Maputo, Mozambique - Toyota brought decisive change to the motoring landscape 21 years ago with the launch of the original Rav4, an innovative new recreational vehicle that pioneered today’s hugely popular compact SUV market.
The latest chapter in the ground-breaking model’s story is now being written by the refreshed fourth generation – launched on local soil this week, 20 years after the original.
In its latest form the highly popular soft-roader brings a host of upgrades and new features – not least a fresh exterior design and some telling interior updates – signifying the Rav4’s coming of age…
The first thing you'll notice is its sleek new look.
New LED-equipped headlights, upper and lower grilles, front bumper and revised mud flaps (on the GX models) simplify the front end design, while reflecting the latest Toyota look also seen on new Auris and Yaris.
The reshaped section around the upper front grille is a key update. The nose has been de-cluttered and smoothed out, and the addition of chrome detail lends a more cohesive appearance.
Gallery: 2015 Toyota RAV4
The new, slinky tail light design featuring LEDs and no visible reverse lights, sharpen up the rear end while the reshaped lower tailgate and tailgate garnish further emphasises the Rav's solid stance.
The rear bumper now comprises a larger painted section, and the revised rear fog lamps, a stylish shark-fin antenna and under body valance further strengthens its look.
All grades of the Rav4 now have new alloy wheel designs with differing styles dependent on grade:
The 17" five-spoke design on the GX now has split spokes, while the 18" ten-spoke designs on the VX models has been refined with slimmer spokes to express higher quality and strength.
The sensory quality of the interior is improved with better ambient lighting and materials. The layout of the gear shift area and cup holders have been revised and a sunglasses storage area is now incorporated in the overhead lighting cluster.
Ornamentation textures are now more distinct, while a 4.2" colour multi-information display has been added to the instrument binnacle of the top model.
This is coordinated with the central 7" Toyota Touch 2 touchscreen multimedia system (also only on VX models) with ergonomically-enhanced controls and a new high-resolution screen.
This package includes Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls; a rear-view camera; vehicle information including trip data, the climate control profile and settings for door locking and lighting.
It also enables simple connection of iPods and MP3 players via USB or Bluetooth, as well as audio system management options.
Convenience and safety
Convenience changes include softened shoulder portions of the front door trim, and systems such as Front Sonar (VX models) with warning buzzer and Back Monitor (new on the GX models) with guidelines (VX only), an additional 12V connector in the rear (all models), and auto headlamp levelling (changed from manual in the GX models).
New safety specification include an auto door lock system that allow doors to automatically lock once the vehicle reaches a specific speed, auto locking retractor seatbelts for the rear centre seats, Trailer Sway Control and an alarm system for the GX models.
This is coupled with seven airbags and a host of active safety systems, including ABS with EBD, VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) and TRC (Traction Control), while the AWD has VSC+.
Leading the class
More than 5.5-million units of the four generations of RAV4 have been sold in over 150 countries, and since the launch of evolution four here in April 2013 Toyota’s market share in the compact SUV segment has increased to 12% – making RAV4 the current sales leader in the small SUV class.
Says Glenn Crompton, Toyota SA’s vice president of marketing, said: “The RAV4 currently has the lowest entry point amongst its main competitors and has been outselling competition for more than 18 months.
“We currently sell about 440 units per month on average and would like to cement our position as segment leaders with this refreshed model.”
Available in two new colours, Pure Blue Metallic and Dark Red Mica Metallic, the powertrain line-up of the updated range stays unchanged.
It comprises of a 107kW 2.0-litre Valvematic petrol engine in two-wheel drive format mated to a choice of 6-speed manual or Toyota’s highly-advanced Multidrive S transmission, a 110kW 2.2-litre D-4D diesel engine coupled with a six-speed manual or auto with all-wheel drive, and a 132kW 2.5-litre VVT-i petrol unit married to a six-speed auto transmission and AWD.
Is it any better (or worse)?
The sandy tracks of Southern Mozambique and the changeable road conditions of Northern KwaZulu-Natal proved to be ideal settings for the RAV4 AWD models’ (2.5-litre petrol and 2.2-litre turbodiesel) capabilities – on-road as well as off it.
The ability of both engines is a known quantity – and in all circumstances the diesel power unit’s performance was preferable; not only in terms of tractability and torque delivery, but also frugality and effectiveness.
To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with the normally aspirated 2.5-litre petrol unit. While quite laid-back it does its work quietly and efficiently, but the 175kW 2.0-litre turbo engine in the Lexus NX200t (built on the same platform) spoilt us…
Will it become available in the RAV? Not likely, is the answer from Toyota.
In comparison the 2.2-litre turbodiesel is virtually as quiet at speed, and its low-down grunt makes it preferable – especially in sand or on dirt roads.
Also noticeable, due to enhanced sound insulation, was the quiet, rattle-free cabin, and the upgraded model’s ride quality, while stiff, was well balanced and compliant– ensuring a comfortable drive on all surfaces.
Off-road a high-speed interactive management system that coordinates the Dynamic Torque Control AWD, VSC and power steering systems enhances its performance.
The peculiar placement of the TRC button is confusing, though. One would expect it under the dash close to the central diff-lock control, yet it is positioned next to the central digital clock; like bit of an afterthought…
The one to have…
Pricing for the new RAV4 range varies from R327 700 for the entry-level 2.0 GX to R487 400 for the flagship 2.2 D-4D VX auto.
This compares well with its competitors, including the Ford Kuga (ranging from R329 900 to R449 900), Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage, Hyundai iX35, Chev Captiva and Mazda CX-5 (R324 900 to R474 400).
All taken into account, and if you need AWD, the model to have in our view is the thrifty, capable 2.2D AWD GX with a manual gearbox.
Prices: Toyota RAV4*
RAV4 2.0 GX MT - R327 700
RAV4 2.0 GX CVT - R338 800
RAV4 2.2D AWD GX MT - R409 900
RAV4 2.5 AWD VX 6AT - R457 000
RAV4 2.2D AWD VX 6AT - R487 400
Prices includes a three-year or 100 000km warranty and five-year or 90 000km service plan and ToyotaCare Roadside Assistance.