The RAV4’s surprisingly easy to drive for such a large car but it isn’t quite as relaxing on the motorway as some quieter alternatives
You can get the Toyota RAV4 with a petrol, diesel or hybrid engine and with either a manual or an automatic gearbox.
The 2.0-litre diesel model is the best all-rounder. It’s not only the cheapest to buy, it’s also the most frugal – Toyota claims it’ll return 60.1mpg, although you’ll probably see around 50mpg in normal driving conditions.
Unfortunately, it sounds quite rattly at slow speed and very noisy when you accelerate hard. Once you’re up to motorway speeds things become much quieter but it’s still a far cry from the smooth 2.0-litre diesel you can get in a VW Tiguan.
The standard diesel might not be the fastest RAV4 out there, but it’s perfectly passable and uses less fuel in the real world than the hybrid model
Diesel RAV4s come with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive only. You’ll want to consider the 2.0-litre petrol if you want an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. These versions cost £1,455 more than the diesel but their CVT automatic gearboxes will help give your left leg a rest on long drives and four-wheel drive provides a little extra grip in slippery conditions.
Fuel economy does take a slight hit, however – petrol RAV4s will only return around 30mpg in normal driving conditions – and the CVT gearbox blunts the sense of acceleration and causes the engine to drone loudly when you accelerate hard.
The hybrid model is only really worth a look if you rarely venture out of town. It’s not quite as cheap to run as the diesel (Toyota claims it’ll return 57.6mpg to the diesel’s 60.1mpg) and it costs £3,115 more but it can trundle along at slow speeds in near-silent electric-only mode. Unlike some hybrids, it’s not exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
Around town its large windows, raised ride height and low dashboard mean you get an excellent view out and the slim pillars between the doors and windscreen don’t create any awkward blindspots at junctions.
All models come with a reversing camera which – combined with the Toyota’s flat rear end and large front and rear windscreens – helps make parking as easy as possible. Unfortunately, you can’t get a system that’ll steer for you into parallel and bay spaces automatically like the VW Tiguan.
You’ll notice the bumps around town slightly more in the RAV4 than in either the CR-V or Tiguan but it gets more comfortable when you head out onto a fast country road. It feels stable at speed and doesn’t lean as much in tight corners as the rather roly-poly Honda. It’ll soak up all but the most monstrous pothole without sending an unpleasant jolt through the cabin too.
Unfortunately, you’ll hear quite a bit more wind and tyre noise at motorway speeds in the Toyota than you would in the VW which can make long journeys rather tiring. Thankfully, all models come with cruise control but it’s well worth upgrading to a Business Edition model to get adaptive cruise control as standard. It comes as part of Toyota’s Safety Sense system and matches the car’s speed to other road users before returning to a preset speed when the road’s clear.
Also standard as part of this pack is automatic emergency braking – a feature that’ll brake for you if it senses an obstacle ahead. It helped the RAV4 earn a five-star safety from Euro NCAP back in 2013. The tests have been made much stricter since, however, so newer five-star-rated cars (such as the VW Tiguan) will be a touch safer than the Toyota.