Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Toyota RAV4 Cruiser Review

Toyota RAV4 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

IN A NUTSHELL: Toyota pioneered the high-riding, tiny-tot SUV segment in 1994 and the RAV4 proved an instant hit. Bigger, better to drive and better equipped, this fourth-generation model looks set to take total Australian sales way past the current 200,000 units.

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: The new Toyota RAV4 arrived at just the right time for Toyota as the third-generation car was well and truly on its last legs. This new model adds more kit yet keeps pricing on hold or, in some cases, lowers it. Driving dynamics are good but not class leading and while the cabin feels big, the quality of materials used is a little ho-hum. Overall, it’s a decent offering that will sell well given Australia’s love of all things Toyota.

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Toyota has marked the 20th anniversary of the RAV4 with the release of this sharper looking fourth-generation model. It promises sharper driving dynamics, a new all-wheel drive (AWD) system, a selectable Sports mode on most models in the range, and a turbo-diesel variant.

When Toyota launched the RAV4 back in 1994, it sat alone in offering a high-riding, tiny-tot rough roader but consumers flocked to buy it and a legend was born. The second-generation came along in 2000, the third in 2006 and the fourth-generation is here now.

Like several other car makers at the moment, Toyota has keenly pitched the RAV4, leaving them either identically priced to the superseded model or, in some cases even costing less. For instance, the entry-level 2WD petrol model with six-speed manual ($28,490+ORC) is $500 less than the lowest price for the outgoing range. AWD variants start at $31,990(+ORC) which is identical to the superseded model, while the range tops out at $48,990(+ORC), or $1000 less than the previous range-topping model. The new turbo-diesel RAV4 is priced from $35,490(+ORC).

Toyota RAV4 First Drive Review Driving

There are three engines available in the Toyota RAV4. The 2WD variants run a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 107kW at 6200rpm and 187Nm of torque at 3600rpm, mated to either a six-speed manual (standard) or a seven-speed CVT (cost option). Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.4L/100km (CVT) – 7.7L/100km (manual).

The AWD RAV4 models run the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine featured in the Camry, and this is the variant we drove. It offers 132kW at 6000rpm and 233Nm of torque at 4100rpm. This comes either with a six-speed manual (standard) or a six-speed automatic transmission (cost option). Fuel consumption is a claimed 8.5L/100km (automatic) – 8.7L/100km (manual).

The diesel-powered RAV4 AWD features a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder which offers 110kW at 3600rpm and 340Nm from 2000-2800rpm. Like its petrol sibling, it can be had with either the six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Fuel consumption is a claimed 5.6L/100km (manual) – 6.5L/100km (automatic).

While those three engines offer plenty of choice, overseas buyers have access to a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder in the entry-level 2WD RAV4. We don’t and there’s no sign that engine will be offered here. Shame.

But, back to the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol in our test car (our car ran the cost-optional six-speed automatic). Turn the key and the RAV4 fires smoothly with little engine noise creeping into the cabin; it’s a strong engine and offers decent oomph from the get-go but it does feel a little strung out higher in the rev range. The six-speed automatic transmission feels a little busy at around town speeds but smooths out as speed builds.

On the road, the Toyota RAV4 isn’t as dynamic as some of its competitors, and I’m looking squarely at the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 here. But the all-wheel drive system offers decent grip across bitumen and dirt, and while the steering is precise it lacks weight (giving you that computer game steering feel), and it’s only when you get heavy handed with steering inputs that it gets a little flustered.

Even in top-spec cars, the RAV4 isn’t what you’d call luxurious. The plastics, while hard-wearing are scratchy and, well, hard to the touch and some of the chrome-look plastic looks nice until you touch it, showing up smudges. The touch-screen infotainment system is a disappointment in that the buttons are very small and the screen becomes all but impossible to use in bright conditions.

Toyota RAV4 First Drive Review Interior

The cabin feels huge and there’s more than enough room for a family of four (although the front seats are lacking in lateral support and feel a little short under thigh; the back seat will easily hold two child seats without feeling cramped. The boot has 577 litres of storage space if you’ve stuck with the space-saver spare, but shrinks to 506 litres with the cost-optional full-size spare.

We tested the top-spec Cruiser ($48,990+ORC, including $2500 automatic transmission) which features sat-nav, a power-operated tail-gate, self-levelling HID head-lights with washers, and a tilt-and-slide moonroof. It also features blind-spot warning, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat, four-way manual adjust passenger seat, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, auto on/off head-lights, and an alarm. Disappointingly a full-size spare costs $300. The RAV4 also sits under Toyota’s capped price servicing of $170/service for “up to” the first six services (or 60,000km).

In terms of safety, the RAV4 gets a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, and the latest Toyota VSC+ vehicle stability control with steering assist, traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist and hill-start assist control, as well as a cost-optional reversing camera (standard on GXL and Cruiser).

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PRICE From $46,490+ORC WARRANTY three years, 100,000km SAFETY five-star ANCAP ENGINE 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol POWER/TORQUE 132kW/233Nm TRANSMISSION six-speed manual; six-speed automatic BODY 4.57m (L); 1.84m (W); 1.71m (H) WEIGHT 1605-1630kg THIRST 8.5L/100km (auto) – 8.6L/100km (manual)

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober