By on May 7, 2014

Rav41

Change is inevitable, but it isn’t always predictable. Such was the case with a recent death in the family. Eighty-five-year-olds typically aren’t long for this world, but her stroke and swift passing was still sudden.

After some hurried preparations and two flights, I found myself standing on a rental lot. To distract myself from weightier matters, I sought out something I hadn’t driven before. The Toyota RAV4 was redesigned for model year 2013, but I hadn’t driven one yet. Hoping for a vehicular cocoon, I blew through the paperwork and headed east for New Jersey.

Most of the press coverage about the RAV4’s redesign focused on three obvious changes. TTAC’s own Alex Dykes went further and provided an exhaustive review, but the basic changes are significant – the V6 was dropped, the external spare tire (now a just a compact) migrated under the hatch floor, and the rear hatch itself was redesigned to open on upright struts like the rest of the compact CUV class. Less discussed was the fact that rear visibility was also discontinued.

Rav42

They don’t fix blind spots on the interstate, but at least a rear camera and 6.1 inch LCD screen are now standard on all trims in 2014. Entune, Toyota’s infotainment system, posed no major issues. Maximum brightness and “day mode” were not enough to prevent the LCD screen from washing out in sunlight though. A higher-resolution 6.1 inch LCD, optional on the LE and standard on the upper trims, may perform better but was not installed on my vehicle.

As a man who occasionally wears sandals and socks, I try to avoid making stylistic judgments (to my wife: I’m JUST getting the mail!). However, there are a lot of interior materials and designs competing for attention – faux carbon fiber on the center console, faux stitching along the dash, three types of display screens feeding information to the driver, etc. It’s a busy place, and the ergonomics aren’t flawless. Buttons are hidden behind the steering wheel, and the second 12v receptacle (recessed at the base of the IP) can only be found by touch.

Rav43

My father’s new Escape SE provided a stark contrast. In a decidedly non-scientific poll, everyone who sat in both vehicles preferred the design and perceived richness of the Ford. A RAV4 XLE, as opposed to my entry-level LE, would be a better comparison on paper. In reality though, the toys brought along by the XLE (dual-zone temperature, power moonroof, etc.) do nothing to improve the harmony of the space.

Rav44

Whatever the RAV4 lacks in interior design, it makes up for in space. The Toyota straddles the median of the class in most physical dimensions but offers both more rear legroom and more usable cargo capacity than my father’s Escape and several competitors. The rear bench is flat but sits high off the floor, and all three seats feature LATCH anchors for child seats. The bench’s rake adjustment is also generous.

rav45

Most competitors, especially the CR-V, offer more cubbies and small touches, but RAV4’s overall cargo capacity is excellent. Hauling five passengers and luggage for a weekend is viable, and seven feet of length are available when the 60/40 rear seats are folded. The rear floor is not quite flat (contrary to Toyota’s literature), but the rear hatch can be closed with 2”x4”x8’ boards propped against the front seatbacks.

Fuel economy was also a highlight. Despite just 2,400 miles on the AWD trucklet, my always-light foot averaged 29 MPG in mixed driving around Philadelphia and suburban New Jersey. The ability of the 6-speed automatic’s torque converter to lock at just 12mph also helped me beat EPA estimates for both FWD (24 city, 31 highway, 26 combined) and AWD (22 city, 29 highway, 25 combined).

This isn’t a case of extreme power deprivation. The direct-injected 2.5 liter inline four, the only engine available on all trim levels, features dual variable-valve-timing and what Toyota dubs “intelligence.” (Very HAL9000, Toyota). Class-average output of 176 HP and 172 pound-feet of torque is married to a similarly class-average 3,435 pound curb weight. You won’t win many drag races, but you won’t be desperate for tailwinds.

The Mitsubishi Outlander I recently drove was considerably lighter and noisier. I expect most consumers will prefer Toyota’s tradeoff. Road, wind and engine noise are all subdued around town and at highway speeds. The RAV4 isn’t quite “hushed”, but the N(oise) of NVH is favorable. So what about V(ibration) and H(arshness)?

This is where things start to get a little… rough. Dodge apparently isn’t the only one making “Shaker” hoods these days. A mild vibration could be felt through the steering wheel at idle and, more surprisingly, also seen along the center of the hood. The engine also makes a grating whine on particularly cold starts, but this is true of many competing inline fours.

