"The Toyota RAV4 is a practical SUV with loads of standard equipment and a decent choice of engines."
When the original Toyota RAV4 was launched in 1994, it offered something quite new – a 4x4 that could handle as well as a fast hatchback, like the Golf GTI, but wasn’t particularly good off road. The 2013 Toyota RAV4 has moved on, though.
The quest for practicality means that the RAV4 has lost some of the original model's freshness, but then it now has to compete with practical SUVs such as the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and the Ford Kuga.
As a result, the RAV4 has matured into a more family-friendly car that loses some of its driver appeal, but has made significant gains in practicality, with decent rear-seat space and a large boot.
Buyers can choose between two diesels and a petrol, while the RAV4 is also available in two or four-wheel drive. The former means better economy, while the latter will give better grip in slippery conditions, but will also add to the RAV4's running costs.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
If running costs are your biggest concern, then the basic, 2.0-litre diesel is the best option. It can get up to 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 127g/km, which converts into annual road tax of £105. But if you want a decent turn of speed, at the expense of some economy then the 2.2-litre diesel is the better bet. It returns just under 50mpg and CO2 emissions of 149g/km that mean road tax will cost £140 per year. The 2.2-litre diesel, with four-wheel drive, is also the best choice if you plan to tow trailers or caravans of up to 2000kg. Although the petrol engine is quieter than both the diesels, you pay the price at the pumps because it can only manage 39.2mpg, while road tax is also significantly more expensive at £200 annually, thanks to CO2 emissions of 167g/km.
Interior & comfort
One of the main benefits of an SUV such as the RAV4 is its high driving position, which makes it easy to see out of and relatively easy to park. Most come fitted with a rearward-facing camera that makes it even easier to reverse the RAV4 into a space. While the RAV4's soft suspension may give it too much body roll in the corners, it translates into a comfortable ride.
Practicality & boot space
The fourth-generation RAV4 is the biggest yet, meaning there is lots of space inside. There's a totally flat floor for rear-seat passengers, giving excellent levels of head and legroom for all three passengers. The boot is now hinged at the top rather than the side, which means access is not restricted if you park close to a wall or another car. The boot has also increased in size by 51 litres, to 547 litres, thanks to an additional 100-litre storage space under the boot floor. Although this does mean that there is no spare tyre. The interior also has plenty of cubbyholes to store the clutter of family life.
Reliability & safety
Toyota has an excellent reputation for reliability, but a number of high-profile recalls have taken their toll on the company. At least Toyota is tackling problems head on and at great expense, rather than trying to ignore them. The manufacturer finished ninth in our Driver Power 2013 survey, which means it finished ahead of respected companies such as Audi, BMW and Volkswagen. All RAV4s come with Toyota's five-year 100,000-mile warranty. The RAV4 also scored a five-star Euro NCAP rating so should be very safe. The car also features lane keep assist, which bleeps when it senses the car is swaying out of its lane on the motorway.
Engines, drive & performance
Although Toyota claims the 2013 RAV4 has the excellent handling characteristics of the original model that doesn’t seem to be true in practise. That's not to say the company hasn’t tried and Toyota includes a Sport mode that adds weight to the steering, among other things, to make the RAV4 more fun to drive. It's not entirely convincing, however, and the RAV4 can’t match the driving experience of the Ford Kuga, or even the Honda CR-V. Too much body roll in corners is our biggest complaint. The RAV4 is a comfortable cruiser, though. The basic diesel doesn’t feel slow, but it is noisy when getting the RAV4 up to speed and we found the 2.2-litre diesel suffered from the same problem. While the petrol is quieter than the diesels it can’t hope to match their economy.
Price, value for money & options
Although quite expensive to buy, all RAV4s come fitted with air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connection and bright LED daytime running lights. Icon models add to that list with separate climate control settings for the driver and passenger, automatic headlights, a centrally mounted touchscreen and DAB radio, cruise control, rain sensing wipers and a rear-facing camera. The most expensive Invincible specification also get leather seats, which are heated at the front, plus keyless entry and keyless start.