The Rav4 has come a long way since the days of boxy exteriors, cheap plastic trims and functional wheels. Today's offering looks every bit the luxury SUVs it hopes to rival but does this trek upmarket mean it has lost some off its simple, off-road charm. AOL Cars finds out...
What is it?
It is one of the pioneering SUVs that has undergone many tweaks and changes since its inception in 1994. The fabric rear cover of the loveable first generation is nowhere to be seen as the latest model smartens itself up to appeal to all of those yummy mummies looking for a stylish school run vehicle that hubby can also use for fishing trips, kayaking and so on...
What's under the bonnet?
There is a choice of either a 2.0 or 2.2-litre unit that is available in both diesel and petrol variants. The model we tested came fitted with the larger diesel engine mated to a slick and incredibly easy-to-use manual. The unit was fairly refined, only really intruding into the cabin if revved hard, but delivered its power smoothly and with little vibration under seat. The 2.2-litre diesel produces around 147bhp (around 22bhp more than the smaller equivalent) but those looking for greater fuel economy should look towards the 2.0-litre.
Our test vehicle was specified in Invincible trim which meant no expense was spared. Leather covered all of the seats, while cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and a large sat-nav system added to the interior elegance. It's certainly no Range Rover (quite a lot of plastic covers many surfaces) but the odd dollop of hand-stitched leather certainly raises this above your bog-standard off-roader.
Anyone with a pair of eyes and ears will probably know that SUVs, 4X4s and 'soft-roaders' are currently en vogue so customer choice is fairly varied. The Kia Sorento offers a similar amount of chic styling and roominess while the Honda CR-V also delivers on its utilitarian promise of "it'll go anywhere." Both of the aforementioned models come in at around the same mid £20k so for those wanting a real budget option could take a look at the Dacia Logan MCV at an astonishing £6,995. Just don't expect anywhere near the sort of luxury featured in the Toyota.
What's it like to drive?
Particularly comfortable. We will happily admit this isn't the sort of car that will set your hair on fire with blistering performance but as a long-distance cruiser, it is fabulous. Yes, the vehicle rolls a bit through corners and understeers if pushed too hard but get it on a motorway, pop it in cruise control and watch the miles disappear in quiet and cosiness. The leather seats are sumptuous and the in-car entertainment system is easy to use, plus rear passengers are treated to plenty of head and legroom.
The AOL Cars verdict
We drove this brute a good 300 miles to the northernmost parts of Devon, tackling a good mix of skinny country lanes and smooth motorway surfaces and we were impressed with its performance. It swallowed a whole bunch of sporting equipment, tents and weekend bags (and lots of beer) yet still managed to return a reasonable 45+mpg while delivering us to our destination fresh and relaxed. Buyers could quite happily ditch the super premium spec and bag a decent and capable SUV for a very reasonable £22,595.
Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel
Max speed: 118mph
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Emissions: 149 g/km CO2