Fleet News

Toyota RAV4

Toyota

Review

TOYOTA has killed off the three-door RAV4. That’s the big news around the launch of the new, third generation RAV4 range.

The rest is, given that this is Toyota we are talking about here, totally predictable. The RAV4 is bigger, quicker, more refined, more economical and easier on the wallet.

It’s not easier on the eye, though. Much of the visual athleticism of the outgoing range has gone – the RAV4 has traded in its Nike trainers for a nice pair of comfy Clark’s loafers. And given the new Toyota’s rather lardy proportions – it’s longer and wider than before – best make those wide-fitting loafers.

So what’s the reason for dropping the three-door? Despite its initial popularity, sales of the smaller RAV4 soon dropped to around 20% and this decline, coupled with Toyota’s desire to push the RAV4 further up the social ladder, resulted in the three-door’s death. Pity.

Toyota will stick to its familiar, but still slightly confusing, XT badging system with the RAV4 line-up: XT3, XT4, XT5, but with a flagship T180 when it goes on sale next month, with prices ranging from £18,995 to £26,995. There will be three engines to choose from – a petrol and two turbodiesels.

The 2.0-litre 150bhp VVT-i petrol will be familiar to Avensis drivers, and it comes with either a five-speed manual or four-cog automatic transmission. The two 2.2-litre all-aluminium turbodiesel powerplants are new. They are rather confusingly named – the D-4D 140 actually produces 134bhp, while the flagship D-4D 180 develops 175bhp. Both are hooked up to six-speed manual transmissions.

There will there be no automatic available with either diesel powerplant – Toyota’s marketeers reckon the tiny auto-diesel market doesn’t make it financially viable.

A shame – a slick automatic coupled to the easy-going diesel isn’t without appeal.

Standard specification is generous – nine airbags, air-conditioning, anti-lock brakes with EBD electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, 17-inch alloy wheels, electric mirrors and windows, a six-speaker CD/radio stereo and the improved Active Torque Control come as standard but, unusually, traction and stability controls do not.

One of the Toyota’s key innovations is its Integrated Active Drive System that provides a holistic safety and dynamic package by linking the electrical power steering, the Active Torque Control and the Vehicle Stability Control Plus.

A raft of sensors monitors pretty much every dynamic variable and if all is not well, it wades in to help.

Paul Philpott, Toyota’s commercial director, reckons the two diesels will dominate sales, taking around 53% of sales. Similarly, the entry level XT3 will account for 5% of sales, with the XT4 and XT5 taking the bulk of registrations with 40% and 35% respectively. The flagship T180 turbodiesel will soak up the remaining 20% of sales.

Toyota also promises the RAV4 will be quicker to service than any of its rivals, therefore saving labour costs and will boost its residuals over the outgoing model by around 7% to 45%. Insurance groups also remain unchanged.

There’s no denying the popularity of the RAV4 – Toyota has sold 113,000 since it created its own market niche in 1994, and has sold around 14,000 a year since 2001.

The RAV4 is exactly what you’d expect from Toyota – it’s competent in almost every area, but utterly bereft of any surprise and delight features. It inspires respect but rarely anything that comes close to enthusiasm.

Behind the wheel

CLIMB aboard the RAV4 and there’s plenty of room front and rear and while the cabin design is unlikely to win any awards for flair and innovation, it’s neat, well screwed together and intelligently configured.

The boot is significantly larger than the previous model and the rear seats fold forward with the simple flip of a lever. So far, so good.

Toyota has stuck with its right-sided, hinged rear door rather than opting for the more conventional roof-hinged hatchback. It’s not ideal because the big door isn’t exactly easy to open in tight car parks, and it doesn’t swing out to a full 90 degrees – if it did it would obscure the rear lights on the right-hand side.

The RAV4’s all-wheel drive system has been revised. Now called Active Torque Control, the system uses electronic sensors and an electro-magnetic coupling, rather than a conventional central differential, to constantly apportion torque to the wheels with the most grip, in a front:rear ratio of up to 55:45.

And if you feel like really getting muddy, there’s a dash control to lock the torque ratio to 55 front, 45 rear.

It works – venture off road and the RAV4 acquits itself just as effectively. It’s all-wheel grip means muddy and rutted tracks are easily dealt with, assisted by Hill Ascent Control and Hill Descent Control, but only in the petrol automatic. Surrey’s gravel driveways will stand no chance.

We focused on the two diesels. Why anyone would go for the lethargic and thrashy petrol is beyond me. As you’d expect, the T180 pulls hard, delivers hot-hatch like acceleration in the mid-range and is pretty refined to boot.

The mid-range D-4D 140 diesel engine is a shade louder and more intrusive.

It’s far from uncouth and, despite its power deficit, still delivers enough go to effortlessly haul along a family and luggage.

The rest of the driving experience is painless – the compliant ride is absorbent, well damped, the steering is light and direct, the brakes bite early and keenly and the gearbox has a rather long but clean throw. Complete user-friendliness – nothing we wouldn’t expect from Toyota.

Driving verdict

IN its move upmarket, the RAV4 seems to have lost the intangible cheekiness that made its predecessors such engaging proposals. For a tall soft-roader, the Toyota is agile, grippy and alert, but it lacks the character, style and verve that made the outgoing car – and the three-door model in particular – such a hit.

Model: 2.0 VVT-i man 2.0 VVT-i auto T180 2.2 D-4D 2.2 D-4D 140
Engine (cc): 1,998 1,998 2,231 2,231
Max power (bhp/rpm): 150/6,000 150/6,000 175/3,600 134/3600
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 194/4,000 194/4,000 229/2,000 295/2000
Max speed (mph): 115 109 112 124
0-62mph (secs): 10.6 12.0 10.5 9.3
Fuel consumption (mpg): 32.8 31.4 42.8 40.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 202 212 173 185
Fuel tanks capacity (l/gal): 60/13.2 60/13.2 60/13.2 60/13.2
Price (OTR): £18,995 £19,995 £20,295 £26,995
Servicing intervals: 10,000 minor /20,000 major
On sale: February 2006

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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