I’ve had the keys to the hunky, redesigned-for-2013 RAV4 this week and I have to say that despite not being a fan of crossovers, this one is really rather good.
First up, it looks better than the Ford Escape or Hyundai Sante Fe — or indeed many others in this crowded segment — and features the familiar Toyota family front end, 17in alloys and adopts a far more contoured body than the previous model. Now more sculpted and aggressive, its dimensions however have not changed meaning it’s still as compact as ever.
That said, you’d think you were sitting in a Land Cruiser; the cabin isn’t just comfortable and attractive (it seems to be sharing much of its design with the Camry and Avalon, but keep a bucket of ice ready before you rap the leather-covered dash with your knuckles; it’s hiding some very hard plastics), it’s positively cavernous too.
There’s so much headroom that you too will be raising the padded leather driver’s seat to the max to give you a glorious view of the blacktop below yet still have room to spare. Leg- and shoulder-room are equally in abundance and in all, five adults can be happily accommodated.
On to the whizbangery, and the RAV4 packs a 7.0in touchscreen navigation system with external USB, audio mini-jack compatibility along with Bluetooth connectivity that is very intuitive and user friendly.
The boot, which features a fancy tonneau cover and pip net, measures an impressive 2,067 litres with the second row folded, meaning plenty of room for groceries.
But it’s far more spirited than needed for weekly treks to the supermarket or mall and that’s thanks to the lively 2AR-FE 2.5-litre four-cylinder motor that has been mated to a six-speed automatic, which sends the grunt to all four corners. There’s 176bhp at 6,000rpm available here and 233Nm of torque from 4,100rpm but in truth, it feels quicker than the numbers suggest and certainly feels faster from 0-100kph than a reported nine seconds.
But with all four wheels supposedly providing extra traction and grip, it doesn’t take much for the rubbers to start to scream. Head into a corner at anything over 60kph and they’ll screech pretty hard. Take things a little easier and the ride and handling are comfortable and composed. With anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and airbags in almost every nook and cranny, it’s fair to say that the RAV4 has made a pretty decent impression thus far.