Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Toyota RAV4 review 2013

Toyota RAV4 review 2013

Back in 1994, when Toyota launched the original RAV4, the market for style-led small off-roaders didn’t exist, but customers quickly warmed to the appeal of a car that offered ‘street-tough’ looks (to a point) mixed with hot-hatch driving characteristics (again, to a point). The firm soon discovered it had a star on its hands, the market boomed and suddenly its competitors got in on the act and the opportunities to succeed got tougher. Keen to protect the very market it generated, Toyota launched the second generation RAV4 in 2000 to continued success and the latest example in 2006.

It’s a gentle evolution of this proven formula, and the biggest change is perhaps the absence of a three-door model – it only accounting for around 20 per cent of sales in its final year. What the means is you get a practical, but still relatively compact, SUV with car-like driving dyanmics and Toyota’s famed quality and reliability levels. There’s petrol, diesel, manual, automatic, four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive options as well as high levels of standard equipment. And like the rest of the Toyota range the RAV4 benefits from the firm’s five-year warranty.

It is however now six years old, and despite a couple of facelifts and new technology being added in the meantime, the RAV4 is beginning to show its age in face of more contemporary competition. Regardless though, as the car that kick-started the craze the RAV4 still has what it takes to appeal.
Toyota offers two engine options on the RAV4 (though there are actually three different designations) starting with the 2.0-litre Valvematic petrol. It’s the most powerful of the pair, developing 156bhp, though peak torque is just shy of 150lb ft. Regardless of this lowly figure, the petrol-powered RAV4 manages to complete the 0-60mph sprint in 11 seconds – though the rather lifeless power delivery makes it feel slower than it actually is. Still, there’s little complaint about this unit’s refinement, only becoming vocal at the top of its rev range.

A better option is the 2.2 diesel; it is available with a six-speed automatic gearbox lifted directly from the Toyota Avensis. In this case it is badged 2.2 D-CAT, though if you opt for a manual gearbox it is named D-4D. Regardless, the 148bhp turbodiesel hauls the chunky RAV4 along with reasonable verve, completing the 0-60mph benchmark in 10.2 seconds (10.0 dead if you opt for the 2WD model). Peak torque of 251lb ft means you can make the most of each gear, and the unit remains refined throughout the rev range.

Both gearboxes are easy to use, and though the automatic dulls performance slightly, it shifts smoothly and quickly, and you rarely find yourself stuck in the wrong ratio, even climbing up steep hills. Refinement on the whole is impressive. There is some road noise evident, which does detract from the experience slightly, but on the whole the RAV4 feels rather more sprightly than its not inconsiderable bulk might suggest.