Toyota adds a Platinum option and marches on with a very solid small crossover offering.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
The RAV4 was one of two trail-blazers in the mini-ute/cute-ute/crossover category along with Honda’s CR-V. Remember when those came out? We didn’t know what to make of these little things, but boy did we ever start buying them. It’s the category to look out for now, and has left cars and big SUVs in the dust. The RAV4 has evolved significantly since then, and as we North Americans demand, has become a bigger vehicle with every generation. Improvements abound, and with this latest iteration, it is the best one yet.
Toyota dropped some refreshed exterior styling for the 2016 model year. It consisted mainly of (slightly) redone front and rear fascias. The RAV4 has a bit of an awkward but robust appearance. It looks substantial without being too big or too small. The front is a pretty busy place – sometimes it’s hard to determine what your eye should be looking at first. Overall, the RAV4 has more sculpted lines and that busy front end does look sharper. The bright LED daytime running lights certainly catch your eye, as do the LED tail lights at night. My Limited trim review vehicle got LED headlights too, which is awesome. The rubber is chunky – nice, fat 235/55s on unique 18-inch rims specific to the Limited (and the SE) trims.
The cabin is mostly unchanged, and that’s not a bad thing as it has worked well. You’ll find mostly hard plastics that seem to attract dust very quickly. There are some soft materials, which you’ll find on the padded lower “chin” of the dash and on the door panels – it has handsome contrasting stitching. The heated “sport” seats are comfortable and surprisingly well-bolstered. They are clad in SoftTex (with contrasting stitching too) and the driver’s side is power-adjustable.
I loved the fat, grippy steering wheel that happens to be heated in this trim. Behind it and between the gauges is a great driver information screen that handles a ton of information and is easily accessed and controlled by steering wheel buttons.
Toyota’s 7-inch touchscreen’s interface is laid out pretty well, responsive and easy to use. It looks after nearly everything, including navigation, phone and audio. The sound is piped into the cabin courtesy of a serious 11-speaker JBL Synthesis system and I found it quite impressive. If I had any ergonomics qualms, it would be that the right side of the screen and the knobs and buttons there felt like quite a reach for me. There was a dual-zone automatic climate control and conveniently located USB, auxiliary and 12V plugs under the “chin”.
The RAV4 Limited fires up with a push-start ignition. Overhead is a standard-sized sunroof and a set of universal garage door openers too.
I mentioned my review vehicle was a Limited trim, but it was actually the Limited with the Platinum option package. Much of this package is aesthetic nonsense – I couldn’t care less about the Platinum-badged floor mats and door scuff plates, as well as the “unique” interior trim and the ambient footwell lighting. But the Platinum package also adds a power lift gate and smart keyless entry at all doors and the tail gate and those things are of great value to some folks.
Driver assistance tech is solid in the upper trim RAV4s. Mine had blind-spot monitoring, 360-degree cameras, front and rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and dynamic radar cruise control.
The RAV4’s spacious back seats have long been one of its trump cards and that continues. I found lots of head room and lots of leg room for my 5’10” frame. Our kids fit very well three across and were comfortable back there – the floor is almost flat and that makes even the middle position a reasonable place to be. Rear passengers get a 12V charging plug and a centre armrest with two cup holders in middle seat back – that’s it for convenience. The rear seats recline as well, which is a nice touch. Moving little ones? There are two sets of LATCH anchors for their seats.
A great safety feature (that I first saw in the Ford Explorer a few years ago) is the set of three rear seat silhouettes on the dash. Indicator lights will tell you if the seatbelt at each position is not buckled up, which is very helpful when you’re transporting kids.
Toyota does a good job at providing useful places for your stuff. I loved the iPhone 6-sized rubberized dish at the front of the console. There’s also a cupholder in the front and one at the back (of the centre console) and a nice drop-in tray in front of the passenger. Additional space can be found in the dual-level bin under the armrest.
RAV4’s have traditionally had segment-leading space in the trunk and that continues. Pop the power lift gate (which opens and closes too slowly in my humble opinion) and you’ll find a huge cargo area (1090 litres!). A nice tonneau cover can cover the items in your trunk and the rear seats fold flat (and split 60/40) for a massive 2080 litre cargo space. You get a removable tonneau cover, as well as a cargo net to help you secure your stuff.
Under the Hood
The 2.5-litre 4-cylinder and the 6-speed automatic are familiar territory now. Toyota rates the engine at 176 HP at 6000 RPM and 172 lb.ft of torque at 4100 RPM. A few of the trims are available in front-wheel-drive – my Limited was all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is decent – 10.7 L/100 km (22 US mpg) in town and a solid 8.4 L/100 km (28 US mpg) on the highway. We ended up averaging exactly 10 L/100 km (24 US mpg) during our week with the RAV4. That was mostly slow commuting, a few runs down the freeway and a couple of highway sprints – and no effort to drive economically. Not bad at all!
The RAV4 rides really well and was comfortable in absolutely every situation. It also handles well. There’s noticeable body lean (typical for vehicles like this), but it feels very safe and competent when you turn into corners and hit the curves with some speed. Toyota has done impressive work on sound levels – it is quiet, even at highway speeds.
There are three driving modes – Normal, Eco, Sport (which sharpens the throttle and steering response, as well as alters the shift timing). The powertrain offers up good acceleration and power off the line. Once you’re on your way it’s not amazing but certainly has enough power to motivate its not-insubstantial 3630 lb (1635 kg) mass around town – and that’s just fine, since nobody is buying RAV4s for track day.
I found the Sport mode to be quite responsive and it makes a noticeable difference in the driving experience. Toyota’s transmission is smooth, and has its own sport mode as well. Gears can be shifted manually using the gear selector if that’s your thing. The RAV4 has a “Lock Mode” which locks in full-time all-wheel drive under 40 km/h, instead of starting off as a front-wheel drive vehicle. I tested that out as we got some snow during my week in the vehicle. It’s effective, but likely not necessary unless you’re starting off on ice as the normal slip-and-grip all-wheel drive system did a fine job in the snow.
I enjoyed excellent visibility out of the vehicle. If you want to do some towing, you can lug around an extra 680 kg (1500 lb) with your RAV4.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was quite high. She liked how it drove, and that it felt compact on the road and in parking lots, and she absolutely loved how much she got into the trunk after her trip to the mall.
Overall, the RAV4 is kind of an unremarkable vehicle. But not in a bad way. There’s little about it that’s memorable, but in typical Toyota fashion, that’s exactly its mission. It does virtually everything well. It offers relatively spirited yet economical performance, with plenty of space and utility. In this trim level, the RAV4 is loaded right up but also becomes a fairly pricey vehicle. However its resale value will definitely remain high and you can count on an outstanding ownership/reliability experience.
Pricing: 2017 Toyota RAV4
Base price (Limited trim): $38,155
Options: $1,460 Platinum Package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $41,475
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Toyota Canada.
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