On a global scale, more than 4.5 million RAV4s have left showroom floors since the vehicle first appeared 19 years ago, of which 18596 have been sold here in SA. Even though it’s never been a particularly strong seller locally – averaging 978 units per year – it’s sporty demeanour and funky looks have made it a hit among younger buyers. The RAV4 seen here adopts a more sophisticated design identity than the model it replaces, trading its predecessor’s dynamic, left-field styling approach for the company’s new corporate face. This has however, sacrificed some of its original character lines – for instance, the signature spare wheel carrier has been relocated from the rear door to the space below the cargo area to make room for a practical motorised top-hinge door arrangement.
Climb aboard and you’re greeted by a minimalist and functional cockpit layout with complementing metallic-look inserts and a leather-clad facia. While this shows an improvement over its forebear, the overall polish is still not up to scratch with its European rivals. The RAV does excel in the practicality stakes, supplying 547 litres of luggage space and having rear seats that fold away at the flick of a switch.
We sampled all three engine options on the launch (2.0 petrol, 2.2 turbodiesel and 2.5 petrol) but the 2.2-litre diesel and 2.5-litre petrol were most rewarding to drive in terms of performance and economy. I spent most of my time behind the wheel of the range-topping 2.5-litre AWD VX model. It’s an impressive and willing engine that delivers 132kW and 233Nm of torque, which is accessed via a six-speed automatic transmission. While it doesn’t feel noticeably quick off the line, progress is swift and 100kph is reached in 9.4 seconds and top speed is 180kph, while economy is 8.5ℓ/100km.
Dynamically, the RAV drives well, delivering a good mix of on-and off-road ability thanks to the compliant suspension arrangement and well-rounded steering set-up. Activating Sport mode ensures that dynamic progress isn’t hampered by sending up to 50% of the available torque to the rear wheels when necessary. The ride quality is neither hard nor soft and did a pretty decent job softening the abrasive jolts that punctuated the corrugated dirt roads leading into Riviersonderend, and fared impressively over the remainder of the route back to Cape Town after the launch.
It also comes standard with Integrated Dynamic Drive control (IDD), which uses active yaw sensors to detect understeer and wheel slippage – these mechanisms came into play on the looser sections of gravel and kept the RAV pointed in the intended direction of travel by sending drive to the wheels with most traction. The new RAV4 is poised to be strong seller for Toyota SA given the modest R279 900 price tag of the entry level GX model, however, it still has a lot to prove considering the glut of quality options – think new Ford Kuga, Renault Koleos, Mazda CX-5 and Honda CRV – comprising the segment.
All models come standard with a 5-year/90 000km service plan.
RAV4 2.0 2WD GX 6-spd – R279 900
RAV4 2.0 2WD GX CVT – R289 900
RAV4 2.2 D-4D AWD GX – R359 900
RAV4 2.5 AWD VX – R399 900