Road test: Toyota RAV4 XT-R D-CAT

The RAV-4 was the first compact crossover SUV when launched back in 1994, but now in its third-generation how does the car compare with modern rivals?

I spent a week with the latest £26,990 RAV-4 XT-R D-CAT to see whether it could teach its more modern rivals a thing or two, or if it's too dated.

The current third-generation car dates back to 2005 and a face-lift last year brought it in line with the bigger Avensis and smaller Auris.

The face-lift for the RAV-4 is most obvious from the front, with new headlights and a larger front chrome-trimmed family grille.

Move to the side and the back and it's hard to distinguish the face-lifted car from the 2005 original.

Our test car was fitted with one of just three engines available for the RAV-4, the 2.2-litre, D-CAT diesel engine with 148bhp. Emissions of 186g/km and 39.8mpg fuel consumption figures mean that the Toyota with the Optimal Drive technology has best in class economy figures.

The Toyota's power-assisted steering is light but isn't particularly responsive. Parking is surprisingly easy, despite the RAV-4 test car not being fitted with rear parking sensors. Still, it's fine on the motorway.

When the original RAV-4 was launched it made people look differently at how small off-roaders should ride and handle. The RAV-4 is still car-like to drive, but it feels old, there's more bodyroll and new rivals are more fun to drive.

Toyota has worked hard to improve the interior quality of the RAV-4 and there's a solid, chunky feel to the controls. However it feels dated, plus some of the plastics look cheap and scratchy. The instruments are clear and easy to read though.

The 2.2-litre D-CAT diesel engine sounds rough at idle, but despite the slow-witted automatic, it was responsive and fairly refined.

The automatic gearbox with its paddles was smooth but felt like it strangled the diesel engine; 60mph comes up in 10.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 114mph.

The RAV-4's raised driving position is comfortable and there's plenty of space in the front. Move to the back and the seats slides to either increase rear space or bootspace. There are even practical under-floor compartments.

In fact, the only thing that works against the RAV-4's practicality is the heavy, side-hinged rear door. Still, the 586 litre boot is a practical size and can be extended to an impressive 1,469 litres.

Out test car was in X-TR trim, which has almost all the standard equipment, including 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and climate control. Our car had £420 of optional metallic paint.

The Toyota's standard CD/audio system is adequate, sat-nav is a costly £1,532 option.

To sum up, newer rivals might be more impressive looking and better to drive, but if you're after a capable, practical off-roader then the RAV-4 is still worth a look.

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