One of the early pioneers that paved the way for the surge of compact crossovers in the Philippine market, Toyota's Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive (RAV4) proved to be quite a favorite for many buyers that want a small 4x4 that can take on the rough terrain while still being able to fulfill the role of a family runaround.
Torquey engine, full-time all-wheel drive (AWD), seating for five, tall ride height, sleek exterior and a comfy cabin. Excited? So are we.
For 2016, the fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 gets a slight redesign both inside and outside, along with new features as their answer to the more competitive market.
The sleek profiling carries over from the pre-facelift model though both the front and rear have been heavily revised. It gets sleeker wraparound automatic LED projector headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights (DRLs). It gets a black grill trim along with a more aggressive bumper design and circular foglights. The signature beltline has been retained on the side, though it gets new 17-inch alloy wheels.
LED combination taillights adorn the rear along with a slightly reshaped tailgate. The primarly unpainted rear bumper gets a color-matching top portion that houses the rear foglight and reverse lights. LED illumination is also present on the spoiler-mounted stop lamp while a fin-shaped antenna replaces the previous 'bee-sting' antenna.
The interior is a major improvement over the pre-facelift model. It has better quality leather upholstery which is soft to the touch. The faux carbon trim on the transmission gate and door trim have been replaced with soft black plastic which is nice as the former was susceptible to scratching. Rounding off the interior accents are pieces of aluminum shades that spruce up the cabin.
What I particularly like aboard the RAV4 are the sporty front seats and the multifunction steering wheel. Both get the same high quality leather found on the dashboard, with the former providing a comfortable and planted seating. The latter, on the other hand, is decently sized and provides a grippy yet soft feel which is great for long those long drives.
Like the updated Camry we got to review months ago, the 2016 RAV4 now benefits from an optitron dual gauge cluster with a TFT multi-information display. The dials are illuminated and always give a clear view of the car’s instruments.
For infotainment, it gets a new touchscreen based AM/FM radio, CD, DVD, MP3, Aux, USB, iPod, Bluetooth and Navigation via a SD card. The user interface however takes a bit of getting used to while the touchscreen itself needs a firm press to recognize any input. Pairing up my smartphone to the infotainment system was also quite troublesome as it took some time for it to find my device, which was just a few centimeters away.
I’ve always liked how Toyota interiors are ergonomically set up, but the 2016 RAV4 somehow missed the point. The new Eco and Sport buttons are placed down below the center console while the parking sensor switch has been omitted and is now buried in the multi-information display. Buttons like the stability control, downhill assist control (DAC) and differential lock are spread throughout the cabin, which makes for a confusing layout.
With a push of the button, the 2.5-liter 2AR-FE inline-four rumbles to life. The engine is still derived from the Camry and also benefits from Dual VVT-i. Maximum power of 180 PS is reached at 6,000 rpm while peak pulling power of 233 Nm is achieved at 4100 rpm. Power is transferred to the wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox with a full-time AWD system.
Like its platform sibling - the Camry, it delivers ample power from the get-go and provides more in the upper rev range. Torque is almost instantaneous and if that is not enough, it also has a manumatic transmission for those that want a more spirited driving experience. Around the city, with Eco Mode engaged, the RAV4 still provided enough pep while keeping the revs down. Out on the highway on Normal Mode, it was able to reach cruising speeds with ease. It also kicks down early when one needs to overtake other cars on the road. Those that prefer a more engaging drive can activate Sport Mode which makes the engine respond better, especially when using the manumatic 6-speed gearbox.
As much as the engine was fun to play with, it is not the most fuel efficient motor. On Eco Mode, it only averaged at 7.0 to 7.5 km/l on normal city traffic. In heavy traffic, that figure will drop down to 5.5 to 6.0 km/l. Out on the highway, it reached 13.0 km/l. During Normal Mode however, a cruise around the city averaged 6.3 km/l while a heavier traffic scenario meant it could only return 5.0 km/l of fuel. Strangely though, it did better on the highway with an average fuel intake of 13.7 km/l. The Eco Mode could have played a factor as the aforementioned mode does limit the car’s maximum potential, which could make for a heavier right foot. The 60-liter tank and permanent AWD system does not help its fuel consumption either.
Ride quality is a bit on the stiff side, with the shock absorbers providing little rebound after going over bumps or other road imperfections. It does however, make for a more planted drive when tackling winding roads, an enduring feature of the RAV4. Handling was also a breeze thanks to its light steering and Macpherson / double wishbone suspension setup.
Safety features like the previously mentioned front and rear parking sensors, five airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) come standard on the RAV4. The first two however are only available on the 4x4, as well as the 4x2 Premium model. Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Downhill Assist Control (DAC) and Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and differential lock also come as standard on the 4x4 model.
But even with its array of driver aids and other safety kit, it still lacks certain features that are now standard on most top-spec crossovers. For starters, it does not have a reverse camera which could be really helpful when backing up on tight spaces. A power tailgate with remote function is also not present in the RAV4, which makes storing cargo a handful. It does have a cargo net and cover as standard in the back however.
With an already flooded crossover market, the RAV4 is facing some stiff competition from the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan X-Trail and Subaru Forester that offer the same, if not, better levels of performance and equipment.
At PhP 2,066,000, the AWD RAV4 is priced way above the competition, with most of the other brands pricing their top-of-the-line 4x4 crossovers at around the PhP 1.5 – 1.8 million mark. At that price, Toyota appeared to have priced the crossover for AWD enthusiasts or longtime fans of the RAV4. There are however 4x2 models of the RAV4 that are priced more reasonably though has less equipment.
It has great on-road performance and a comfortable cabin but is let down by its steep price, lack of certain cabin features and confusing instrument layout.