Chris Miller road tests and reviews the 2013 Toyota RAV4.
It’s the little SUV the started it all; now, bigger, more powerful and somewhat uglier than the model it replaces, the latest Toyota RAV4 is more accomplished than ever.
You will however need to keep in mind what your Mum would have told you growing up….it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
The latest RAV4 is the first to offer a diesel option, starting at $35,490 before on roads, and after a week living with it, I can confirm it’s a cracker.
In fact it’s been a bit of surprise hit for Toyota, far exceeding sales targets in the first couple of months. At this stage 1 in 3 RAV4’s that leave the dealer forecourt are diesel powered.
The 2.2 litre Turbo diesel, hooked up to a fluid changing six speed manual in the test car, is punchy, smooth and supremely economical.
Producing 110kW and 340Nm, the willing little unit is never left feeling underdone, and dispatches high speed overtakes with the minimum of effort.
Take off’s from the lights are sprightly, and pace does tend to come on at a surprising rate of knots.
With no attempt at an economy run our average consumption figure was a very respectable 7.1 litres per 100km, not too far off Toyota’s claimed 5.6 litres per 100km.
The driving position has you sitting up high in a typical SUV style set up, meaning visibility is excellent.
The steering weight is solid and full of feedback, without being too heavy at slow speeds, while the chassis is nicely balanced and predictable.
The ride at times can be a little twitchy, but mostly soaks up the imperfections in road surfaces without too much cabin interference.
There can be a bit of suspension crash through the interior if you tackle speed humps with too much pace, but overall it’s a well sorted suspension tune leaving the high riding RAV4 feeling planted and solid on the road.
New to the latest RAV4 you’ll find a Dynamic Torque Control AWD system that matches rear-wheel torque with steering angle.
There’s also a distinct feeling of more interior space and increased front field of view.
Aerodynamics are improved for increased stability and fuel efficiency while new front seats offer increased support and are some of the most comfortable in the business.
You can also expect LED daytime running lights, parking sensors, a multi-information display, heated exterior mirrors, high resolution reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers and smart entry and start.
Like the new Corolla, the dash of the RAV4 is reminiscent of the brilliant Toyota 86 sports car.
Whilst good quality materials are employed throughout, first impressions are that it might be a bit cheap, and if you’ve never sat in an 86, the family resemblances would be lost.
It’s a simple design with lots of exposed storage bins, logical positioning of all the switchgear and overall it is very functional.
As mentioned early, space is a real highlight.
Up front there feels like there’s acres of room while in the back, leg room is generous and helped by easily adjustable rear seats.
The cargo area is huge although compromised by the placement of the full size spare wheel (a $300 option), which eats into the overall area with a bulbous hump ruining what could have been an easily accessible flat floor.
From the outside the back end of the Rav 4 is its least flattering angle and resembles some less than attractive designs, like the odd back end of the now defunct Subaru Tribeca.
The front end is a bit challenging on the eye as well, but it’s not bad enough for you to want to throw stones at it.
Stack it up against the Honda CRV, which doesn’t yet offer a diesel power-train, and the RAV4 is easily on par, it just doesn’t look as good.
In comparison to the Volkswagen Tiguan, it’s certainly cheaper and isn’t tainted by unreliability issues Volkswagen is becoming famous for, and it’s easily better than the Hyundai iX35 and Kia Sportage twins.
Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if you consider the substance under the bonnet and in the cabin, you may well be able to look past some of the more ungainly attributes of the RAV4 and get yourself a competent, reliable solid little SUV that will undoubtedly serve you well for years to come.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.2 Litre turbo diesel developing 110kW and 340Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed auto
Safety: Five stars
Price: From $35,690