Bigger, more car-like RAV4
Toyota’s new four-wheel drive RAV4 is no longer the small Sport Utility Vehicle lifestyle model it used to be. The dimensions of the third-generation RAV4 dwarf the first version which arrived in New Zealand in 1994. Buyers seeking a small Toyota off-roader will now have to consider the Daihatsu Terios, set to appear in new form later this year. Nor is there any three-door version of the new RAV4. Internationally there has been a trend away from three-door bodies, even though the earlier model three-door RAV4s were popular.
Toyota says that in second-generation form, the three-doors made up only 20 percent of total RAV4 sales. It’s the sheer size of the new RAV4 that will surprise many potential owners. At 4600mm, it’s longer than a Honda CRV or first generation Range Rover.
The first three-door RAV4 was a mere 3705mm and the second-generation five-door 4145mm. Wheelbase increases by 170mm to 2660mm compared to the previous five-door RAV4, and the new vehicle is 60mm higher. Built on a new platform, overall width has increased from 1735mm to 1815mm for the standard model and 1855mm for Limited.
The net gain from these increases is 20 percent more interior space. Luggage capacity rises 35 percent, from 400 litres to 540 litres.
Interior space is excellent although the front seats could do with slightly more rearward adjustment. Rear seat legroom is exceptionally good. Cabin length increases by 130mm to 1865mm and the distance between the front seat and rear seat passenger is up by 120mm.
A neat feature is the one-touch remote release in the load area. This releases the rear seatbacks which fold flat to the floor. Under the carpeted floor is a roomy hidden compartment. An adjustable holding net restrains items stored in the load area. Lexus-style luminescent instruments are easy to read and there is an abundance of storage space and compartments.
Styling breaks no new ground and the covered spare wheel mounted on the side-hinged tailgate looks rather bulbous. Wind noise is reduced and aerodynamics improved by fitting spats in front of the tyres, an engine undercover and a rear spoiler. Though it won’t worry most owners who will never have any reason to look at the mechanicals, the bonnet is heavy to lift. Larger brakes are disc all round –ventilated up front – and a newly designed frame layout of the under body minimises cabin deformation in an accident.
Most owners will leave their RAV4 in the Auto driving mode, allowing the torque to be distributed to the rear wheels when any front wheel slippage occurs. During low-speed cornering, torque to the rear wheels is decreased to avoid any tight cornering braking phenomenon. Toyota has redesigned the front MacPherson strut suspension, from the lower arm to the coil springs and shock absorbers. The rear set-up comprises a newly designed trailing type double wishbone suspension. Noise and vibration levels are lower with the repositioning of cross-section members and new side seals in the bonnet lid.
Honda’s CR-V is a strong rival for the RAV4. It has a pricing advantage, which is diminished by Toyota’s discounting, and its 2364cc engine produces the same torque at the RAV4 and slightly less power. Suzuki Grand Vitara is also in the equation, and has the advantage of a wider range that includes a three-door body.
No diesels or V6
Though Toyota sells two diesel RAV4 models in Europe, there are no plans for a diesel here. The two 2.2-litre diesels for Europe include a 100kW common-rail version, but Toyota expects the lower powered diesel will be the bigger selling RAV4 in Europe.
American buyers will be able to choose the same 2.4-litre DOHC four-cylinder engine as New Zealanders can, but will also have the option of a 198kW 3.5-litre DOHC 24-valve V6, and a five-speed automatic in place of the four-stage auto option on the four-cylinder. However, there are no plans to introduce the V6 to the NZ line-up.