The fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 SUV is the best selling-vehicle locally in its category and has just received a mid-life update. We went all the way to Mozambique to find out whether this raft of changes will consolidate its position atop the local sales charts.
What has changed?
Up front, the changes include LED-equipped headlamps, cosmetic revisions to the grille and front bumper. Moving aft, the taillamps now feature a more slimline design and LED accents, and the rear bumper design has been also been tweaked to give the car a more purposeful stance. Factor in the VX model’s 18-inch alloy wheels in a new design incorporating thinner spokes, and the overall impression is that of a more modern and sophisticated car.
Toyota’s recent push to improve interior material and build quality is especially evident in the RAV4’s cabin. In addition to employing higher quality trim materials, Toyota has also gone some way to improving the functionality of the storage areas, for example a mug will now fit the centre cup holder, and a third 12V accessory power supply has been added to the second row. The facia design, with its many layers and edges and little coherency between the instrument cluster design and the rest of the switchgear, remains a divisive element, though. The infotainment touchscreen has now grown to 7 inches and now incorporates guidelines in the reverse-camera display.
In terms of standard safety features the RAV4 now features a trailer-sway control system, in addition to the standard electronic stability control and ABS. This complements a full array of airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchorage points.
The three engines have been carried over from the pre-facelift model, namely the 2,0-litre petrol (107 kW and 187 N.m), 2,5-litre petrol (132 kW and 233 N.m) and the 2,2-litre turbodiesel (110 kW and 340 N.m)
How does it go?
I drove the 2,5-litre petrol fitted with the 6-speed automatic transmission, and as we were in a real hurry to reach the Mozambique border before closing time, we really had to push the RAV4 along the tar sections of our route. The ride proved comfortable and the suspension coped very well when speed bumps were traversed at a less than polite speed.
This unit delivers its power at high revs which means that a fair bit of engine noise enters the cabin under acceleration Drop to a more sensible pace and the 2,5-litre engine proves quite refined and does a good job of propelling this AWD model. Although the higher speeds that accompanied our pseudo-Dakar-style dash for the border didn’t agree with the automatic transmission’s leisurely nature, in most driving scenarios it proved to be smooth and gelled well with the engine. One negative of the 2,5-litre petrol engine compared to the 2,2-litre turbodiesel in our convoy was its fuel thirst (far in excess of the claimed figure during spirited driving).
The off-road track to the Mozambique coastline presented us with tricky sections of thick sand that had been baked into a crust by the scorching sun (ambient temperatures of close to forty degree Celsius were measured during our visit). Once the traction control was switched off and the centre diff locked, the RAV4 performed admirably. Keeping that all-important momentum going, it conquered most of obstacles in its path. Although the RAV4 was originally launched as a soft-roader, it has now moved slightly up the capability ladder in order to counter the glut of lesser crossovers flooding the market. Where the RAV4 (and fellow SUV competitors) will struggle is in technical, rocky sections where a low-range transfer case and diff-lock are required.
The reason for the RAV4’s popularity stems from its ability to serve up a good dose of practicality, ease of use and reasonable off-road capability (in AWD specification) to families at an accessible price. Factor in the recent cosmetic improvements, not to mention the value of the Toyota brand and its extensive dealer network, and it looks as though this facelift will further bolster the RAV4’s already strong appeal.
Engine: 2,5-litre, inline four, petrol
Power:132 kW at 6 000 r/min
Torque:233 N.m 4 100 r/min
Top Speed:180 km/h
Fuel Consumption:8,5 L/100 km