2013 Toyota RAV4 Review

Compact family SUVs or Crossovers, the original was the Toyota RAV4, but is it the best?

By Shahzad Sheikh

2013 Toyota RAV4 launch in UAE

Make no mistake the hype about the Toyota RAV4’s place in history is well deserved. Before it came along in 1994, we had four-wheel drive estates like Audi Quattros or Subarus, and we had small off-roaders like Suzukis and Wranglers.

Toyota saw and defined a niche before anyone else quite managed to grapple with it – a medium sized car that had the outward appearance of an off-roader with the high ground clearance and riding position, yet was practical and car-like to drive.

It started a trend that, 19 years later, has given birth to the most fiercely fought over and still fastest growing sector in the market. Not that Toyota is smarting over the many multitude of imitation Crossovers – it’s sold 4.5 million RAV4s in over 150 countries over three generations.

The first generation car is an icon, the second generation car smartened up its looks for a then contemporary style. But by the third generation it seemed Toyota had lost interest – and ground to the likes of the Honda CR-V. The last RAV4 was more than a little bland – can you even remember what it looks like?

So in steps the all-new fourth generation car, on the back of a wave of euphoria as Toyota extends its trophy rooms for the windfall of accolades the 86 has been sweeping up with glee. Fun and adventure, then, is the emphasis with the new RAV4, hence our launch event involved fire-eaters, belly dancers, a brief trek through the wadis and barbeques.

2013 Toyota RAV4 launch in UAE

Slicker styling

Seeing it for the first time, it’s clear the designers were given something of a kick up the backside. This new RAV4 wears a sharper, slicker suit than its predecessor. It’s quite aggressive for an SUV, and the rakish profile is so much better resolved than the last car. This culminates in a pretty high-sided rear and a deeply hooded narrow rear window.

Inside is a big improvement too. The double-decked dashboard features a forward-jutting lower lip that alarms slightly when I think of all the people that carry their children around unsecured in the back of the cars here, but it’s beautifully finished with the requisite stitching to give it that luxury feel.

There’s no surprises as far as the controls and instrumentation are concerned, there’s a large screen and generally it’s comfortable, appealing and familiar in here. Room in the back’s not bad (there’s 9mm more knee-room) and boot space is claimed to be class-leading.

2013 Toyota RAV4 launch in UAE

Soft roader credentials

Very much remaining true to its soft-roader roots, Toyota nonetheless demonstrated that it wasn’t an entirely incompetent off-roader, by including a brief wadi trail as part of the test route. But few, if any, owners will ever take it off-road, this is very much an on-road SUV. In fact the original RAV4 stunned testers with how much it felt like road car – some even comparing its then dynamics to that of a hot hatch.

Today the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque are the two compact SUVs that would earn that description. The new RAV4 isn’t quite in that league, but it is indeed on the black stuff that it provides a compelling case.

The ride is decent, visibility is good, it is easy to drive, handles competently (aided by Dynamic Torque Control 4WD) and keeps up with traffic thanks to the 176bhp from its 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine now mated to a six-speed auto. The wind was particularly strong on the day we drove it, so there was noise intrusion and buffeting, but the car remind stable and reassuringly composed at all times.

2013 Toyota RAV4 launch in UAE

Tailored to demands

And reassuring is a word you can strongly associate with this car. The RAV4 Chief Engineer, Makoto Arimoto, explains he had over 700 people collating feedback from owners as part of the development of this RAV4. Unsurprisingly these focussed on ride comfort, ease of driving, manoeuvrability and ‘reassuring capabilities on even the most challenging of road surfaces’ – all areas that the new car dutifully ticks off.

2013 Toyota RAV4 launch in UAE

Prices and spec

It also comes well equipped with airbags, traction control, stability control for the four-wheel drive versions, brake assist, ABS, and downhill assist. There’s also keyless entry, six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth and rear spoiler.

