Fleet News

Toyota RAV4

Toyota

Review

IT'S seven years since Toyota gave the world the RAV4 and endowed the off-roader with car-like performance and handling.

Last year the formula was updated to keep the RAV4 fresh against rivals from Land Rover, Honda and others, and from September Toyota's D-4D common rail diesel will also join the range.

This will not be a moment too soon for user-choosers keeping an eye on next year's changes to an emissions-based company car tax system.

The D-4D will give them the option of cutting their tax bills further. Four-wheel drive can carry a high CO2 penalty, but the RAV4 already has an impressive record in its class.

The diesel, producing carbon dioxide at 190g/km, scores well against the Land Rover Freelander at 205g/km. Although the percentage of diesel sales in the compact SUV market is relatively small, Toyota believes it can take advantage of growing diesel sales in Europe.

The manufacturer also expects the diesel RAV4 to be a strong contender with fleet customers. The new car has 20,000-mile service intervals giving the RAV4 a keen edge over its rivals in service, maintenance and repair costs. Toyota also thinks the RAV4 D-4D's high equipment levels and keen pricing will prove popular with gadget and luxury-conscious company car drivers.

Diesel versions will sell for £1,000 more than petrol variants and there will be no entry-level two-wheel drive model.

Toyota says comparing the RAV4 NV at £17,495 with rivals from Land Rover, Suzuki and Vauxhall shows the RAV4 as the only car with air conditioning as standard.

The Freelander Td4 at £18,695 specified to the same level as the RAV4 would cost a further £1,300 to add air conditioning, roof rails and a passenger airbag.

Neither the Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.0 TD at £17,000 or the Vauxhall Frontera 2.2 DTi at £18,500 offer ABS as standard, further increasing the gulf in list price.

Higher up the RAV4 range, a spec-for-spec comparison between the GX model at £18,695 and the Frontera widens to an extra £2,875 to add an electric sunroof, front fog lamps, alloy wheels, air conditioning and ABS to the Vauxhall's trim to match the RAV4.

The most obvious change for the diesel is the adoption of an Impreza-style bonnet scoop to direct air towards the turbo.

It's an addition that works well, giving the Toyota a genuinely aggressive and sporty appearance.

The interior is standard RAV4, which means a bit too grey but functional and neat, and the instruments are clear and pleasant enough to look at.

The five-door car has a longer wheelbase than the three-door, which is a little short of legroom in the rear for full-grown passengers, but adequate for children. But current RAV4 drivers will be fully aware of its ability as a practical family car.

The diesel engine in the RAV4 D-4D is essentially the same unit used in the Toyota Previa, Avensis and Corolla, and will soon be used in the Avensis Verso.

The D-4D has plenty of grunt to make sprightly progress, and although the engine note has a harsh edge when pushed hard, it isn't overly intrusive.

However, compared with the Freelander Td4 it does make a racket — the Land Rover offering far more in the way of sound insulation.

But the RAV4 feels less unwieldy than the Freelander, with an easy gearchange and direct steering.

It feels better than any of its rivals when cornering, with less body roll, while the three-door we tested rode far better than expected.

On a small off-road section with only one major obstacle the RAV4, with permanent four-wheel drive, acquitted itself well, and also proved fun sliding around slower bends on a gravel track.

Driving verdict

The RAV4 D-4D has done for diesel SUVs what the original RAV4 did for the market when it was introduced in 1994. It is more pleasant to drive than its rivals and could offer some serious cost benefits for fleet operators.

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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