Toyota RAV4 2012-2018 review

Open gallery Close by Mark Tisshaw 10 February 2014 Follow @mtisshaw Share

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The fourth-generation of the Toyota RAV4 is pitched plumb into the middle of a fragmented and fast-growing mid-size SUV-crossover class.

As Toyota sees it, it has the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Seat Seat Ateca at one end and the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque at the other. And,  as ever with a fast-moving industry such as the automotive one, competitors are replaced and new ones arrive as is the case with the Volvo XC60 and the Range Rover Velar.

Many buyers will no doubt appreciate the Toyota’s standard five-year warranty and its solid build qualityMark TisshawEditor

Putting the Toyota RAV4’s in its place

If you plot a graph comparing the price and overall length of every small and medium-size 4×4 you can think of – from the Hyundai Tuscon to the Audi Q5 – this new Toyota marks the very centre, the sweet spot. That’s where the Japanese firm expects the most demand for SUVs to exist over the next five years. 

‘Wieldiness’ was always something the previous 2006-2012 Toyota RAV4 did well. It’s never been a big, cumbersome car; in fact, it used to be shorter than a modern supermini. And Toyota’s own market research confirms that owners still value its relative manoeuvrability

This new one has had 100mm added to the wheelbase, though, and 205mm in overall length. It’s much more practical for it, of course, and it now measures up as a proper medium-sized SUV on the inside. Toyota also claims its 10.6-metre turning circle is still class-leading. But it’s also, somehow, lost a bit of its individuality.

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Outwardly, to these eyes, the car looks very ‘modern Toyota’, but not very ‘modern RAV4’. You can blame some of that on the stretched proportions. The rear end in particular looks ungainly and odd, and a couple of trademark RAV4 cues are missing here: the door-mounted spare wheel, not to mention the side-hinged rear door it mounted to in years gone by.

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Toyota says a roof-hinged hatchback makes more practical sense, and it’s probably right. But there goes another identifying point of difference.

Specifying your Toyota RAV4

Inside, the RAV4’s upright classic SUV driving position was next in line for the chop. You can now sit up to 30mm lower than you could. That puts you closer to the centre of roll, which ought to be a good thing, but somehow it makes the RAV4 experience that bit more humdrum: less Range Rover, more StreetRover.

The cabin is pleasant, roomy and apparently solidly constructed, although it lacks much in the way of flair. The plastics look and feel impressive. We could live without the fake leather on the steering wheel boss and the mock carbonfibre on the centre console, but such things are subjective.

Toyota’s approach to ergonomic switchgear design is doubtless more troubling, though. The RAV4’s drive mode buttons, which you use regularly to switch between Sport and Eco modes, are hidden away almost out of sight by your right knee. It’s not an easy place to spot them without taking your eyes off the road for very long.

Other curiosities include a lane departure warning toggle button that’s the stretch of your arm away on the far side of the centre stack, while the digital clock next to it brings your granny’s microwave oven to mind – a simple, plain analogue clock would be infinitely classier. Strange that a company with such attention to detail in other respects can make basic errors such as these, but it continues to.

As for trims there are five to choose from – Active, Business Edition, Business Edition Plus, Icon and Excel. Entry-level models come with 17in alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, heated wing mirrors, cruise control, air conditioning, a reversing camera, DAB radio and a 7.0in infotainment system as standard.

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