The Toyota RAV4 has never had so many rivals, so this new model, which has just arrived in the UK, is crucial. Toyota has carried out a total redesign, incorporating the brand’s new styling language and giving the car a more rugged look.
But as we reported in our first drive on the Continent, it’s not the most coherent design, with the front and rear lights looking like they’ve been grafted straight from the Auris on to the RAV4.
It’s a larger car than its predecessor, too, at 205mm longer and 30mm wider. The wheelbase has grown by 100mm as well, and the result is a 547-litre boot. That’s better than the 456-litre Ford Kuga, which is also well beaten for rear legroom.
The cabin design itself is not as stylish as those of rivals like the Kuga, though, with some low-quality plastics and dated-looking dials. Our mid-spec Icon had contrast-stitched leather across the middle of the dash, but hard plastic on top.
Power for our all-wheel-drive RAV4 comes from a 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel, which fires up with a disappointing amount of clatter. It sounds a bit agricultural when it’s cold and there’s a clunk as you shift between first and second gears.
Still, performance is punchy enough and this engine is a good match for the RAV4’s excellent off-road ability – a standard central differential lock means you’ll rarely get stuck.
Strangely, the ride feels firm around town, but as you increase your speed it seems to soften up. The car is also surprisingly refined at higher speeds, with engine, wind and road noise nicely isolated from the cabin.
The handling is average, with sharper, more enjoyable cars like the Mazda CX-5 showing how compact SUVs really should drive. By comparison, the RAV4 feels dull, with a tendency to understeer where the CX-5 would find grip. There is a Sport mode, which shifts more power to the back wheels, but it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference.
The RAV4 is expensive, too – our Icon model costs £26,495, while the equally powerful CX-5 2.2 AWD SE-L is £24,695, and it’s equipped with cruise control, climate control, parking sensors and keyless go as standard.