Facts and highlights
The name of the Toyota RAV4 means "Recreational Activity Vehicle 4-wheel drive" and was the one that founded the segment of the all-roads compacts: the urban compact SUV.
Its first version was produced in 1994 and was very successful in Japan, the U.S. and the European Union.
The first vehicles were built in Toyota assembly plant in Tahara, Aichi, Japan, under contract by Toyota Industries.
From November 2008, the RAV4 SUVs circulating in North America were built in the Motor Manufacturing of Canada Inc. the second Toyota plant.
In the last decade, the compact SUV has become a clear choice among car buyers. It is not an accident, full-size SUVs that were in fashion in the late 90's and early 2000's almost like an addiction, were left aside because of the high costs of gasoline.
The Toyota RAV4 was one of the first models that were responsible for appeasing the addiction to large SUVs that had many of the North American consumers.
With the new 2013 design, came the fourth generation of this popular Japanese SUV.
Since this 2013, Toyota no longer offers an optional V6, the new RAV4 comes with a four-cylinder engine only. This compact crossover also dispenses with a third row of seats, another option that the manufacturer says that only a few compact SUV buyers consider important.
Styles and Options
The Toyota RAV4 is offered in three main trim levels: "LE", "XLE" and "Limited", being the "LE" version the cheapest one which you can afford for less than $24000 dollars, thanks to the suggested manufacturer retail price of only $23,300, a total bargain for such a nice SUV.
The Limited version comes with 18" sporty alloy wheels, a height-adjustable power rear door, keyless entry and ignition, an interior rear view mirror with auto-dimming, leather lined steering wheel and shift knob, adjustable power driver seat with eight positions modes and memory settings, heated front seats and high quality synthetic leather upholstery.
The navigation system with Entune is available and can be combined with a JBL audio system with 11 premium speakers.
The first steps with Entune can be a hassle, because you have to install an application on your phone and register for an account, plus you always will need an active data connection to use it.
The touch screen interface has simple menus and options, but sometimes it does not respond to the touch of the user. But in the global context the conventional controls in the RAV4 are easy to use.
The new Toyota RAV4 features a new interior design that shares the finishes with the Camry and Avalon. The quality has been also improved, and some of the materials are prettier than those you can find in the Camry.
The optional navigation system of the RAV4 includes "Entune", a set of services of smart-phones connected that includes the Bing search engine, Pandora streaming radio and traffic in real time, with all the information.
The comfort of rear seat passengers in the Toyota RAV4 is hampered slightly in a second plane, but the space is still enough plentiful for adults, even for those who are tall.
The cargo area measures 38.4 meters cubic and when folded the second row reaches up to 73.3 cubic meter, being one of the largest capacities of its class.
Engine and transmission
The Toyota RAV4 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, and the RAV4 is available with front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
The new six-speed transmission that replaces the old four-speed automatic improves the fuel economy and makes the SUV more responsive during the merging and handling.
The SUV comes with anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front headrests that reduces whiplash impacts, side airbags in the front seats and full length side curtain airbags are standard on all Toyota RAV4. A knee airbag for the driver is also standard.
A rear cross traffic alert monitoring system that detects blind spots is optional on the Limited version.
As for the crash tests conducted by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), the new RAV4 got a score superior to "good" for the safety of occupants and roof strength tests in side impacts.
The RAV4 received a poor score (the lowest) in the new small overlap of frontal crash test of the body compensation, in which a smaller portion of the front bumper of the vehicle hits an obstacle. Although several compact SUVs also received a low score on this test.
The government gave to Toyota four out of five stars in a matter of overall protection, four stars for frontal protection and a total of five stars for overall side impact protection.
On the road
The handling of the new Toyota RAV4 feels better and smoother than before, as well as more refined and comfortable when driving on the road. In other words, it feels like you're driving a car.
Although the V6 engine is no longer available, the new four-cylinder 2.5-liter engine is powerful enough for most tasks besides having a good fuel economy for the class. The new six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly too.
When climbing hills, it feels as if the transmission had a tendency to look between the gears instead of staying in them. This drawback is the result of Toyota efforts to tune the transmission, mileage and gas consumption to the maximum.
The most demanding drivers will find the RAV4 probably less enjoyable to drive than the Ford Escape and the Mazda CX-5. This is because the steering wheel lacks of response and the suspension tuning make it feel like a car instead of an SUV.
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However, the all-wheel-drive system available in the RAV4, applies quickly the power where is needed for optimal traction, and actually gives it a decent amount of off-road capabilities.
The new style of RAV is more sculpted and aggressive this year. A major improvement is the debut of the rear door that opens from the roof and which replaces the old door that opened to the right and obstructed the load on the sidewalk. What is even better is the spare wheel, which is now under the cargo floor, instead of the back door.
Compared with other similar models, the RAV4 is more compact and has no major flaws, and although it doesn't stand out for its style, if does it with its performance and interior comfort, for that reason the new RAV4 is definitely an SUV you have to try. Like the brand says, "Toyota is Toyota".
- The RAV4 has a fuel efficiency of 24 MPG within the city and 31 MPG on highways, and its price range from $23,300 to $27,010.
- Its overall owner satisfaction rating in the KBB is 9.0 out of 10. Read more owner reviews.
- Its overall owner satisfaction rating according to Edmunds.com users is 4.3 out of 5. Read more owner reviews.
- In 2012 received the SmartChoice Retained Value Award given by IntelliChoice.
- It is available in nine different colors.