Toyota's RAV4 paved the way for the arrival of numerous ‘soft-roaders' in the local market, and for a time, the RAV4 was the ‘it' SUV--even before the acronym ‘SUV' became fashionable.
Some will definitely recall the three-door version that first arrived here--the one that resembled a rubber shoe. It was so out of the ordinary at the time, and was quite a looker. Since the public responded with enthusiasm, the five-door model made its way into the showrooms shortly after that. Since then, we've seen two other incarnations of the stylish SUV, and what you see on this page is a makeover of the latest one.
Powered by the 2.4-liter, 2AZ-FE VVT-I, four-cylinder, DOHC 16 valve engine that belts out 170 horses and 224Nm of torque under its hood, this ride is no joke. Specs like these are needed, especially since the competition--namely the Honda CR-V, the Mitsubishi Outlander and the Subaru Forester--upped the ante.
So, is the ARV4 as exciting as its image projects? Absolutely. Having been behind the wheel of all the aforementioned SUVs, I can honestly say that the RAV4 has its own qualities that are, of course, uniquely Toyota.
The build quality is superb, just as you would expect from this brand. There is also plenty of room, thanks to a more spacious cabin. The RA owes the extra room inside to a ‘stretched' body, which still takes some getting used to. Which was probably why Toyota gave the vehicle some stylish exterior upgrades. Projector-type headlamps, multi-reflector fog lamps, LED combination taillights, and a sportier honeycomb grille are noteworthy features that now grace the refreshed RAV4.
What is not typical of Toyota is the adventurous route that its designers took when laying out the interior. There is an obvious playfulness in how the plastic was sculpted, and this works to break the monotony that used to plague Toyota cabins of old.
The ride is firm, obviously to enhance the sporty characteristics of the RAV4 when it is driven on paved roads. Combine this with four-wheel-drive and this car sticks to the tarmac, particularly during hard cornering. Let's not forget to mention how quick this car is off the line. The slightest press on the throttle elicits a very enthusiastic response.
If you trust the Toyota brand and are looking for a suitable compact SUV that can brave the worst floods and handle mild off-road use--the RAV4 is a very safe bet. But adrenaline junkies and performance freaks may find its competitors more tempting. Even so, the moderately revised RAV 4 still holds its own.
Source: Top Gear Philippines, March 2009