The Toyota RAV4’s a roomy family car with a spacious interior but it’s quite expensive and alternatives come with a better range of engines
If you’re looking for a family SUV, but don’t want to succumb to flashy styling or space-age technology, the Toyota RAV4 is a good recommendation. It’s actually a tad larger than close alternatives such as Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca and Mazda CX-5, but also a tad more expensive.
The alternatives owe a lot to the Toyota RAV4, because it’s arguably the car that started the SUV movement back in 1997 in its first generation. Now in its fourth generation, the current RAV4 is a wholly different car with much more interior space and the latest hybrid technology from Toyota.
The Toyota RAV4 was updated in 2018, but the interior remained pretty much unchanged. What you get is a cabin that is well made and all the buttons are fairly easy to locate, but other SUVs beat it on premium feel and exciting design. Even though some parts of the dash are upholstered in leather, the rest of the plastics look a tad cheap. The overall design also looks a tad out of fashion – compared to the RAV4, a Peugeot 5008 looks like a spaceship inside.
Interior space in a family car is never out of fashion, though, and the Toyota RAV4 has that in spades. Yes, it is slightly larger than most alternatives but you get clear benefits from that inside, especially in the back seats. Even the four-wheel drive RAV4 doesn’t have a hump in the floor so three passengers can happily travel long distance in the back seats.
It’s easy to get a comfortable driving position up front, but it’s worth mentioning that lumbar support is standard only on higher spec RAV4 models. High-spec Design models get black leather and alcantara upholstery, while going for the top-spec Excel trim gets you even softer leather and power adjustable front seats with memory for the driver.
With three passengers in the back, it’s nice to know that the boot of the Toyota RAV4 can swallow a lot of luggage. If you go for a non-hybrid version, you get 547 litres which is about 10% bigger than just about any close alternative. Going for the hybrid Toyota RAV4 means you get less capacity as its batteries take up more room, but even with the hybrid you’ll still have roughly the same space as most alternatives.
The Toyota RAV4 is falling behind alternatives mainly on the way it drives, so don’t disregard it if you just want a fuss-free means of transport
Engine choice is simple in the RAV4 since it’s petrol or petrol-hybrid – the problem is that none of the engine choices are particularly good. The hybrid makes the most sense, especially as a company car thanks to its low CO2 emissions, but it’ll struggle to match its diesel alternatives’ fuel economy on the motorway.
It’s best to avoid the 2.0-litre petrol, though, since it’s not much cheaper than the hybrid to buy and is the thirster option in all situations. Once again, you wouldn’t describe it as fast, either. Or even moderately quick for that matter.
Chances are, though, you won’t be driving the Toyota RAV4 that quick anyway. It’s a car that lends itself to a more relaxed style of driving, and if you go for the hybrid model, driving less aggressively means better fuel economy. All this is to say that the RAV4 is outclassed by a lot of alternatives when it comes to speedy driving – the Toyota simply can’t match the grip, agility and the resulting confidence you get in a Mazda CX-5, for example.
As a family transport, though, the Toyota RAV4 does the job well with a hushed cabin at motorway speeds, an overall ease of use that’s a stress-relief around town, and a suspension that soaks up most potholes. All-round visibility is pretty good too, so it’s not that the RAV4 is particularly bad to drive, it’s just sensible rather than sporty.
Also sensible is the fact that all Toyota RAV4 models come with Toyota’s Safety Sense as standard. This collection of safety assists includes an automatic emergency braking system that can also detect pedestrians – something that’s an optional extra in a fair few alternatives. Alongside Toyota’s Safety Sense you get a lot of equipment as standard on each trim level, but that does make the RAV4 a tad more expensive than an equivalent Nissan Qashqai for example.
However, now could be a good time to pick up a great Toyota RAV4 deal because an all-new version is coming in April 2019. Also don’t forget to check out our interior, practicality, driving and specification sections for more in-depth information about the Toyota RAV4.