Because this is the Internet, the Sport button must be discussed. The car’s standard tune is obviously oriented for efficiency – RPMs stay low, and the throttle tuning is best described as relaxed. You’ll overcorrect trying to merge onto the freeway, and ECO mode just furthers these tendencies. Engaging Sport mode doesn’t fire a hidden Windsor 302, but the electric steering tightens, transmission shifts quicken and throttle tip-in noticeably sharpens. If you need to shoot through a gap in traffic, Sport mode is helpful.

There are two major criticisms left to address. First, the RAV4 did poorly in the IIHS’s controversial new small-overlap test. Customers who can look past this may instead be put off by the crossover’s ride. Grandma won’t confuse this for her old Avalon. Even with the standard 65-series tires, impacts are sharp. Does handling at least benefit?

Ehhhh… no. The beloved Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape both do relatively well in transition. Take a turn at moderate speed in the RAV4, and the weight suddenly spills over with more body roll than expected. Understeer builds quickly, and confidence never does. The brakes are scrub speed in a commendably linear manner, but this just isn’t a car you want to hustle. At best, this is a simulation of sportiness.

The RAV4 is still competitive where it counts for most consumers. Despite its status as the base trim, the LE is not missing any amenities. Power windows and locks, remote entry, folding rear seats, Bluetooth, the aforementioned LCD infotainment system and backup camera, and most other expected niceties of 2014 are present and accounted for. Even the steel wheels disguise their true nature well.

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It is possible to spend over $33,000 on a fully-loaded RAV4 Limited, but you get the same engine, transmission and interior design as the proles who spent just $24,410 for an LE. The RAV4 has a lot going for it without checking a single option box, but consumers have no ways to fix issues like ride harshness or the ergonomics of secondary controls.

Change is inevitable, but it isn’t always predictable. In the case of the RAV4, a little more change is needed to become best in class.

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69 Comments on “Rental Review: 2014 Toyota RAV4 LE...”


  • avatar
    EMedPA

    Sorry for the loss of your family member, Daniel.

    I test drove a Rav4 about a year ago and came to similar conclusions. You’re more polite than I am: the ergonomics in the Toyota are absolutely atrocious. As far as visibility goes, that’s unfortunately par for the class. If you want to see out of your car without the aid of electronics, a Chrysler minivan seems to be one of the few viable choices left.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Yes, he was too polite. I spent some time in one at the autoshow, no one was looking at RAV4, and had the car to my self. When I closed the the rear passenger’s seat door it the tinny sound frame echoed like an empty gym. Worse car at the show.

      Comparison’s put it at the bottom of the list above Jeep products.

      http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/rankings/Affordable-Compact-SUVs/

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        No doubt about it, tinny door thumps tell you everything there is to know about quality. The Japanese have struggled with this for about 4 decades, and we all know they have been turning out absolute rubbish.

        My suggestion: pump Botox into the doors like Buick does with the Encore to give the illusion of vault like strength.

        Or maybe not. RAV4 sales in April 19,800, Encore 4400. Maybe Buick should remove the Botox gun in the Daewoo factory, whoops sorry, GM Korea, and sales would increase. The decrease in weight would really make the Trifecta tune slay a 6.2l Silverado, and eke out maybe another 5 mpg in the bargain to a number regarded as a US state secret.

        Yessir, our modern day Don Quixote drives Buick. GM. Turbopower. Accentuated by Trifecta. A real man’s CUV.

        • 0 avatar
          ixim

          Encore is a whole size smaller. My 2010 RAV was amusing in the door-slamming department – you could actually see the sheet metal flutter as the doors were shut, accompanied by a hollow “bong”.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            This isn’t confidence-inspiring, but it isn’t uncommon either. Watch an F150’s door when you close it. Oingo-boingo.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Japanese OEMs, at least on their non-luxury models, seem to wrap an impressively crash-worthy structure with sheet metal that is on par with a beer can. I think you could ding the ’03 Protege I had by giving it a dirty look. Maybe it’s par for the course with anything in that price range, but it doesn’t seem as common on affordable American cars or VWs.

        That said, I don’t get the obsession with door thumps. As long as they find some way to keep interior noise under control, I can deal with the occasional door ding if that’s what it takes to keep weight/cost down. I can think of worse places to cut corners.

