Rav4's a trusty, reliable family SUV

By Denis Droppa Time of article published Jan 30, 2015

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Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D VX AWD

Johannesburg - An extended road test almost always exposes some quirks we might not otherwise notice in a regular one-week test of a vehicle.

The Toyota Rav4 that’s been with us for the last couple of months has proven to be a trusty family SUV with lots of space and an economical diesel engine, and on the whole we’re very happy with it, but it’s not without its idiosyncracies.

One niggle is that the automatic climate-control’s air-recirculate function usually switches on by default when you start the car. This helps to cool down the cabin more quickly by preventing hot outside air from coming in, but once the cabin’s cool this recirculate function doesn’t switch off like it’s supposed to, leaving you to eventually get drowsy from breathing in your own carbon dioxide exhalations. Tapping the recirculate button to switch it off has become the first thing I habitually do whenever I get into the car these days.

Another niggle is that the fuel warning light only comes on when there’s 50km left in the tank, which is a bit short and can potentially leave you stranded if you’re not paying attention to the fuel gauge when driving in more remote areas. It nearly caught me out en route to a recent fishing trip, and the Rav4 was running on fumes by the time I got to the nearest fuel station which was 40km away.

These aren’t deal-breakers, just two minor irritations that Toyota could consider fixing when the Rav4 comes up for its mid-life upgrade.


For the most part this Toyota keeps everything going right, most notably with a roomy cabin that comfortably swallows four or five passengers. At 4 570mm long, this fourth-generation Rav4 is a far more grown-up vehicle than the original legroom-challenged Rav4 launched in the 1990s, which was a full 41cm shorter.

The large 547-litre boot also takes a lot of cargo including all the luggage, camping chairs and other paraphernalia we took on the abovementioned four-person fishing trip. It’s an impressively large boot considering there’s a full-sized spare wheel in the floor, not one of those dreaded marie biscuit space-savers. Access to the luggage hold is made easy in this range-topping Rav4 VX through an electric tailgate that conveniently opens and closes at the press of a button.

Also standard in the flagship Rav4 2.2 D-4D VX, which sells for R469 000, are high-end features like heated front seats, an electrically-adjustable driver’s seat, headlamp cleaners, rain-sensing wipers, electric sunroof, cruise control, and reverse camera. Leather on the seats and doors, compared to fabric on the cheaper GX spec, also gives the cabin a more upmarket feel.

Also unique to the VX is a smart-entry feature which allows you to leave the key in your pocket, and simply touch the doorhandles to lock and unlock the car. Starting’s done by pressing a button on the dash.

All Rav4s come with a touchscreen audio system with CD, USB ports and Bluetooth.

A full suite of airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag), along with stability control and ABS brakes supply the peace of mind in the Rav4, which has a five-star EuroNCAP crash rating.


The gutsy 2.2 turbodiesel engine is a solid performer both in commuting and adventuring. With outputs of 110kW and 340Nm it pulls heartily once it’s ditched the initial bout of lag that afflicts most turbodiesels at high altitudes. The six-speed auto whisks efficiently through the gears and ensures a relatively economical fuel consumption average of 8.1 litres per 100km (6.5 is claimed by Toyota), while there’s a sport mode to liven up the gearchanges if you don’t mind burning through a little more diesel.

Our fishing excursion included some dirt driving that didn’t make any extreme demands on the Rav4’s offroading ability.

A semi-decent 187mm ground clearance and permanent variable all wheel drive allows some dirt-duelling, and there’s a button to lock the drive in a 50-50 front-rear split to maximise traction.

A downhill assist control (unique to the VX model) allows the vehicle to make steep descents safely. The lack of a rear-diff-lock limits the Rav4’s capabilities on really rough trails that have axle twisters however, and means you’ll need momentum to get up some steep and bumpy hills rather than relying on slow-and-steady traction. Seekers of more serious offroad capability in the Toyota family will need to look upwards to a Prado or Land Cruiser.

All-wheel drive it may have, but the Rav4 doesn’t have great traction on tar. In the dry the front Michelin Latitude Tour HP 235/55 18” tyres squeal noticeably when you take a corner at anything more than medium pace, and the car also understeers prematurely on wet tar. Admittedly we don’t expect sportscar handling from an SUV but the tyres behaved as if they were underinflated (we checked and they weren’t). Perhaps a switch to grippier tyres might be another consideration when the Rav4’s mid-life upgrade comes around.

With 12 000km on the odo the Rav4’s getting close to its 15 000km service, which will be covered by the five-year/90 000km service plan.


Toyota RAV4 2.2 D-4D VX AWD

Engine: 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: Six-speed automatic

Power: 110kW @ 3600rpm

Torque: 340Nm @ 2000 - 2800rpm

Top speed (claimed): 185km/h

Consumption (claimed): 6.5 litres per 100km

Price: R469 000

Warranty: Three-year/100 000km

Service plan: Five-year/90 000km


Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCI Titanium (132kW/400Nm) - R454 900

Hyundai ix35 2.0 CRDi 4WD Elite (130kW/392Nm) - R484 900

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD AT (130kW/392Nm) - R439 995

Mazda CX5 2.2 DE AWD Akera (129kW/420Nm) - R456 100

VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI 4Motion Sport (103kW/320Nm) - R447 500

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