Refinement of the RAV

Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4
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Toyota’s RAV4 compact SUV soft roader has been around so long it’s easy to forget quite how far it’s come.

The fourth generation models are bigger, better finished, and far more efficient without forgetting that cars in this class need to look good and drive well too.

Reacquaint yourself with it. You might be in for a surprise.

You probably won’t be too shocked to learn that the latest RAV4 engine range is heavily biased towards diesel. After all, that’s where around 80 per cent of all sales go. There is a petrol engine available, a 2.0-litre Valvematic unit that’s mated to a CVT gearbox which directs drive to all four wheels, but it’s very much a minority interest item. Of more relevance are the two diesel powerplants on offer. The first is an engine that’s not going to be familiar; a 122bhp 2.0-litre D4-D diesel unit that’s paired to a six-speed manual gearbox with drive going to the front wheels. Toyota makes some play of the entry price of this RAV4 being less than the previous model’s but it’s clear to see with this piece of cut-price engineering how that has been achieved. Still, it’s sure to be popular with buyers who like the look of the vehicle but don’t need all-wheel drive mechanicals.

Go for the punchier 148bhp 2.2-litre D4-D diesel and you get drive going to each corner and also the option of an automatic transmission.

The third generation RAV4 changed the look and feel of the car when it replaced cute and chunky with bold and aggressive. The latest version extends that theme, with a sharp, assertive look that mirrors many of the design cues of the iconic Landcruiser. It’s 205mm longer, 30mm wider but 25mm lower than its predecessor, with the Toyota corporate face now including bigger front grilles and sharp-edged headlights flanked by LED daytime running lights. In profile view, the MK4 RAV4 shows a rising belt line, with blacked-out centre and rear pillars emphasising the lengthened side glass area and increase in interior space. The tailgate is now top-hinged with an integrated roof spoiler.

It’s hard to see how Toyota could have done much better in developing the RAV4. It needed more space inside, it needed a better quality of finish and it needed more assertive styling. Check, check and check. Like every new car launched these days, it had to become more efficient, but the addition of an economical 2.0-litre diesel has given it a boost that will have many competitors looking to the drawing boards.