Toyota has freshened up the current generation RAV4 crossover. The little CUV is larger than when it debuted to the public in the mid-1990s, yet remains practical, comfortable and more than capable in different types of driving conditions. A 176 horsepower 2.5-litre four and six-speed automatic are standard with either front or all-wheel drive. A hybrid is also available and gets standard all-wheel drive. You get a 6.1-inch infotainment system standard on LE, SE and XLE trims. Limited models like the one I test drove get a 7.0-inch unit.
On the outside, the RAV4 with its angled headlights and sharp body creases stands out when looking toward the front. To me, not in a nice way. The car's snout seems way out there and that might be due in part to frontal crash standards. Yet bold is not the RAV 4's personality. It is very much practical and Toyota engineers worked on making the interior the best for its designed purpose. They have succeeded and fallen short of the mark depending on your tastes. The RAV is small car based so it fits five with no third row offered. The RAV doesn't stand out among its competitors such as the Honda CRV, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5 as it did when introduced to the public back in the day. This is because now it has just average performance and from some angles looks just like a lot of other CUVs in its class. But most people will find the RAV4 just fine in whatever trim level they want.
The 2017 RAV4 now has a long list of active-safety equipment as standard on every model. Toyota Safety Sense-P includes: forward-collision warning, lane-departure alert, lane-keeping assist, adaptive speed control and automatic high-beam headlights. The Platinum trim at $1,460 and new for 2017, includes a heated steering wheel, power liftgate and a 360 degree-view camera system. With the base price of the AWD Limited model starting at $38,155 the package puts the price tag over $41,000. If that's too tight for your budget, a FWD RAV4 LE can be had starting at $27,395.
I like the practicality of this CUV. The interior is spacious and well thought out for carrying people and stuff. The instrument panel is a swoopy design not really to my liking. While most controls and instrument are easy to use the overall look is a little “too out there.” Some might says there's too much plastic being used. That wasn't my first reaction sitting behind the steering wheel, so it's all subjective.
Rear seat passengers will appreciate plentiful legroom and headroom even for those like me who reach six foot in height. The rear seat also reclines. I found the front seats to be comfortable but the seat heaters – a plus in our climate – left me cold, or maybe lukewarm. Come on Toyota, you can make better seat heaters. The lack of power adjustments for the passenger seat is also surprising for a $40,000 plus vehicle. In the back the RAV4's cargo area has a low lift-over height, making it easy to toss in heavy or bulky items. The rear seat back does fold down expending cargo capacity to 2.8 sq. metres or 73.4 cubic feet.
The RAV4 is a nice riding little rig and reasonably quiet even at highway speed. Fast it's not and while the automatic transmission is smooth and quick at upshifting during normal urban driving there are times when it seems to be constantly hunting for a higher gear. Sometimes that's really irritating and what I began to do in heavy traffic is shift manually making my own decision on what gear I needed. Steering is vague and the suspension is soft for those of us who like to have some fun in a small vehicle. True, that's not the RAV's mission as I noted earlier. Around town the RAV4 Limited AWD is rated at 10.7L/100km very close to what I got. On the open road fuel consumption improves to 8.4 L/100km. I was able to get 8.7.
Anyone who bought a RAV years ago and wants to step up to the latest version probably won't be disappointed as you'll get a roomier, more comfortable and more economical vehicle. It's perhaps not the best that's out there but still good for many people.
Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the '70s.