In the mid-Nineties, while I was still at primary school, I remember seeing what must have been one of the very few new first-generation Toyota RAV4s in the country plying the roads in my neighbourhood. The design was revolutionary and it simply looked like nothing else in the market. Back then, there weren’t any real contenders … the soft-roader market was yet to take off.
Today, the picture is vastly different – this is now one of the most highly contested segments in the South African market. Does the new RAV4 have enough firepower in its arsenal to combat the VW Tiguan, Honda CR-V and other formidable competitors?
Design and interior
The new model continues Toyota’s latest family design – especially at the front and rear – that we’ve seen on other recent models, including the Yaris and Auris hatchbacks. It’s a neat, well-integrated design that is thoroughly modern.
Climbing inside, I was surprised by the size of the cabin. At 1,87 metres, I had enough shoulder- and headroom in both the front and rear seats. The gearlever is sited fairly high on the transmission tunnel, giving the driver a commanding position when shifting the slick six-speed gearbox. Above the transmission tunnel, leading up to the dashboard, you’ll find USB and auxiliary ports, a sport button, the air-conditioning controls and finally the infotainment screen.
All the controls are perfectly within reach and feel solid when operated, and the layout is straightforward and very user-friendly.
Behind the wheel
The highlight of the range is the 2,2-litre turbodiesel engine. Some readers may remember that the Avensis that was sold in our market a few years ago featured a turbodiesel engine of the same size. This is a newer version, though, and it suits the RAV4 perfectly in town and on the open road. It pulls from just over 1 500 r/min in most gears, while on the N2 back from the launch in George I rarely had to change from sixth to fifth to overtake traffic.
Another feather in the RAV4’s cap is the ride quality. Not only is the vehicle well damped (and the cabin well insulated), it also handles surprisingly well.
Toyota’s Integrated Dynamic Drive system (IDD) has been calibrated to help drivers in both on- and off-road conditions. Should the system (by way of several sensors) detect front-wheel slippage or understeer in a corner, torque is sent to the rear wheels to assist the driver. Activate the sport setting (the button is next to the USB port) and the system sends 10 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels as you enter a corner. Plus, as mentioned above, should the system detect understeeer, up to 50 per cent of the available torque will be send to the rear wheels. It was difficult to detect this system on the dry roads of the launch route, but on wet roads or off-road it should aid progress considerably. With the press of a button, the AWD lock can also be activated. This sends equal amounts of torque between the axles and works at speeds of up to 40 km/h.
All models have seven airbags, ABS with EBD (electronic brake-force distribution) and vehicle-stability control (VSC). At the rear, below the boot floor, a full size spare tyre is fitted, which – as expected – does influence the size of the luggage compartment. Even so, Toyota claims the boot can swallow 476 dm3 of luggage.
This turbodiesel model slots in at R40 000 below the top-of-the range 2,5-litre petrol model equipped with an automatic transmission and is undoubtedly the pick of the two. It cruises effortlessly, sips fuel and offers superior in-gear acceleration.
The previous RAV4 had fallen out of favour with buyers as ever-more modern competitors entered the fray, but the new model is again worth a look, especially the diesel.
Model: Toyota RAV4 GX
Engine: 2,2-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 110 kW at 3 600 r/min
Torque: 340 N.m at 2 000 – 2 800 r/min
Fuel consumption: 5,6 L/100 km
CO2: 149 g/km
Price: R359 900
Service plan: 5 years/90 000 km
Service intervals: Every 15 000 km
All manufacturer’s claimed figures