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Toyota's new RAV4 all grown up

2013-04-10 07:09

THE NEXT GENERATION: Toyota has just launched the fourth-generation RAV4 into SA. Although it's still a small SUV, the car's grown up since its humble three-door beginnings 20 years ago.


Toyota has just unleashed the latest version of the much-loved RAV4 on to the South African market. Nearly 20 years old, lots has changed and some people just might not like it.

I knew the RAV4 has been around for some time but I hadn’t quite realised it’d been around for two decades. A lot has changed since the little three-door 4x4 broke cover as the recreational active vehicle (RAV) and the Japanese automaker was the first to bring about this cross-over segment.


For those who didn’t know, there was a third generation RAV in our market; South Africa just never got the face-lifted along with the rest of the world.

It’s good to see SA getting a car so soon after its international launch and not five years later as the company has done with some other models, such as the Innova and FJ Cruiser.


The RAV4 range now has four models instead of the previous six with a choice of three engines and two trim levels.

The two-litre petrol unit is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox; it and the two-litre CVT 'automatic' are the entry models in GX trim. The engine makes 107kW at 6200rpm and 187Nm at 3600rpm and drives only through the front wheels with a listed fuel consumption rated at 7.7 litres/100km and 7.4 litres/100km respectively with 179g/km CO2 emissions for the manual and 173g/km for the CVT.

Next up is the all-wheel-drive, 2.2-litre diesel GX with 110kW at 3600rpm and 340Nm ffrom 2000-2800rpm. The combined fuel consumption is a claimed 5.6 litres/100km with a 149g/km CO2 emissions.

The range-topping VX 2.5-litre VVT-i engine makes 132kW at 6000rpm and 233Nm at 4100rpm. CO2 emissions are 198g/km with an 8.5 litres/100km average fuel consumption.

I’ve never been a fan of the RAV4 but this one kind of crept under my skin rather – and I’m not entirely sure yet why. I could never take the little Noddy car seriously as a recreational car to accommodate lifestyle activities, most probably because of its compact size. I had not yet grasped the concept of small SUVs.

Its tortoise-like looks with the bulky eyes always reminded me of Timothy Traddle of the children’s show 'Pumpkin Patch' from the late 1980's.

In 1995 it had one competitor in the form of Suzuki’s Vitara, 19 years later and it has 15 direct competitors so Toyota knew they had to pull out the stops if the new RAV4 was going to stand a chance.


The biggest - and most noticeable - change is the relocation of the spare wheel we’ve become accustomed to finding on the routside of the tail door. It’s now found under the spacious boot's floor.

This change was crucial for restyling purposes and its new looks makes the RAV4 all grown up in a way. Styling at the front is now in line with the rest of Toyota’s design language. That said, I did get a slap on my hand when I teased that it looked a bit Nissan-ish.

There are daytime running lights across the range, sharper sculptured lines and bigger dimensions. The RAV4 has grown substantially from 3.69 to 4.57m long. The GX trim has black bumpers, the VX colour-coded bits and a chrome strip across the lip of the grille.


While I like the more aggressive stance on the front, I battled to warm up to the rear looks of the car. It has a somewhat ugly bum but the tail lights have a premium look, resembling its Lexus sibling, but its bland.

Perhaps it’s the lost spare wheel that I just can’t get used to and I know that’s one of the things many people liked about the car. It made it feel a bit adventurous, even for people who'd never really go off-roading or camp in the bush. And the rear door, or boot, no longer opens sideways, just up, like any other conventional boot. The VX comes standard with an electric tail door.

The cabin, however, is what bowled me over. Thanks to redesigned front seats, the car is huge with loads of legroom, front and rear. It also feels nice when you’re sitting on the fabric seats or on the leather upholstery of the VX.

If you take a close look the inside bits are plasticky but it’s been so cleverly disguised with imitation carbon patterns and brushed metal bits you’ll hardly notice. It all fits together nicely. The dashboard has the kind of soft-padded materials that will make you want to constantly touch it – be careful of this if you have the beige leather option in the range-topper, the other option is black.

The facia is neat and tidy but the traditional clock strip above the centre put me off a tad. It’s so old-fashioned and should rather have been integrated into the facia. There are loads of nifty little storage compartments and cup-holders and the blue illumination on the instrument clusters add a modern touch.


The boot is 26 litres bigger than the previous generation. Toyota SA said this relates four golf bags but if you really squeeze them it can take six thanks to its 100mm wider wheelbase.

Local motoring media spent quite some time clocking up kilometres with the new cars at its launch in the Eastern and Western Cape on Monday and Tuesday, April 8/9 and the power differences were obvious across the three engines.

Most of us cringe at the sound of a CVT 'automatic' transmission but that in the two-litre GX made me nod my head in approval. It’s not at all whiney, knows which 'gear' it should be in and downshifts at the right time without any paddle-pushing. Gearing changes are smooth, even on the entry-level manual model.

There are also 'eco' and 'sport' driving modes with a big difference in these systems when it comes to telling the two GX models apart from the VX. When you hit the sport button, it literally feels like a boost function: more accelerator response, better steering feedback, quicker gearbox responses. However, this integrated dynamic drive system is even more advanced in the two higher-specced models as it’s enhanced with pre-torque control and the correct torque transfer is distributed to the wheels before understeer becomes apparent.

In other words, the system is an interactive management system which combines the dynamic torque control AWD, vehicle stability control and electric power steering systems to ensure comfortable handling and safety.


It has competitive pricing. The VX comes with a number of standard features, among them heatable seats and a reversing camera with standard parking radar across the range.

Would I buy one? I’d actually consider it now that I've got over the car’s unattractive rear; it's practical in terms of space, fuel efficiency and handling.

My driving partner and I had a stressful end-of-day en route to the airport and our driving range hit 0km as we drove the fuel tank dry. We had it in sport mode most of the day and gave the car some proper horns. That was a good thing as pushing it hard made us realise just how comfortable and secure the car is on the trickiest paths and tightest corners.

Thankfully we didn't get stuck on George's Outeniqua Pass and we cruised downhill on a prayer to the closest garage long after our driving range was non-existent.

Service intervals are 15 000km (petrol and diesel) and a five-year or 90 000km service plan is in the price. Satnav costs about R9000 extra and will be integrated into the existing info screen with software and hardware updates.

This can also be done for Toyota Hilux and Fortuner models.

RAV4 2.0 2WD GX 6-spd - R279 900
RAV4 2.0 2WD GX CVT - R289 900
RAV4 2.2 D-4D AWD GX - R359 900
RAV4 2.5 AWD VX - R399 900
Read more on:    toyota  |  rav4

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