The Toyota RAV4 has certainly gone through a whole lot of changes. I still remember how, when it first came out, it was this small high-off-the-ground three-door vehicle whose looks were quite unique, to say the least. Toyota has caught on with the times and four generations later, there’s barely anything that you could relate between the first and current-generation RAV4.
One thing that we have grown accustomed to with this Toyota crossover is the presence of four-wheel-drive across all generations. Surprise, surprise, it’s no longer offered today. With its growth come a lot of modern upgrades, and immensely different looks, but are they enough to make us not miss 4WD? Is the RAV4 now a less-capable "recreational activity" vehicle? Let’s find out.
Let’s start with the most obvious: its looks. Clearly, this is far off from its predecessors. Angular, clear-cut lines all point to the new generation’s edgier design. The first RAV4 was, let’s admit it, rather odd. In both its 3 and 4-door guise, only a niche audience gravitated towards it. With every successive release, it got bulkier, and also a lot rounder on the corners. Today, Toyota has found a winning formula with this model.
The headlights aren’t those bulky pieces anymore. Instead, they’re longer to the side and higher up to the hood, making the RAV look more streamlined. And how about that grill though? A massive honeycomb piece adorns the front end, and again, via flowing lines, works its way to the fog light housings on either side. Working its way down, the silver garnish on the bottom of the bumper adds that bit of class to its ruggedly handsome looks.
All around you’ll see black trim from the fender arches, the side skirts, all the way to the rear apron. Speaking of which, the back also has a similar silver piece on the bumper, which evens out the whole scheme. On the whole topic of black accents, one I am particularly fond of is the glossy black piece on the RAV4’s D-pillar which gives it the “floating” roof look. Very nice touch, that is.
Looking at it is one thing; sitting inside is another. Let me just say that of the crossovers I’ve personally driven, the RAV4’s is up there in terms of style and comfort. Now before you chase me down with torches and pitchforks, hear me out. From a design point of view, the lines and angles and the “edge” all carry over to the interior. Contrary to what one might expect (which is a bland and drab interior) from the interiors of other vehicles in the Toyota lineup, a lot of thought went into the RAV’s cabin.
From an ergonomics standpoint, everything was well within reach. The shifter, toggle switches, climate controls, infotainment system, they all felt positioned in the right place, and everything was where you’d more or less expect and need them to be. A nice chunky steering wheel, well-bolstered seats add the needed sporty feel to the RAV4.
Aesthetically, the welcome touch of elegance is covered by brushed metal pieces lining the dash, center console, and door cards. As for convenience and creature comforts, you get a wireless charging pad up front, the head unit has USB ports, and telephone and Bluetooth connectivity, plus it sounds pretty good, too. Cubbyholes, bottle holders, deep door pockets, a massive center armrest console, the RAV4 has it. If I were to nitpick, I wish Toyota put in better buttons for the climate control. They didn't seem to fit in with the overall theme, but hey, it's not horrible, either. In my opinion, this still is one of the way-up-there looking interiors.
The rear passengers aren’t left wanting either. Rear A/C vents are found behind the armrest console. They’re also treated to the same, comfortable leather seats as with the front. For convenience, there’s also an armrest with 2 cup holders that folds down from the rear backrest. One thing that did look like an after thought, though, was the lighter socket below the armrest vents. Toyota would have done better to include USB ports, but for those who still rely on socket device chargers, then you’ll be pleased to know that you have one at the ready.
But let’s get to it and talk about passenger comfort. As mentioned, the seats are soft enough and provide good support. The good news is unlike the RAV4s of old, this one is really spacious; much more spacious. Legroom is very good for its class, as is headroom. Shoulder room, not so, since you’re in a crossover anyway, but really, how often will we stuff 3 (hefty) people in the back row, right? 2 regular-sized adults, plus a small child will fit quite comfortably, for sure.
As for luggage space, the RAV4 continues to impress. Save for the wheel arches that bulge into the trunk space, everything else is flat. It does have a bit of an incline, but flat. That translates to a lot of versatility whether it’s horizontal of vertical space that you need. Speaking of the former, the backrest of the second row folds down as well, giving you more space for longer luggage. Whether it is people or cargo, the RAV4 is a far cry from its cramped predecessors.
The fifth generation RAV4 sits on a new platform called TNGA-K. As we did mention in our review of the LE variant, that means that the RAV4 has significant improvements in rigidity by way of new, high-strength steel. Basically, that quickly translated into the ride’s overall feel. And let me tell you, it was comfortable, and it still leaves room for the RAV4 to be capable. Add the new platform to bigger and better vehicle dimensions and what you have is a crossover that can take corners and shoot forward on straights with ease, without bouncing or bobbing every which way. It feels stable, it feels taut, and it really does give a good measure of confidence should you feel the need to drive a bit more spiritedly.
The RAV4 also has a pretty good engine. It has 203 HP and 243 Nm of torque on tap, and that’s all driven to the front-wheels via a new 8-speed transmission. In the city’s horrid traffic, average fuel economy went up to 9.4 km/L. From a 2.5-liter mill, and considering its relative heft, that’s a pretty reasonable number. Consider the fact that the older models struggled to sip rather than chug, this is welcome news for the fuel-conscious. Plus the transmission felt smooth, no jitters or shudders. With how well it does in the city, our Editor-in-chief’s 15.5 km/L is very much attainable for the average driver with not much hyper-miling effort required.
On looks, performance, and packaging, we like it. We also like the safety features. Toyota wants to lead the way for vehicle safety features with the RAV4, so they gave all variants seven airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes. The LTD gets more with front and rear sonar and even a rear camera.
We do miss the 4x4 system, but honestly, we don’t think the RAV4 needs it. This Toyota crossover is really more of a lifestyle vehicle intended to give a comfortable ride and a confident drive. Sure, it’s name implies it being a "recreational activity" vehicle, but really, the Toyota lineup has other vehicles for serious 4WD or 4x4 fun.
Now we come to the sticking point: cost. With its PhP 2,203,000 price tag, the RAV4 is expensive. There are a lot of good points with the RAV4 LTD, but the price is going to make this a rare sight on our roads, especially when the Honda CR-V is undercuts it with its price, with a diesel engine, with all-wheel drive, and with an extra row of seats.