The RAV4 has already been launched with a 2-litre petrol engine, firstly in GX guise and latterly in more luxurious VX trim, and the new diesel version comes out in both these specification levels.
However, the diesel models get a 6-speed manual gearbox, whereas the petrol versions can have either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed auto shifter.
The most interesting thing about the new versions is, of course, their diesel engine.
Until now Toyota SA has fought shy of introducing diesel engines in its passenger car range (although its commercials and big 4x4s have had diesel power for a long time) and the reason relates to the high sulphur content of diesel fuel available in South Africa.
At the beginning of this year legislation forced fuel suppliers to offer diesel with 500 parts/million of sulphur (compared to more than 10 times that in previous legislation) and this has allowed Toyota, and other manufacturers, to introduce their new generation diesel engines here.
However, there still remain a number of engines that need fuel which is 10 times cleaner again (50 parts/million sulphur) but this will not be available until new laws kick-in in 2010.
One of these is the DCAT high performance diesel found in the Yaris. Bigger DCAT engines are also available in certain Lexus models
So we'll have to wait.
The problem lies with the micro-fine fuel injectors used in these new engines.
In the case of the D4D Toyota turbo-diesel used in the RAV4 - and which will roll-out in other models later this year, notably the mid-size Avensis sedan - the injector "hole" is about the diameter of a human hair, making it susceptible to becoming blocked or partially blocked if owners use poor quality diesel.
The 2.2-litre turbo-charged and intercooled unit produces 100 kW at 3 600 r/min with 310 Nm of torque available between 2 000 and 2 800 r/min.
For the techno fundis it uses a combination of direct injection and common rail, resulting in low noise, low emissions and fuel consumption, and increased power.
This engine drives through a six-speed manual transmission.
By comparison the 2-litre petrol engine gives 112 kW at 6 000 r/min and 194 Nm of torque at 4 000 r/min.
The specification level of the RAV4 GX remains high, but with the focus on the more practical and safety elements rather than nice-to-have pure luxury features.
In GX trim the RAV4 has the following key features:
Dual stage driver and passenger front airbags, side airbags, curtain side airbags and knee airbag
Electric power steering
Power windows front and rear
Tilt and telescopic adjustment for steering column
Multi information display
Headlamp levelling system
Wireless remote central locking with transponder immobiliser and double lock feature
Power and heated side mirrors.
Illuminated entry system ignition key, interior lamp and front personal lamp.
Lockable glove box
Manual air conditioner
Six way adjustable front seats
Radio/CD combination with six speakers
Flexible Easy-flat seat system for added versatility
Alloy wheels fitted with 225/65 R17 tyres
Additional features in VX trim are:
'Keyless' Smart Entry and Start System
Full leather trim
Leather covered steering wheel with satellite controls for audio system
Rear window demister with timer
Power, heated side mirrors with retract feature and water repellent surface
Electrochromatic interior rear view mirror
Rain sensing automatic windscreen wipers
Automatic headlight system with ambient light sensor
Front driving lamps
Lockable glove box with cooler
Automatic air conditioner with independent controls for left and right sides
Power operated driver?s seat with 8-way movement
Heated front seats
Radio/CD combination with 6-CD changer and six speakers (A turn-By-turn navigation system that is compatible with this is available as a dealer fitted option)
Cruise control (On automatic transmission only)
Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is also standard equipment on the RAV4 Automatic.
In addition to this comprehensive list of standard features, a full range of Toyota approved accessories is available.
The recommended retail price of the RAV4 GX includes a five-year/90 000 km ToyotaCare Service Plan. This covers the cost of all scheduled service items and labour.
Warranty cover is three years / 100 000 km, with 24-hour roadside assistance while the vehicle is under warranty. Service intervals are 15 000 km.
On the road
I drove both versions of the car yesterday on a varied route comprising tar and dirt roads (but no 4x4 stuff)
On tar the diesel RAV4 gives a great ride comparable to most station wagons in its size range, although naturally there's some reticence to drive too hard into tight corners given the fact that the tall body leads to some roll and even wheel lifting.
However the wheels stay firmly on the ground, and it's more a matter of perception than reality.
On dirt, however, the permanent four-wheel drive RAV comes into its own.
We drove on roads which were generally smooth, but at times very tight, and it was a fabulously fun experience.
The car can be chucked into corners quite hard, and then just as you correct there's a "beep beep beep" from somewhere under the dashboard as the Vehicle Stability Control kicks in.
Unfortunately there's a slight reduction of power at the same time, so it's a bit of a killjoy.
That said, there's still plenty of low-down grunt from that smooth and lusty diesel (it has twin balance shafts to smooth out vibrations) to ensure you keep going.
The good news is that this device is only available on the VX versions.
The bad news is that it can't be switched off, which means owners might run into trouble in thick sand if the VSC converts necessary wheelspin into reduced power.
Great care will be needed in these situations.
For the rest - the cars are extremely well put together and they are beautifully equipped. Both engines and gearboxes are smooth, positive, and clearly top of the techno tree.
The irony is that most cars which will be bought won't even see a sand road, let alone encounter a challenging 4x4 route!
Toyota expects half the new cars to be sold to women, with total sales across the RAV4 range rounding out at about 50 ma month.
Toyota RAV4 D4D GX R294 400
Toyota RAV4 D4D GVX R330 000