The smooth point
Despite recent tough times and consumers tightening their belts, the car industry has never been as diverse and active as it is now. New models and niche busters lurk around every corner so consumers with a decent motoring budget are properly spoilt for choice these days.
The Toyota RAV4 is not a new invention or game changer; it was a founder member of the small SUV brigade in the nineties and has done extremely well with 4.5 million sales worldwide. This new, fourth version is just over a year old but brings enough novelty to warrant a second glance.
Chief difference is its fresh look, a design which combines strong angles and lines with various plateaus and Toyota’s trademark V nose. It isn’t subtle nor is it boring which is why nobody can accuse Toyota (any more) of building a sleeping pill on wheels. The new RAV4 is a looker.
While stretching and moulding the exterior, Toyota hit another fly by slightly increasing vital measurements of their new baby SUV. Even the seats, steering wheel and A-pillars have been given minute modifications to aid passenger and driver comfort, as well as visibility and cargo capacity.
The boot area is about 1m long and takes a class-leading 547L, something we can certainly vouch for as we used the deep area and wide-opening tailgate a lot. Where previously it had side hinges, this new rear door is mounted at the top and features power operation (with LOUD beeps) in VX models.
There are petrol and diesel, two- and all-wheel-drive, manual or automatic versions available but the one you’re reading about now is the range topping, RAV4 2.2 D-4D Auto VX. That means power comes from a 2,231cc 16-valve inline 4-cylinder turbo-diesel; 110kW and 340Nm to be exact.
Like all other power plants, this engine boasts with increased efficiency and minimum Euro4 emissions – in this case 172g CO2/km. Power is transferred via a six-speed automatic gearbox to an intelligent all-wheel-drive system and claimed average fuel consumption is 6.5L/100km from the 60L tank.
Toyota includes a lot of standard safety and luxury features with this model and it boasts, among others, chrome highlights, cruise control, smart entry & start, dual-zone air-con, sunroof, rain sensor, rear camera, Bluetooth connectivity, combo leather seats and HID lights.
Cabin layout and functionality have also been improved with bold shapes and varying textures lending a unique style to the interior. Comfort levels are also superb with supportive furniture (dual-stage heated at the front), plenty of room and storage facilities for driver and passengers.
RAV4’s road manners and everyday handling are equally good; the suspension’s bias is towards comfort while off-road excursions can call upon 187mm ground clearance, 19° approach and 22° departure angles. Towing weights for this model are 750kg un-braked and 1,800kg braked.
While response from the turbo-diesel motor is brisk, performance is relaxed thanks to an old-school automatic gearbox. You won’t find any dual-clutch haste here and all our testers remarked how refreshing it was to pilot the torque-rich engine through this silky six-speed shifter.
The 2.2 Auto VX RAV4 isn’t a racer but at no point did I find it lacking shove, its strongest point being stress-free and comfortable travel. Thanks to its long sixth gear, cruising at motorway speeds is relatively quiet and fairly economical with decent overtaking ability just a squeeze of your foot away.
So don’t be afraid of the new Toyota RAV4’s bold looks, there is a comfy car with great kit and smooth manners hiding underneath. Included in the N$463,300 price is a 5-year/90,000 ToyotaCare service plan and 3-year/100,000 warranty.