Ugly duckling among the baby 4x4s
RAV4 was Toyota’s groundbreaking recreational active vehicle with fourwheel-drive. There was also Suzuki’s first Vitara, spearheading the trends for a smaller 4x4 with carderived manners. That was all happening in the mid 90s.
Arguably, big sellers like the Land Rover Freelander, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Kuga and a covey of Volvo XC models are descendants of the RAV4. Oh, and the Kia Sportage and Hyundai iX35 and many more offer the attractions of a handy 4x4.
The Toyota outsells all of them, a brand recognised for reliability and toughness when roads really are tough. Production is in Japan, Canada, Philippines and China.
The RAV4 has developed from a cute inoffensive rounded shape to become this rather ugly fourth generation, launched this year. A week of using a 2.2 diesel automatic model left me wondering why I would buy it or recommend it – unless I wanted something to take me into the wilderness. In hills and dales and glens and braes you’ll see RAVs going about their business.
As a Main Street sort of car it was dull. The handling on roundabouts is not inspiring. The noise levels from the diesel-auto combo are high. On tickover in-gear it rumbles impatiently.
Prices range from £22,595 for the 57.6mpg 122bhp Activa 2.0 diesel with front-wheeldrive, rated at 127g/km CO2. The majority have 4x4 drive, from £25,605 for a 149bhp 2.0 petrol motor and higher Icon trim and CVT automatic gears, rated at 39mpg and 167g. The entry level 4x4 diesel with manual gears is the £26,500 Icon with the 147bhp 2.2 diesel, rated at 49.6mpg and 149g.
New features are a standard top-hinged tailgate instead of the side-hinged tailgate. There is more room in the cabin – really plenty of space for five and luggage, with lots of underfloor space where a spare-wheel could be carried, and stacks of oddments places in the cabin. There is better economy from the cleaner engines and, says the blurb, “better on-road dynamic performance”. Oh well, maybe I missed something.
My test car, in which I did several hundred miles, all on-road, was the top boy Invincible 2.2D six-speed automatic at £29,305, plus £495 for glittery grey paint and £1,200 for an upgrade to the Touch & Go integrated media/info system, including navigation, voice control and more traffic informationn.
The mapping shows speed limits and whether you are exceeding speed limits – though some were not accurate.
Fuel economy was just about bearable but I’d badly need 4x4 traction to be happy.
Reckon on 33mpg on the motorway at legal speeds, a few more mpg for commuting on mixed routes to a single journey best of 39mpg at a very gentle pace.
The showroom catalogue says (rounded) 35mpg urban, 48mpg extra urban and 42mpg combined, and a high-tax 176g/km CO2. If I was in this price area I’d be also trying the entry-level Rand Rover Evoque (though they are rather shy-makingly trendy) or more likely a nicely specified Freelander which remains my pick of the baby 4x4s. Kia’s Sportage and the twinned Hyundai ix35 are contenders, while VW’s Tiguan, the latest UK-built Honda CR-V with the new 1.6 diesel or the Spanish-built Ford Kuga deserve serious consideration.
FAILS TO GRIP ME: The new look Toyota RAV4 is uglier than its predecessors and is an uninspiring drive on ordinary roads.