What is it?
The fourth generation of the soft roader that started the whole soft roader trend. Today, though, for an SUV that for so long traded on being – by Toyota’s standards, at least – a bit of an oddity, the RAV4 has matured into an SUV as straight-laced and middle of the road as they come.
But although it’s short on surprises, this latest one is big on space: the fourth-gen is bigger – 20cm longer, no less – than its predecessor. For the first time it’s available in front-wheel drive only flavour, though only if you opt for the entry-level 2.0-litre 122bhp diesel. There’s also a 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel but no petrol option.
Whether front- or four-wheel drive, the handling magic of the GT86 doesn’t seem to have permeated here. The RAV4 isn’t awful to drive, it’s just… boring. Though the steering is light and passably car-like, the soft-sprung RAV4 rolls about in the bends, tending towards rampant understeer through even the gentlest corners. Even the dubious presence of a ‘Sport’ button in the cabin can’t disguise that this is no Evoque.
Of course it’ll be plenty capable off-road. You can even choose optional hill descent control and a centre diff lock to provide further ability here. However, on the tarmac – where, like it or not, softroaders spend the vast majority of their time – the RAV4 remains decidedly underwhelming.
On the inside
Big. The MkIV RAV4 is a full 86cm longer than the 1994 original – 86cm! – meaning it’s entirely cavernous on the inside, with room for a front row of international rugby players across the rear seats and a couple more prop forwards in the boot. Not that you could, legally. Despite all the space, there’s no option of a third row of seats in the RAV4, unlike some rivals.
The cabin is predictably Toyotaish – solidly constructed, feels like it’ll last forever, but a trifle short on flair. Where have we heard that before. Oh, that’s right, in describing EVERY SINGLE OTHER ASPECT of the latest RAV4.
It’s a Toyota, which means it’ll never break. The entry two-wheel drive diesel officially returns 58mpg, which is pretty impressive for a big SUV, if still not as good as the 150bhp Mazda CX-5. However, opt for the CVT gearbox (which you really shouldn’t), the bigger diesel and four-wheel drive and economy dips back down into the thirties. Amongst loyal buyers, RAV4s have always proved popular and dependable, so residuals should be strong.The firm’s ongoing five-year warranty provides further reassurance but as we say, you’re unlikely to ever need to use it. Reliability is standard here.