By Khulekani Dumisa
SUVs are big business in Mzansi and the new Toyota RAV4 has been launched to carry on the good fight for Toyota in the tightly contested SUV space. The RAV4 is now in its 5th generation, having sold well both locally and globally. The local performance of the outgoing model was actually still decent, notwithstanding that the car had been around for quite a while. Now with a new look, Toyota is hoping to gain more ground in the hotly contested compact crossover SUV segment.
The new RAV4 is slightly shorter than its predecessor but has extended its wheelbase and width. This means that the RAV4 has improved in manoeuvrability, whilst increasing interior space. The new design of the RAV4 is assertive and has angular features with a bold bumper, grille, LED headlights and tail lights creating a broad, athletic build that tapers towards the back to provide an all-round muscular appearance.
The cabin looks much improved with quality materials all round. Soft-touch surfaces are the order of the day, including the dashboard and door panels. The layout of the interior is pleasant and feels good to touch with the soft-touch knurling on the audio and air conditioning controls. Brushed-aluminium trim adds a premium feel and highlights the interior’s stylish design.
The load space behind the rear seats has been made larger and more user-friendly, notably thanks to a fully flat floor and a length extended by 60mm to secure best-in-class capacity of 580 litres (79 litres more than in the current RAV4). Flexibility is integrated so that the space can easily be adapted to gain more cargo room when required: with the rear seats folded down, the new RAV4 can accommodate a 29-inch mountain bike without any wheels having to be removed.
The RAV4 line-up comprises three-grades – GX, GX-R and VX. The GX model offers 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, LED headlights, push-button start, a seven-inch display audio and multi-information display (MID), Cruise Control, Reverse Camera and rear Park Distance Control (PDC).
The new GX-R grade is aimed at customers looking for a more rugged exterior appearance and increased off-road usage. The GX-R receives an enlarged upper front grille with broad horizontal slats, a larger more prominent skidplate and chunky black over-fenders. This will also appeal to more youthful buyers who may otherwise have thought of the RAV4 as a rather “serious” buy.
In terms of specification, the GX-R adds power-adjustable leather seats with lumbar support, leather steering wheel and trim, smart entry, auto-dimming interior mirror, rain-sensing wipers, wireless charging and climate control. The exterior inherits 18-inch alloy wheels to match the visual differentiation. Seat heating and ventilation are provided for front passengers.
The range-topping VX gains 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, to the specification of the GX-R.
Engines, transmission and drive
The new RAV4 is offered with a choice of two petrol engines, a 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre four-cylinder unit. The 2.0-litre engine delivers a maximum power output of 127 kW and 203 Nm of torque, while also offering a fuel consumption of between 6.5 – 6.8 l/100km. The flagship 2.5-litre engine produces 152 kW of power and 243 Nm of torque.
The 2.0-litre engine is paired with either 6-speed Intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT) or Shiftmatic CVT option and offered in 2WD or AWD guise (dependent on grade selected). The Shiftmatic CVT features Toyota’s New Generation improvements including an increase to 10 pre-programmed steps (up from 7). The 2.5-litre is exclusively combined with an 8-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission while offering fuel consumption of 7.3 l/100km.
At launch we drove both the range topping RAV4 2.5 VX 8AT AWD and 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD. First up was the 2.5 VX 8AT AWD. The engine has a good power delivery and the transmission is smooth. Although the car only had two occupants and fairly light luggage, we felt that the power can cope with much more demand in weight without breaking a sweat. The drive was comfortable on both the good national highway and the 10 km gravel road stretch to our overnight accommodation. Noise levels remained low both on and off-road. On the second day of the launch, we encountered the 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD. The difference in power was noticeable although this car also remained self-assured, managing to overtake without us needing to gear down. The CVT is one of the better ones we have driven recently but a slight drone sound was noticeable when you put foot to metal. We observed that the 2,5 litre had a better combined fuel consumption delivering 8.4 l/100km (against the claimed of 7.3 l/100km) whereas the 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD delivered a rather thirstier 9.3 l/100km (against the claimed 6.5 – 6.8 l/100km) fuel consumption. The latter could simply be attributed to the limited nature of launch conditions and we would be curious to see how this engine does over a long period and other less rushed circumstances. Both vehicles provided a particularly compelling ride quality which will prove rather rewarding to would be owners, especially on long trips.
The pricing of the RAV4 is as follows:
- RAV4 2.0 GX MT 2WD – R 416,400
- RAV4 2.0 GX CVT 2WD – R 427,600
- RAV4 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD – R508,100
- RAV4 2.0 VX CVT 2WD – R505,400
- RAV4 2.5 VX 8AT AWD – R577,900
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 provided.
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