I travelled recently to New Zealand for a road trip with my partner. We were after something economical, powerful and spacious. Not always three things that come hand-in-hand. I took my chances and hired a brand new (few thousand km) RAV4 GXL petrol AWD.
We racked up 6000km in four weeks driving all through New Zealand from snow to rain to fog and being that it was a hire car, it got tested well.
The motor in this car is fantastic, coupled with the six-speed auto 'box and Eco and Sport modes, overtaking on NZ's hilly and winding roads was actually a breeze and the motor gives out a nice note when its pushed which isn't something you expect with a family city SUV.
Economy was also very impressive hovering between 8 to 9 litres bearing in mind it was all 110km/h speed limits, winding and hilly roads with overtaking thrown into the mix. Some days we would be on the road nonstop for six to eight hours and the RAV4 kept going with the air-con on and in manual shift mode.
For a car of its size and weight you wouldn't expect it to handle too well but both at high speeds and in corners it is a very very stable car. It rides and handles as well as a ZR Corolla and the stability control system works fantastic but I found it better to have it off on gravel roads if you are confident enough to understand how to control a car.
The suspension is firm but forgiving when it comes to rough roads and corrugations. It's rare to find a car that has handling and suspension to cater for both around town and off road.
The 2016 model is equipped with lane departure, ESP, brake assist and radar cruise control to name a few. The radar cruise control is just fantastic; it's set and forget. All you need to do is steer!
The entertainment system and Bluetooth works well and the speakers and sound quality is definitely above expectations considering it isn't the JBL system the Cruiser has (upper model).
Seats were fully adjustable and comfortable for long drives considering my back generally plays up on long drives.
Boot space was big enough for two large suitcases, two backpacks and a slab of water with a cargo blind included from factory.
The dual-zone climate control works fantastically also.
The looks as most people put it are that of a stormtrooper, I love it!
It's very stylish, new and built well with the door sills being thicker and a part of the actual door to help with any off road bingles you might run into.
Ground clearance is fantastic for most places; we managed to have to do a few flooded road crossings and a few small streams when the GPS led us astray.
The only downfall would be the exhaust down pipe sits slightly lower and we had that scrape a few times on some treacherous areas.
I have no idea why you wouldn't buy the AWD model in a SUV like this. The info on the dash actually shows you where the power is driven to on demand and you are able to lock the centre diff up to speeds of 50km/h which also works well in conjunction with traction control for moguls or rutted areas, which I managed to try when driving around a few tracks to get to lake edge areas on the South Island.
If you are looking for a four-door, five-seater vehicle that could cater for a family and you don't want a full blown 4WD you can't look any further than the RAV4. With city mid-size SUVs like the Outlander, ASX, CR-V etc all becoming more and more popular, the RAV4, despite its slightly higher price tag, is well worth the money.
Toyota reliability, capped-price servicing, stylish looks and great resale and value for money, the RAV4 really has impressed me and we will be considering purchasing one in the near future.
There wasn't another car that could have kept up with us on our travels, from high speed driving on pavement, off pavement, through dirt tracks, across farmland, through muddy tree-logged areas, Fords in the path, the RAV4 conquered it all whilst being fairly economical on the fuel, comfortable and quiet when it needed to be.
I can assure you that if you buy one of these cars it will not break! Mine didn't and I tested it on every avenue possible.