First up - as is the mission with many of its new models - the Rav4 has to stand out from the crowd. Make of the styling what you will, but Toyota succeeded. There’s simply no missing it.
Inside though, things are back to old-school Toyota: it’s simple, spacious and crafted with great quality.
The centre hangdown features a touch screen that controls all media, connectivity and communication (as well as the optional navigation) functions and is a synch to operate. In terms of spec, the Rav4 highlighted two my greatest pet peeves: no cruise control, no auto-locking doors. Furthermore, the key is so old-school that it doesn’t even fold away into the fob and also doesn’t have a button that unlocks only the boot, the hideous digital clock is lifted from Toyotas of yore and the screen for the trip computer (which is also as basic as they come) is so small that it cannot house a visualisation of the parking sensors. Instead, parking danger is indicated by two small lights next to a picture of a car on the centre dash. For a car that costs R359 900, it’s simply ridiculous. It feels like Toyota just took shortcuts to keep the price competitive.
The Rav4 does, however, redeem itself where it matters most: the driving (or riding) experience.
No one is wonting for space, which means that the driver can customise a driving position at no expense of the back passenger. It is supremely comfortable and has a relaxed way - even when the turbo kicks in - of getting you about that makes your commute just feel that much more stress-free, a sensation that is even more amplified on the highway.
The biggest element of such a pleasant drive, however, is that typical Toyota sense of safety; that assuring feeling of knowing that you’re in a properly built car.
The 2 231cc D-4D powertrain provides the driver with 110kW of power and a handy 340Nm of torque, driving all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. It does clatter a bit, but as I’ve written in previous tests, I love the sound of the diesel engine. It shouldn’t bother most owners anyway, as NVH is pretty good, aside from some road noise on the open road.
It’s a good engine that compliments the all requirements of a compact SUV. It’s quick and smooth and does its job without any strain. This model does come equipped with a Sport button as well, although I can’t think of a reason why.
What I found most impressive, though, was this engine’s frugality. I had to take other detours home last week which included way more bumper-to-bumper traffic than a test car usually has to endure during tenure with me. It still averaged 9.6 litres/100km in town, which - although very far off its claimed figure - I found pretty good. The number that did astonish me though, was the Rav4’s consumption on the open road: just 5.5 litres/100km, meaning that gas stops on your way to your holiday will be few and far in between.
As you can gather in summary of the above is that Rav4 is a very good car. The problem is that it’s just not a particularly loveable car. It does what it’s supposed to do and does it well, but despite its unique styling, it just doesn’t have any charisma.
What the Rav4 is though, is sensible. For all its hipster aspirations, it still is the car that Mom or Dad wants for the family: safe, spacious and Toyota reliable. And in the end, those are the customers who will write the cheques to Toyota.
There is no way in the world where I cannot recommend the Rav4. Yes, it may not deliver the excitement its exterior will have you expect, but that doesn’t change the fact it is a very good car that deserves to be in quite a few garages.