving position makes it easy to navigate and park, and on the freeway the car comes into its own. The car is quiet, powerful enough to keep away from trucks and overtake with ease, and very comfortable as a passenger.
Inside is everything you would expect for this price range and a little more. There is an acceptable sound system, and controls available for the car including a few 4x4 goodies which I will come to later.
The general layout of the cabin contains myriad of storage options, without being over the top. Up front there are generous bottle- and cupholders for both passenger and driver. The position of instruments and controls is well considered, with the main things just where you need them.
The back seat is massive, with a 60:40 split and lap sash seat belts for all three occupants again with bottle-holders in the doors. The back seat also slides and reclines (rare for this time and car size), and offers a surprising amount of legroom similar to what you would expect in something much bigger. These are the type of layout options that create the gap between this and the previous generation RAV4.
The boot space is enormous. This is down to the fact that overseas this car was offered with a third row of seats, however, I don't believe this was ever the case in Australia.
Below the boot there is additional storage for anything that you might not use as much but don't want sliding around the boot all the time (think sports gear, beach umbrellas and picnic mats). The boot also comes with a cargo net that can be re-configured in a range of ways and a cargo blind for when needed. These both have sections to mount below the boot surface when not in use which is a pleasant change from having these floating around your garage.
It has to be said that while this car is not a full off-road spec, it is surprisingly capable off road. There is a range of safety gear such as traction control, part time 4x4 and DAC (downhill assist) that tend to engage themselves only when you come off paved road.
I have been surprised again and again when touring through National parks and even on the sand with the ability to change over to low gear and a lockable diff and gain a great deal of traction when needed.
Overall the 2009 RAV4 was a great offering, and many of the design decisions in this car are showing in up in newer models of other brands of the same size. They have also carried through to the newer RAV4 variant.
I would definitely recommend taking one of these for a drive if you are in the market for a well-priced, mid-size 4x4 that makes a great getaway when needed.
Note: Stock image used for illustration purposes