Toyota RAV4 was first introduced in 1994 and was the first in the compact SUV market. It had a car like drive and a "tough street" look, that caught on. Many competitors followed Toyota to get their share of the market. The next generation was launched in 2000 and the latest in 2006. Though RAV4 is a very good car, but still it fades into the background. Perhaps it is its age or may be it doesn't have all of the features to offer like the rivals such as Land Rover Freelander, Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail.
It's weird that the third generation RAV4 lacks the sporty looks of its predecessor. It has an uninspiring design as compared to its direct rivals like Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail. RAV4 still supports the side hinged back door which feels so out dated as compared to top hinged tailgate. Having said that, the RAV4 makes up for what it lacks with its logically laid out interior. The materials and plastics used are of high quality. The driving position is quite high giving a good all round view.
The RAV4 might not be exciting but it sure does deliver. It gives a secure feel on the road,is comfortable to ride and performs well on the bends thanks to its four wheel drive system and high electric traction. The steering is responsive and light making it very easy to park. RAV has a soft suspension returning a smooth drive on bumpy roads. There are two engines to choose from a 2.0 litre petrol and 2.2 D-4D diesel. The petrol engine is much thirstier than the diesel. The 2.2D 4-D returns an economy of 47.1mpg considerable better than the CR-V's 43.5mpg.
The Toyota RAV4 only has a four star Euro NCAP rating. RAV4 is equipped with driver, side and curtain airbags, some models also have a driver knee air bag. Toyota is known for its reliability, and managed to score fifth position in Auto Express Driver Power Survey and RAV4 came 28th in model classifications indicating it is overall a reliable and safe car to own. For the extra peace of mind all models come with a five years standard warranty by Toyota.
The back of the RAV4 is spacious and the seats can be slid back and forth according to the required legroom. The boot has 560 litres of space which is much more than the Honda CR-V. The seats can be folded to increase the boot space. The side hinged rear door proves to be impractical and frustrating in tight spaces. It doesn't even open to full 90 degrees. One doesn't have to spend any extra money for the basic options as most of the models come with a decent amount of kit like parking sensors, Bluetooth and cruise control while MP3 compatible stereo, air conditioner and alloy wheels come with all models, which is not the case with its rivals. Overall RAV4 is good value and a well built car but unfortunately it is ageing now. The rivals have much more to offer than RAV4. It desperately needs a makeover to get its share in the fiercely competitive market.