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Facelifted car mates turbodiesel to auto 'box - but it's not all good news

Our Verdict

Toyota RAV4 2006-2012
Toyota Rav4 is heroically bland to look at

The Toyota RAV4 offers tidy handling and fine engines, but also a choppy ride and high price

  • First Drive

    Toyota RAV4 2.2 D4-D 150 SR

    Facelifted car mates turbodiesel to auto 'box - but it's not all good news
  • First Drive

    Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D T180

    The RAV4 is a strong competitor at the £20,000 mark, but up the price to £27,000 and its case becomes much weaker.

What is it?

This is the Toyota RAV4 2.2 D4-D 150 SR, the top end of the just-refreshed RAV4 range. The entire range has received new engines, but the Toyota RAV4 2.2 D4-D 150 is notable as it mates an automatic to a turbodiesel engine for the first time in the RAV4.

Other changes are less significant, but the RAV4 gets mildly restyled front and rear lights and a new grille. Inside, there have been some gentle tweaks to improve the quality of the cabin trim materials, but nothing major.

What’s it like?

The new engine and gearbox combination, lifted straight from the Toyota Avensis, is impressive. The six-speed gearbox shifts smoothly and quietly, and you rarely find yourself stuck in the wrong ratio, even climbing up steep hills.

The 148bhp turbodiesel, meanwhile, hauls the chunky RAV4 along with reasonable verve. It’s also a commendably refined unit, only sounding strained at high revs when pulling uphill.

A combined economy figure of 39.2mpg isn’t incredible, and is some way off the 48.7mpg you’ll get out of the manual version, but it is pretty much par for the class.

The rest of the RAV4 package is less impressive. Since this generation of RAV4 was launched (more than three years ago now) the entire field of its rivals have either been replaced or are new to the segment. Frankly, the game has moved on and it shows.

The driving position feels oddly cramped, with your left leg wishing for room that isn’t there and the steering wheel set too low (although it is nicely styled and a lovely thing to hold). Compared with rivals possessed of such fine driving positions as the Ford Kuga and VW Tiguan are, the RAV4’s drover’s accommodation really isn’t up to scratch.

There’s nothing wrong with the cabin materials, however. Qualitatively, the RAV4 feels a match for the Ford Kuga, and a notch or two plusher than a Mitsubishi Outlander or Honda CR-V, especially in top-spec SR trim.

The RAV4’s handling feels less outdated than its interior, but it still trails the class best. The RAV4 changes direction gamely enough, but the combination of artificial-feeling steering and a tendency to understeer mark it down.

Should I buy one?

Maybe. In isolation the Toyota RAV4 is by no means a bad car, but in a class so full of rivals it is perhaps no surprise that several of them (the Ford Kuga and Land Rover Freelander in particular) are comfortably superior to the Toyota. The combination of the diesel engine and the automatic gearbox may be impressive, but it’s not quite enough to carry the rest of the car in such a competitive market segment.

Matt Rigby

Join the debate

Comments
14

21 May 2009

It may be that the Freelander has superior driving dynamics to the Rav4, but you can bet your life the Toyota will hold together a lot better than its Halewood rival, and the aftersales service will be in a different league.

21 May 2009

Surely the sort of person who might buy one of these wouldn't touch a Kuga or Freelander with a bargepole. The shortlist would be: RAV4, Outlander , Grand Vitara, and maybe Forester or Santa Fe.

21 May 2009

What about rhe now 3 years old Rav4 180 - the article suggests this is a range topper with more power than the last range topper. Er no.

And as for interior quality, is this article from a drive of a Rav4 - the interior quality is appalling - certainly nowhere near the level of a CRV and not within a million miles of a Kuga.

Did Autocar just get this from the press release or have they actually been in one ?

22 May 2009

[quote Tonker123]And as for interior quality, is this article from a drive of a Rav4 - the interior quality is appalling - certainly nowhere near the level of a CRV and not within a million miles of a Kuga.[/quote]

Good point about the SR180, Tonker, it's now been duly tweaked to reflect your point.

The interior of the facelifted car is much improved, but you're right in that the original was off the pace.

SDR

22 May 2009

In support of some of the above, I just don't see the Kuga or Freelander as nearly as strong competition for this Toyota.

The fact is Ford dealers are universally atrocious (I'll happily be proved wrong, but anticipate death within 40 or so years so I'm not too optimistic), and Freelanders are, either by fact or well-earned reputation, hopelessly unreliable when compared to a Toyota (and it matters not which it is - perception is reality, to all practical purposes).

The Toyota's driving position may well not be perfect, but unless they've done something astonishingly stupid I can't imagine it's as bad as a new Audi A4/5 and Autocar doesn't seem to view that as a critical flaw. Much more important to many buyers will be the fact that it is very well built, likely to be extremely reliable, will hold its value reasonably well, is backed up by a generally very competent and pleasant dealer network, and isn't called something that suggests the possibility that your child may be called Shardonnay (yes, intentional).

I have no axe to grind here - I don't own a Toyota and have no need for this type of car - I just think the Freelander/Kuga victory is flawed. If owning a car consisted entirely of an enthusiastic two day test drive I dare say I'd appreciate either. But if it was my own money being spent and the thing was going to hang around for a few years, to quote someone above I wouldn't touch either with a barge pole.

S.

22 May 2009

[quote SDR]The fact is Ford dealers are universally atrocious (I'll happily be proved wrong, but anticipate death within 40 or so years so I'm not too optimistic), and Freelanders are, either by fact or well-earned reputation, hopelessly unreliable when compared to a Toyota[/quote]

As for your point on Ford dealers you are correct, based on my own experience.

The Freelander 2 is in fact a very reliable car but the original was such as hopelessly unreliable pile of shite that it has tarnished it's reputation. Hopefully that will change, along with the reputations of other LR products such as the Disco 3 which is also now largely reliable.

As for the RAV -4, my hairdresser has one (yes really). Nuff said as far as I'm concerned.

22 May 2009

Matt, cheers for that - they must have improved it a lot. We've just taken a CR-V 2.2CTdi EX over a Rav4 Edge (or whatever the runout edition was called) - primarily because of interior and perceived quality. The rear seat get up in the Rav4 was, in particular, really 'skimpy' and felt Carina-esque - I know the Japanese logic was always just enough quality and where you can see it, but I was stunned at how cheap the Toyota felt (and their primary touch controls feel like you're in a 300K minicab, even when new).

I was pushing the Toyota, because the Honda was 30% more expensive in EX spec...., but it was just so drab to be in. If they've got that right and gone almost Lexus-esque, they could get a hell of a lot of Freelander sales - I know the Rav4 is the best selling small SUV in Europe, but it could go for more premium model sales (and hence more profits) at the expense of JLR if they get this bit right - or, they could easily go for a small Lexus SUV based on it (I noted with interest that the styling of the old Rav4 and the Altezza/IS200 were so closely linked) but they did not follow that through.....

22 May 2009

In your position, Tonker, I would have gone for the CR-V too. and even though the quality is better in the Toyota, I still find the design of the cabin a disappointment.

22 May 2009

Seems like there are hundreds of cars in this segment and none of them really nails it.

22 May 2009

[quote Audi Tastic]

Seems like there are hundreds of cars in this segment and none of them really nails it.

[/quote]

Spot on. I would love a Freelander 2 but it is just so bloody expensive to lease. I could lease a Tiguan with DSG and leather for around £200 a month less than a fairly basic freelander. The C Crosser is pretty good, and good value too but while I like the look of the front I can't get past the typical Japanese plastic interior.

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