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

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The RAV4’s handling feels less outdated than its interior, but it still trails the class best.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

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Hank56 30 June 2009

Re: Toyota RAV4 2.2 D4-D 150 SR

Hello all, I wonder whether anyone can help me, I have been looking at the equipment for the upcoming revised rav4 and there is no mention of a sunroof! I am wondering whether that is an oversight or it is not available any longer? Did the rav you had the first drive with have a sunroof? Thank you.

aceman 18 June 2009

Re: Toyota RAV4 2.2 D4-D 150 SR

Interesting - I think it's great this car gear changing is good smooth shifting good handling. And they've made the engine to give it a bit more speed. All sound good until you read the part about fuel economy. 38 odd miles per gallon isn't impressive unlike the other parts about the gear box and handling. So really buying this model isn't going to be much of an advance from the old one - reason simply being it's going to cost you about £10 more in petrol than the standard RAV4 to drive.

baldyorvik 23 May 2009

Re: Toyota RAV4 2.2 D4-D 150 SR

I sell them and i run one, i'm 5' 10" it's a cramped driving position,seat has little support, the dash looks and feels cheap, but nowhere near as cheap as the new verso, the styling is feminine, BUT, it never misses a beat, stays completely squeak-free, returns 43mpg combined all day long(i drive fast), all the power anyone will need in standard 140bhp and i know they hold their value better than nearly everything else.not a car for everyone i reckon but perfect for the MOR segment.