Toyota RAV4 – A sensory delight

CAN you remember 25 years ago? Not normally, but I do remember Toyota launching the original RAV4 because it was monumental.

Until then SUVs were tractors driven by farmers with bales in the back and the odd fallen sheep.

Then Toyota asked us whether we would like a go-anywhere vehicle with hot-hatch performance and handling and we all said ‘yes pleeeease’, dumping the ubiquitous hatchback like the fickle creatures we are.

Since then everyone went SUV crazeee and it’s now quicker to find a manufacturer that doesn’t make one than does. They are everywhere, yes, but not all the same and Toyota’s challenge with its fifth generation was staying ahead of the game – and here is why it is.

We went shopping recently for an SUV and the problem we faced was the school run – it’s 62 miles each way. Diesels are down in the doldrums, I fear, never to reappear. While their relative economy might seem appealing, the initial purchase price and likely residuals three years down the ecological line aren’t and rule them out.

That leaves petrols and the choice of small capacity, turbo-charged units, which are great for performance but a struggle with the juice, or slightly larger, normally aspirated versions, which wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding and as a result have to be worked hard, with the resulting plummeting fuel consumption.

Roll on the drums then please for the new RAV4. It comes with a brand new 2.5 litre petrol and a self-charging hybrid electric motor (electric all-wheel-drive if you go that way too). No matter how hard I tap into the 215hp the trip computer refuses to drop below 45mpg. Now that sets RAV apart.

In the end I sacrificed power for frugality and opted for the smaller C-HR (and thank you for the 70+mpg) but RAV4 is still an impressive beast, which, like its predecessors, does successfully meld SUV and hot-hatch. It hits 60mph in under eight seconds which is swift by any standard.

Looks-wise it breaks with the family tradition swapping pointy nose for a much blunter profile. I’ve never seen a car change shape so much with the colour and the sexy two tone numbers actually look like a different model.

The new shell is stronger than ever and engineers have gone to great pains to lighten components. What weight there is, is carried low and its lack of bulk certainly helps in the performance and economy stakes. It also sharpens responses making the RAV4 a fun, agile and secure drive.

The cabin boasts a high quality feel; it’s  with precision execution, soft-touch surfaces and consistent patterns, textures, colours and ambient lighting.

Switchgear is new, too, with touchy feely buttons, yay, and pleasingly tactile controls, such as the button/dial to adjust the air conditioning.

The low-set instrument panel flows into the door panels, emphasising the cabin’s generous width and giving a clearer view of the road ahead. A larger, open centre console between the front seats makes RAV4 welcomingly functional.

This extends to the boot which has height adjustable double decks and if you drop down the rear seats will take a large bicycle without taking the wheel out. There’s even a grab handle on the inner tailgate that doubles as a useful hangar when it is raised – neat.

All manner of electronic wizardry keeps you safe and there’s the latest infotainment to keep the youngsters happy – yo!

Our expectations of manufacturers have increased exponentially over the past two and a half decades so launches don’t tend to be so monumental nowadays. That said the latest RAV4 remains at the top of a very competitive game at a time when everyone is watching the pennies and wondering where the world will be in another 25 years.

 

Fact file

Toyota RAV4

Engine: 2.5 petrol plus electric

Power: 215BHP

0-62mph: 8.1secs

Top speed: 112mph

Combined: 51.2MPG

Transmission: CVT

CO2 g/km: 103

Price: £29,635.00 – £36,640

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