Toyota RAV4 SUV
Price £22,495 - £29,605
- Very spacious
- Large boot
- Long warranty
- Not very fun to drive
- Upright styling
At a glance
"The Toyota RAV4 is a well-equipped and practical SUV with a long warranty and economical engines."
The original Toyota RAV4 invented the small SUV class when it arrived in 1994, and its strong sales were proof that customers wanted a rugged-looking vehicle that favoured fun driving above off-road grip.
Today, the RAV4 has lost some of its original character in the pursuit of more space and better economy. It now feels like a very big car inside, with lots of space for four or even five passengers, a large boot and plenty of storage bins for your travel accessories.
One petrol and two diesel engines are available, and we’d recommend the latter, as both easily manage more than 40mpg, while the petrol is most expensive to run. A five-year or 100,000-mile warranty should give peace of mind and boost re-sale values, as it can be transferred to the next owner.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Choose the front-wheel drive diesel for the lowest running costs
There's a clear winner here, and it's the 2.0-litre diesel with front-wheel drive, which returns 57.6mpg with emits 127g/km of CO2, costing £110 in annual road tax. Unless you think you’ll need four-wheel drive or tow heavy trailers, it's the one we’d choose. Adding four-wheel drive reduces economy to 53.3mpg and puts emissions up to 137g/km, for road tax of £130 per year. Upgrade to the 2.2-litre diesel, which has four-wheel drive as standard, and you’ll see up to 49.6mpg with 149g/km of CO2 emissions for a £145 tax bill. The 2.0-litre petrol also has four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox and delivers an unimpressive 39.2mpg and 167g/km of CO2.
If you really want a petrol SUV the Mazda CX-5 is a far better bet, with more power and 47.1mpg along with 139g/km of CO2 emissions. The diesel is more economical than the RAV4 too, with up to 61.4mpg and CO2 of 119g/km, while even the powerful 173bhp four-wheel drive version gets 54.3mpg.
The number of popular models crowding the small SUV market could harm values when the time comes to sell, but the RAV4's excellent reputation for reliability, along with its long warranty should allow it to hold on to a good proportion of its value.
Interior & comfort
Lots of headroom and reclining rear seats make the RAV4 ideal for long trips
The RAV4 has grown considerably over the years and is now tall enough to offer excellent headroom for front and rear passengers. We also particularly like the reclining rear seats, which should allow passengers to relax on long motorway trips, when they’ll also appreciate the good legroom. Large windows give a great view out, with the only problematic blind spot being created by large pillars either side of the rear window. Luckily a reversing camera is standard with Icon and Invincible trim levels.
Materials inside the cabin appear robust and well-made, but not particularly stylish. Typically for a Toyota some of the switches for functions like the electric windows look very dated compared with stylish European models including the Volkswagen Tiguan.
While the RAV4 might have lost some of its fun driving characteristics, the ride is soft and comfortable, with the car's large tyres helping to soak up potholes and speed bumps.
Practicality & boot space
A large boot and lots of storage solutions are two of the RAV4’s best features
The boot area has been well thought out with split and fold rear seats that lie completely flat, leaving a smooth boot floor to slide flat-pack furniture or even bicycles into without getting snagged. Icon and Invincible models have an electrically opening and closing boot, which is great when you have your hands full, even if it is a little slow in its operation.
There's 547 litres of boot space in total, which includes a 100-litre underfloor storage area, handy for keeping wet items separate, or hiding valuables out of sight. It's more room than the Kuga and CX-5 offer, but can’t match the cavernous Honda CR-V with 589-litres and handy levers in the boot which fold the rear seats flat with one tug.
Passengers have plenty of storage nooks and crannies too, with cup holders for rear occupants, a large central storage bin, front door bins and lots of places around the dashboard to store your wallet, keys and phone.
For those who like rugged pursuits, the options list includes rubber mats for the boot and foot wells, mud flaps, tow bars, protective bodywork add-ons, cycle racks and even roof boxes for more luggage.
Reliability & safety
Excellent warranty and a good safety record
Toyota has long had an excellent reputation for reliability but high-profile recall announcements have taken their toll, and in 2014's Driver Power customer satisfaction survey Toyota dropped eight places to 17th position. This marks the Japanese manufacturer's first time outside the top ten for many years.
However, Toyota is tackling problems, and the new RAV4 has had no major issues since it went on sale in 2013. It also comes with a long five-year or 100,000-mile warranty that can be transferred to the next owner.
Being so popular with families, safety is particularly important and the RAV4 was awarded five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. It was awarded 89 per cent for adult occupant protection and 82 per cent for child occupants, figures slightly behind the CX-5's 94 and 87 per cent. All versions come with technology to improve braking and help prevent skids, multiple airbags, ISOFIX child seat mounting points and child protection locks.
Engines, drive & performance
A comfy cruiser, but there are sportier SUVs available
Unlike the original RAV4, which was said to be as fun to drive as a sporty hatchback, the latest model is best suited to relaxed cruising. Even with its ‘Sport’ mode selected to firm up the steering, the RAV4 lacks the fun of the Kuga or CX-5. Instead it's best considered as a comfortable family car.
The petrol looks quickest on paper with 0-62mph coming up in 9.9 seconds, but in practice it feels less powerful than the diesels in day-to-day driving. The 2.0-litre diesel has 122bhp and reaches 62mph from rest in 10.5 seconds, while the 2.2-litre diesel hits the same benchmark in 9.6 seconds with a manual gearbox or 10 seconds with an automatic fitted. These are reasonably competitive figures, but the RAV4 never feels as sporty as the CX-5 or Kuga in reality, and there's a 2.0-litre turbocharged Tiguan that can hit 62mph in 7.3 seconds if you really want a quick small SUV.
Price, value for money & options
A high starting price, with less standard kit than Mazda CX-5
The RAV4 has a higher starting price than the Kuga and CX-5, despite the entry-level Active trim missing out on some desirable kit. Bluetooth is standard, but the basic CX-5 and Kuga both get cruise control, while the CX-5 also gets dual-zone air-con, automatic lights and wipers, front and rear parking sensors and a 5.8-inch touchscreen in the centre console.
Icon trim adds a reversing camera, touch-screen, DAB radio, cruise control, auto lights and wipers and sports seats, while the top Invincible grade benefits from leather seats and heated front seats. Options include a tow bar with a 1,500 to 2,000kg trailer capacity (depending on engine fitted), side steps to make getting in and out easier and mud flaps.
What the others say
"In the face of some stiff opposition, Toyota has attempted to make the RAV4 stand out. And while it’s not great to look at and not all that sharp to drive, the new model is comfortable and extremely spacious. Look lower down the range and it mixes in decent fuel economy and a good spec – particularly if you don’t necessarily need four-wheel drive."
"The new RAV4 is a practical, five-seat SUV, but so is a Mazda CX-5, and entry-level versions of that car come with so much kit there's no need to venture any further up the range. So, while the RAV4 is available for less, the version you'll actually want will cost you more than an equivalent CX-5. Given that the Mazda also handles better and comes with an engine that’s both stronger and more fuel-efficient, we reckon it’s the better buy."
"Good reliability record and decent resale values, but not as stylish as rivals and interior is a little dull."