Ugly duck­ling among the baby 4x4s

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - TOY­OTA RAV 4

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.

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