ROAD TEST: Toyota Rav4 2.2 D-4D AWD GX
Toyota’s Rav4 is the car that basically invented the compact SUV segment in 1994.
Back then it was a three-door Noddy car measuring just 3.7 metres in length, but fast forward two decades and the new fourth-generation Rav4 has emerged from its cocoon altogether more grown up. It’s now stretched to a family-sized 4.6 metres which makes it more difficult to park but offers oodles of leg room for four or five passengers, along with a cavernous 547 litre boot (with a full-sized spare wheel).
Wrapping that roomy cabin is a handsome new bodyshell that’s lost the “cuteness” of the original Rav4 but thankfully hasn’t grown bloated and slab-sided.
Toyota’s designers have sculpted that larger body into an aerodynamic, almost coupé-like shape with an air of sporty sophistication.
The side-hung tailgate has been replaced by a top-hinged version, and 17” mags and daytime running lights come standard.
The interior’s raised its game with an improved touch-and-see experience, with classy-looking surfaces and some sporty flair in the form of faux carbonfibre panels. Only the range-topping Rav4 VX model has leather seats, but the fabric versions in the car we tested looked classy enough.
The rear seats have adjustable backrests for passenger comfort, and the legroom and headroom are superb. The storage space is great too, and along with the ability to fold down the rear seats there’s a raft of nooks and crannies to stash your clutter.
In addition to 2.0- and 2.5-litre petrol engines and two-wheel drive guises, the Rav4’s available with a 2.2-litre turbodiesel in all-wheel drive and that’s the model on test here. Badged the Rav4 2.2 D-4D AWD GX (quite a mouthful), it sells for R359 900 and comes with a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive. So too a three-year/100 000km warranty and five-year/ 90 000 km service plan.
With outputs of 110kW and 340Nm it’s in the middle of its class against rivals like the Nissan X-Trail, Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35, Honda CR-V and Ford Kuga to mention a few (it’s a very competitive segment).
The Rav4’s engine has some low-rev lag, but it’s easy enough to overcome with the manual gearbox. This is the same 2.2-litre D-4D turbodiesel engine found in the Fortuner and it’s an honest worker. Once the revs are up it pulls with reasonable gusto and adequate smoothness, although a slightly agricultural drone can be heard. The six-speed gearshifter is quite notchy, and doesn’t like being hurried through its gate.
Fuel consumption worked out to a fairly respectable 8.1 litres per 100km although nowhere near Toyota’s 5.6 litre claim.
Toys in this GX-specced Rav4 are relatively plentiful, including a large infotainment touchscreen which controls the onboard computer and sound system. There’s a usb port for piping in music from cellphones. Other standard fare comprises power windows, remote central locking, manual climate control, and rear Park Distance Control.
With its seven airbags and maximum five-star EuroNcap rating the Rav4 has excellent crash safety, and helping prevent such eventualities are ABS brakes and stability control.
The Rav4’s not pitched as a real offroader but the D-4D’s all-wheel drive traction and raised 160mm ground clearance allow it to tackle dirt roads with confidence. It has a cushiony ride on rough surfaces, helped in no small part by those high-profile 65 tyres. The all-wheel drive system’s an “active” one which usually powers only the front wheels in the interests of saving fuel, but feeds the rear axle when slippery conditions are detected.
For offroad driving, pressing an AWD Lock button locks power distribution in a fixed 50:50 ratio at speeds up to 40km/h. If you buy the flagship VX you also get Down-Hill Assist and Hill Start Assist Control, but these aren’t available in this D-4D model.
For tar there’s a Sport button on the dash which sharpens the response of the throttle and electric power steering, and adopts a more rear-biased all-wheel drive setting which lessens understeer.
On asphalt the Rav4’s handling is adequately sprightly for an SUV. It has the requisite body roll but it’s not too bad, and doesn’t feel like it will topple over at any moment. The Michelin tyres tend to squeal prematurely, however.
Toyota’s Rav4 has grown up both in terms of size and sophistication, making for a roomy and practical family conveyance with occasional off-tar ability.
It’s a very likeable softroader, and the best part is that at R359 900 the 2.2 D-4D is very competitively priced in a market where many of its rivals sell for over 400 grand. -Star Motoring
Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi AWD Trend (120kW/340Nm) - R384 900
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 4WD (130kW/382Nm) - R371 995
Nissan Qashqai 2.0 dCi 4x4 Acenta (110kW/320Nm) - R380 900