Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D

22 Feb, 2013 11:30am Tom Phillips

We get behind the wheel of the all-new, fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 SUV to deliver our verdict


In the face of some stiff opposition, Toyota has attempted to make the RAV4 stand out. And while it’s not great to look at and not all that sharp to drive, the new model is comfortable and extremely spacious. Look lower down the range and it mixes in decent fuel economy and a good spec – particularly if you don’t necessarily need four-wheel drive.

In 1994, Toyota launched the Recreational Active Vehicle with four-wheel drive, or RAV4, and in the process it created the compact SUV – a class that now dominates nearly every motor manufacturer’s agenda. But while the original RAV4 broke new ground, the latest fourth-generation model has its work cut out to take on rivals from Audi to VW, and lots in between.

The styling is sharper. There’s an aggressive trapezoidal shape in the front bumper that houses the number plate and a gurning air intake, while the angular headlights look great, particularly where the chrome bar from the grille runs into each lamp.

While the previous model shrank into the background, Toyota has tried to make the new car stand out in a more crowded marketplace. It’s still no looker, but it’s more distinctive.

The new car is 205mm longer and 30mm wider, at 4,570mm and 1,845mm respectively. Yet the more significant increase comes in the wheelbase – it’s 100mm longer, at 2,760mm, which gives excellent levels of interior space.

The dash is a smart design, although the plastics are hard and scratchy, despite Toyota’s best efforts to jazz things up with carbon-fibre-effect trim. New Clear Blue dash lighting is soothing at night, too, while the mid-spec Icon model – predicted to be the top seller – has all the kit you need, including auto lights and wipers, sports seats and Toyota’s touchscreen infotainment system. Our top-spec Invincible adds extras like leather seats, but isn’t really worth the extra £1,700.

There’s loads of space in the rear, even in the middle seat as the floor is flat. The seats fold flat with a simple tug on a handle on either side of the rear seatbase.

Toyota has ditched the spare wheel to give 100 litres of space below the boot floor, while the 547-litre load bay is accessed via a top-hinged tailgate; until now, the RAV4 has been hampered in tight parking spaces by a side-hinged design. There are plenty of hooks for tethering large items while a cargo net – for oddments weighing up to 10kg – hangs from two poles by the retractable boot cover. We just wish Toyota had kept a 12V socket back here; the only one is now up front.

The 2.2-litre diesel in our test car was a bit rattly on start-up, but the RAV4’s steering, pedals and gearshift are light and slick, while the high-set view out makes low-speed manoeuvring easy.

The soft set-up means a comfortable ride, but body roll is an issue in bends. So while the car is safe and predictable to drive, it’s not particularly grippy. Sport mode boosts the handling by moving more of the engine’s power to the rear axle and upping the steering weight, but it can’t hide the fact that the RAV4 is only average to drive.

Our car had Toyota’s lane keep assist, which just beeps annoyingly if it senses you’re drifting out of lane, rather than vibrating the steering wheel or intervening, like rival systems. More useful is the blind spot monitor, which illuminates a light in the door mirror if a vehicle is sneaking up alongside.

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Wow, what a munter! Let this be a lesson to other designers how to make a car that looks awkward from all angles, inside and out.

I like the New Toyota RAV4 as it much better than the old model

Suffice it to say RVA4 has cheaper and better rivals to worry about. However there is no telling this to the loyal brigade of Toyota owners. Fitting in hybrid powertrain could bring it distinction over the competition.

Three stars seems harsh. To my eyes the new RAV looks impressive. It would make my short list if I was in the market for this type of vehicle.

How on earth did this design (interior as well as the exterior) get signed off? It looks like something that Hyundai would have put in the bin at the early design stage. I thought that the GT86 was a sign of Toyota moving in a more dynamic direction. Oh dear me.

Looks like they have gone backwards from the the old design but who knows it could look attractive in the showroom.

I've noticed the same reviewers give the Kuga 4 stars and the Tiguan. What a joke. I live in Central Australia 1600kms from the nearest city. 80% of the cars on the road here are Toyotas. (It's the same story in Africa) The reason is simple. If you want to get from A to B with almost zero chance of breaking down then Toyota is the car. VW and Ford. OMG what a laugh. Great if the mechanic is few miles away. I love the "especially if you don't want 4wd comment" The 2.2 D is 4WD and unlike many soft roaders has central diff lock. Reviewing a car for a few minutes doesn't even tell half the story. It doesn't measure reliability or the fact that new diesels are very tight for a while until they are run in. So bring your Tiguan and let's do the gun barrel highway. In fact bring a Range Rover. I can guarentee you won't make it in either.

Key specs

  • Price: £28,195
  • Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power: 148bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
  • Top speed: 118mph
  • Economy: 49.6mpg
  • CO2: 149g/km
  • Equipment: Touchscreen audio, 18-inch alloys, Bluetooth, heated leather seats, rear parking sensors
  • On sale: Now