There’s two versions in front-wheel drive: EX for AED89,900 and EXR for AED95,900. In four-wheel drive guise there’s three versions: GX AED109,900, GXR AED114,900 and VXR AED124,900.

The EXR adds alloy wheels, roof rails, front fog lamps and reversing sensors. That spec is carried on to the GX, and the GXR adds climate control, leather upholstery and daytime running lights. The top of the range VXR also gets side and curtain airbags, sat nav, voice control, power seat for the driver, reversing camera, parking sensors and a sunroof.

2013 Toyota RAV4 launch in UAE

Verdict

As mentioned there are a lot of great cars that fit into the Crossover segment. The obvious rival is the Honda CR-V at around the same price, but there are cheaper Koreans that fit the bill, and what about a GMC Terrain or an all-new Ford Escape for the money? See what I mean about competition being tough?

The RAV4 may have started this segment, but it doesn’t own it, in fact it could even be said that it’s been out of the game for some time. The latest version, however, puts it back in the game, though not necessarily ahead of it.

By focussing so hard on what customers want, Toyota has missed out an opportunity for further innovation, which is what created the car in the first place. Nonetheless, it’s a solid offering for the money and well worth a look.

Specs
2013 Toyota RAV4 2.5 4WD
Price: AED109,900-124,900 ($29,950-34,000)
Engine: 2494cc, four-cylinder, 176bhp @ 6000, 172lb ft @ 4100
Performance: 0-100kph 10seconds, 200kph, 10L/100km (all estimated)
Transmission: six-speed auto, All-wheel drive
Weight: 1620kg

 

9 responses to “2013 Toyota RAV4 Review”

  1. Infiniti says:

    is it just me or is this car keeps getting less sporty vibe every generation? Qashqai – Juke are more attractive for younger customers.. i think Toyota strategy is to keep targeting the same people who bought previous generations, they got older now 🙂

  2. Todd says:

    Nice write up – and looks like a nice car from the segment. I agree, though, that it doesn’t seem to clearly be the best choice in the crowd. I guess it will shine, though, because of the Toyota brand/reputation.

    To me the styling, although not bad, doesn’t distinguish itself – the front end reminds me of a Mitsubishi or Honda – Toyota ought to work on defining an identifiable ‘face’ for it’s styling.

    Also, I know your write-up wasn’t meant to be a definitive history of the crossover, but while Toyota might have been the most successful with marketing and expanding the niche, the AMC Eagle lineup from 1981 is often credited as being the first cross-over (car-based, full-time AWD, high ground clearance, etc.) . I guess like you say, though, maybe the Rav was the first to look like an SUV, but be basically based off a conventional car chassis. (the Eagles didn’t have SUV styling, being based on AMC car bodies).

  3. muhammad amir says:

    This is a good moter

  4. i want to buy toyota RAV4 Review how mutch in pakistani rupee tel men please

  5. sach a rav4 is best car i want buy it iam living in pakistan

  6. Danielle Viljoen says:

    I cant choose between the new rav4 and the ford kuga.any suggestions?

  7. john says:

    Wrong first automotive company to start the crossover segment was Honda search it in Google or visit Honda Philippines and click cr-v look at the heritage page of the Honda

  8. SHAFRAAZ says:

    THIS CAR (RAV4 2013 MODEL) HAS A SERIOUS BREAK ISSUE, AGENT NOR TOYOTA JAPAN NEVER ACCEPT THIS.

    IN MY BRAND NEW CAR ( IM THE FIRST BUYER IN UAE) I HAVE CHANGED MY BREAK PADS AFTER JUST 12000 KM, AND IT PRODUCES MORE BLACK BREAK DUST IN FRONT TWO WHEELS, AND WHEN I COMPLAINT TO TOYOTA AGENT IN DUBAI THEY SAY THE WAY OF APPLYING THE BREAK IS WRONG. WHAT STUPIDITY IS THIS?

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