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Last updated: 4th November 2014

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Toyota RAV4 SUV (2012 - ) review

Read the Toyota RAV4 (2013 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives

Last updated: 4th November 2014
The Auto Trader expert verdict: 3.6 20 years ago, the original RAV4 was a ground-breaking and revolutionary car, but that’s not true of the 2013 version. It’s one of the most spacious and practical SUVs, but in many other ways, its rivals have caught up with it – and in some cases, overtaken it

Pros

  • Large, practical cabin
  • Flexible performance from diesel engines
  • Good refinement at the motorway limit

Cons

  • Disappointing quality in the cabin
  • Some rivals have better economy and lower emissions
  • Diesel engines noisy when revved hard

Interested in buying Toyota RAV4?

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Equipment Our rating 4/5

There are three trim levels available, but the most basic – Active – comes only with front-wheel drive. Even so, it still has a good level of kit, with alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and a USB socket. Step up to Icon (our preferred trim) and you get larger alloy wheels, as well as upgrading to dual-zone climate control and adding cruise control, sports front seats, automatic lights and wipers, and a touch-screen system. At the top of the range, Invincible is the ultimate in luxury, with leather upholstery, keyless entry, rear parking sensors and roof rails.

Exterior Our rating 3/5

Over the course of time, successive versions of the RAV4 have grown – and grown up. This is the largest RAV4 yet and the front end adopts the Toyota family face – with twin grilles and narrow headlights – that first appeared on the Auris hatchback. This new model may not stand out like the original RAV4, but it is at least smart and inoffensive, with top-spec models looking that little bit smarter, thanks to their extra chrome trim on the bumpers and front grille.

Interior Our rating 2/5

Like the exterior, the interior is also all-new, but here Toyota has been rather less successful, particularly with the choice of materials. There’s too much cheap-looking, hard-feeling plastic on view and some very disappointing details: the digital clock on top of the dash and the fuel-filler release, for example, are not worthy of a car that costs well over £20,000.

Performance Our rating 4/5

There are three engines to choose from, but we’re yet to drive the 2.0-litre petrol unit. Mind you, we don’t expect many buyers will drive it, either, preferring one of the two diesel units and deciding between two- and four-wheel drive. Both engines give good, flexible performance, with the 2.0-litre unit in 2WD models particularly strong below 2000rpm. That’s good news, because the engines’ low-rev strength means you rarely need to work them hard, something which only serves to show how noisy both engines (and the 4WD’s 2.2 in particular) can be. Otherwise, refinement is good, and there’s only a little wind noise from around the door mirrors at the legal limit on the motorway.

Practicality Our rating 5/5

There’s no complaint about the amount of room inside: in the front, there’s more than enough space for a six-foot driver, with a wide range of adjustment on the driver’s seat; and, in the back, the RAV4 is one of the biggest in its class. No matter what the size of the front-seat passengers, a couple of six-footers will fit in the back in complete comfort, which makes the Toyota more than a match for the likes of the Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan. The boot, too, is excellent, and with a 547-litre capacity, bigger than the Mazda CX-5’s. Fold down the 60/40 split rear seats – easily done thanks to the one-touch folding mechanism – and you get up to 1746 litres (more than in a Honda CR-V) and an almost flat boot floor. Best of all, unlike previous RAV4s, the tailgate is now top- (rather than side-) hinged, which makes it much easier to load and unload the car.

Reliability Our rating 4/5

Both Toyota in general and previous versions of the RAV4 in particular have proved very reliable over the years, and we see no reason why this latest version should prove any different. Two of the three engines are tried and tested, and throughout the car, the build quality is excellent.

Ride and handling Our rating 3/5

Around town, the RAV4’s light steering makes it easy to manoeuvre. The raised driving position gives a good view out to the front and rear, and your vision is only limited to the rear three-quarters, where the thick rear pillars and small windows conspire to block your view. On the open road, the RAV4’s handling is grippy and secure, but there’s plenty of body roll in corners, which can be unsettling and uncomfortable. The ride isn’t ideal, either, because it feels jittery around town and clunky over potholes.

Running costs Our rating 3/5

The lowest running costs come with the two-wheel drive models, with average economy of 57.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 127g/km, but the 4WD models aren’t far behind, with figures of 49.6 and 149g/km. They look pretty good, but they’re not as impressive as the Mazda CX-5’s. Likewise, with insurance groups running from 26 to 29, the RAV4 will cost a little more to insure than the Mazda.

Safety Our rating 4/5

The RAV4 earned a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, although the car was penalised because the driver’s airbag did not inflate sufficiently during the frontal impact and allowed the driver’s head to contact the steering wheel. Every model comes with seven airbags, including one for the driver’s knees, as well as ABS, Vehicle Stability Control and traction control. AWD models also have VSC+, which integrates the VSC with the power steering system, so that it can feed corrective steering to the front wheels when it detects a skid. However, the RAV4 has no equivalent to the City Safety systems offered by some rivals, and the optional Blind Spot Monitor is available only with the top Invincible trim level.

Why buy? Our rating 4/5

The RAV4 will appeal to families with an active lifestyle and who will appreciate the excellent space, practicality and versatility it provides.

Interested in buying Toyota RAV4?

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Our recommendations

Best on a budget
Toyota RAV4 Active 2WD
Only front-wheel drive, but with all the important kit as standard
Best seller
Toyota RAV4 Icon AWD
Some desirable extra kit over Active trim, plus the attraction of all-wheel drive
Blow the budget
Toyota RAV4 Invincible AWD
The ultimate RAV4, which will get you (almost) anywhere in complete luxury