You are here
£22,740 when new
As Toyota surveys the frenzied clusterjam that is the current soft-roader market, it might be justified in feeling a little aggrieved. After all, it kicked this whole thing off. Until Toyota launched the original RAV4 in 1994, the SUV didn’t even exist. That car was the first real soft-roader, but look at them all now: the Nissan Qashqai and the Audi Q5, the Dacia Duster and the Range Rover Evoque and the dozens of other upstarts squeezing into every gap, elbowing in on Toyota’s once-virgin territory, nicking its sales. That’s the problem with bright ideas: everyone wants in. Which leaves Toyota with a bit of an issue: where does the all-new fourth-gen RAV4 squeeze into the party it damn well started? Slap-bang in the middle, that’s where. Mid-priced, mid-sized, mid-off-road, mid-sporty. Maybe this is fair – after all, Toyota invented this sector, so it shouldn’t have to shuffle into a new and weird corner to get attention. But, at the same time, the original RAV4 was genuinely revolutionary, truly different. The new one, well, isn’t. It doesn’t do much wrong, but it’s tough to find a reason you’d simply have to have one over its many, many rivals. In fairness, Toyota is trying to swing with the times: you can now have the RAV4 in FWD flavour, albeit only with the entry-level 2.0-litre, 122bhp diesel. That said, this might be the best way to sample the RAV4 – the smaller diesel is smoother and quieter than the 148bhp 2.2 and starts £3,000 below the cheapest AWD version. But 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 – understeer accompanied by a wild, haunted moan from the tyres. We’re hoping that was just an effect of the weird snow ’n’ mud rubber fitted to our test cars. Whichever way, even the dubious presence of a Sport button in the cabin can’t disguise that this is no Evoque.