I’ve been yearning for a larger Toyota to reach my driveway. I mean, larger than the Aygo. Toyota spared no metal when it came to the construction of the all new Rav4, one of its icons. It has been slightly redefined under its new design language – which I think, was a bold move.
Design-wise, Toyota has given the 2016 RAV4 a more aggressive appearance. Face-on, the lights are more angular and the bumpers fuller; from the rear, it’s sturdier and there’s thankfully less black plastic than the outgoing car. It looks and sounds, frankly, more like a truck, which is apparently just what Toyota was aiming for. The RAV4 2.2D I had for review is all-wheel-drive, though Toyota funnels power to the wheels differently depending on road conditions. The diesel engine drives both the front and rear axel, physically unconnected with what’s going on up-front.
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That allows for more flexibility and thus better economy: most of the time it’s just the front doing all the work. All that extra hardware adds heft, mind, and the 1620kg curb weight is not inconsiderable. The RAV4 doesn’t do much to disguise it, either, and you notice it in the corners. As a result, the SUV feels planted but hardly enthusiastic.
That attitude continues throughout the driving experience. Toyota quotes an 8.1 second 0-100km/h time. Toyota opted for a simple analog gage to show what stage the drivetrain is at, though I missed a more comprehensive insight into what power was flowing where.
Once you get inside, the RAV4 is spacious and comfortable, with plenty of room both upfront and for rear-seat passengers. The ride is quiet and smooth, and there’s pleasingly little cabin noise compared to the old model. You even forget you’re driving around in a diesel. The boot is spacious and lacks an intruding lip that might get in the way of loading, while the rear seats (all fabric, I might disappointingly add) fold down – with a 60/40 split – for even more capacity.
Toyota’s extending cargo cover can be hidden under the floor when not needed, though it’s a fairly fiddly process.
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The dashboard looks the part, for the most part, with its seat-matching pleather stitched panels, but allow your fingers to stray from those padded parts and the remainder feels plasticky to the touch. So does the steering wheel. The bank of buttons and toggle switches for things like EV mode and the heated seats are lower down than I’d prefer – but they were missing from my review model. It’ll take some getting used to before you figure out where to reach the touch display – but its side buttons feel sturdy. Unfortunately, the expanses of molded plastic around the cheap-feeling gear lever don’t feel the part in what’s not an inexpensive car.
The 2016 RAV4 falls heavily in the popular SUV category, especially at the R495 000 price, though while eager drivers won’t find much in the way of entertainment, those in the market for a flexible, capacious, and fairly refined SUV without prodigious thirst will likely find much to satisfy them.