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It’s been 25 years since Toyota launched the first RAV4. Genius on Toyota’s part – this vehicle essentially created the compact SUV market. Years later, the market is saturated with options; potentially SUVs will grow to be the world’s best-selling category.

So, what is Toyota’s fifth incarnation of the RAV4 like?

It’s built off Toyota’s fabulous new modular platform – the TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture). Other Toyota products that I’ve reviewed, that also share this base, are the CH-R and the new Corolla Hatch. This platform offers a highly refined ride that leaves the driver and passenger feeling like they are travelling in a higher priced mode of transport. It is a quality frame that also features a dynamic edge to the car’s driving experience.

From an aesthetics’ perspective, the new RAV4 looks completely new. I enjoy that about Toyota. They launch a new car and it looks fresh versus something so similar that only a petrolhead would notice. Looks are subjective; some are arguably better looking than others! With that said, I feel the new RAV4 is handsome. It features strong angular lines on a bigger-than-before frame which gives it a stronger road presence than before.  It’s not very photogenic though, so don’t judge it by its picture.

Offered in three looks: GX (plain yet rugged), GX-R (fashionably funky and rugged) and VX (elegant). There are two engines: both four-cylinders - 2.0-liter petrol engine – that offers 127kW and a 152kW 2.5-litre. Note, as per the price list, the 2.5-liter is limited to one flagship model that is mated to an 8-speed automatic. The balance of the 2.0-liter range runs off either a 6-speed manual or a CVT.

With a dozen or more competitors, the RAV4’s strength lies is in its durability, practicality and rugged off-road abilities. The vehicle systems (steering assist, brake and throttle control, shift pattern and drive torque distribution) run according to the drive mode selected. “Mud & Sand” and “Rock & Dirt” are the modes available for reassured off-road adventures.

Perhaps a downfall is a fact that the new model line up is void of a diesel option. Note both petrol motors available are frugal and up for the job of hauling the bigger RAV4, but neither are going to brow your hair back with blistering performance, especially the 2.0 GX CVT model.

Where the RAV4 excels is with its design nuances – the interior is a primary example. Besides being spacious and practical with a massive boot, the styling is both elegant and quirky thanks to the use of material combinations, colours and textures. All the mod-cons are included like (2.5 VX)  19-inch high-gloss alloy wheels, Auto High Beam (AHB), Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, memory seats, power-operated tailgate, Panoramic View Monitor plus front PDC. The instrument cluster gets a TFT multi-information display (MID), providing key driver information, including a large LCD speedometer.

On the road, the RAV4 combines refinement with effortless motoring. Its unique looks and class-leading interior put the RAV4 in the top selection of competition. If dynamic city motoring is your lifestyle choice, the VW and MAZDA are its main competition. If outdoor adventure and versatility are more your thing, the Subaru and Jeep Compass are direct rivals that I believe the RAV4 tops.


Plus +

  • Reassured drive.
  • Versatility.
  • All-round ability.


Minus –

  • Vocal engines.
  • Mild performance.
  • CVT gearbox.


The competition

Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, KIA Sportage, Nissan Qashqai/ X-Trail, Opel GrandlandX, Peugeot 3008, Renault Koleos, Subaru Forester and VW Tiguan.



2.0 GX MT 2WD – R416 400

2.0 GX CVT 2WD – R427 600

2.0 GX-R CVT AWD – R508 100

2.0 VX CVT 2WD – R505 400

2.5 VX 8AT AWD – R577 900


Service and Warranty


All models carry a 6-services/90 000 km service plan with 12-month/15 000 km intervals. A 3-year/100 000 km Warranty is also included.




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