    • 0 avatar
      fozone

      subaru forester still has good visibility too. not sure why some companies can get it right but others have such problems with this (maybe stronger/more expensive materials are necessary in the pillars to keep them thinner?)

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    Amazing checking the box for the V6 on the previous version covered up a lot of sins. That was a wonderful package. In 5-10 years finding a V6 RAV4 in good condition and with reasonable miles will be pretty desirable I think.

    • 0 avatar
      DJTragicMike

      That’s what we have (2007) and it is the bee’s knees. Sadly, there have been so many insurance claims for street parking incidents it will never be a pristine looker in 5-10 yrs. The thing moves though. I practically dare people to beat me to the “lane ends” marker at stoplights. AWD + gobs of torque = moving smartly off the line.

      Too bad the thing squeeks and rattles and smells of toddlers. Oh well, it is a great ride for what it is.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    It was about time Toyota finally had the sense to make the tailgate open PROPERLY.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I’m not entirely happy with the new arrangment. It isn’t a Real Rav if it doesn’t have a spare tire hanging on its a$$.

      • 0 avatar

        no way, Kix! Think about it. That tyre on the back forces doors, adding unnecessary weight, they’re a danger to the hoods of cars parked behind, less visibility, add to the hassle of opening, clsoing doors.

        The Europeans noticed and got rid of the nuisance first. Glad everybody else is doing the same.

        • 0 avatar
          DJTragicMike

          yeah, the tradeoff isn’t worth it. The door is heavy, can’t see out the back, and the wheel cover has been banged so many times it rattles. Best to wise up and realize this isn’t a Wrangler – no need for a full size spare.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      i never had an issue with Toyota vehicles having side-opening tailgates. It’s the fact that the tailgates open to the right rather than to the left that’s irritating…so that if you’re parked on the correct side of the street and you’re loading your cargo curbside, you actually have to step *around* the door. It’s a problem that I first noticed on our family friend’s Lexus GX 470, but it applies to all three previous generations of the RAV4 as well. Since Toyota couldn’t or wouldn’t hinge the doors on the left, I’m relieved to see a proper liftgate on this generation.

      • 0 avatar

        Kyree, you do know why is that, right?

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I don’t. Is it because it’s safer to dismount the spare-tire that way if you’re on the side of the road (for certain countries)?

          • 0 avatar

            Yep, because it’s safer for Japan and other countries were they drive on the wrong side of the road. Instead of “fixing” it for the rest of us, they prefer to save a buck. Glad that some, like you, notice the incongruence.

          • 0 avatar

            Marcelo is full of it. Firstly, no idiot ever takes or mounts the spare when the door is open. But if they did, the safety advanta would accrue for Europeans and Americans, but not for Japanese. The hinge was on the right, so a person working with the spare would be deep on the shoulder in America. It’s a bizzarre, idiotic, wrong-headed myth.

            Same goes for the “airport curb” thing. Liberty and Wrangler had the door with hinges on the right too.

          • 0 avatar

            Don’t shoot me Pete! I give up, you’re right!

    • 0 avatar
      bts

      One of the advantages of the spare tire and swinging gate was that the Rav4 was distinguishable from all the other Ute’s. Not the case anymore and pretty unmistakable and boring now.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Amazing; My nearly decade old Jeep Liberty scores better mileage, with almost the same power, nearly twice the torque, and about another 1,000lbs added to it.

    I like small/mid-ish SUV’s. These new crop of CUV’s are pathetic.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      Either you have a diesel Liberty, or you figured out a way to Trifecta Tune Mopars…

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        As I recall, AMC has the diesel variant. But even then, it must be tuned to get 29 mpg in mixed driving. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        Diesel; 06′ CRD. I get about 22mpg in town, 26mpg mixed, and have squeaked 31-32mpg on the highway.

        When towing my 3,300lb 16ft camper I get 15-16mpg.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          The RAV4 didn’t squeak 31-32 mpg on the highway. It returned 29 mpg in a mix of urban/suburban driving, and it wasn’t even broken in. You don’t have a point.

          • 0 avatar
            AMC_CJ

            No, I do think I have a point.

            I return nearly the same mileage, but not quite as much. Yes, diesel is generally more expensive too.

            BUT

            The Liberty has a tow rating of 5,000lbs. Which is important to me. The Liberty with my BFG A/T’s can also travel through a foot snow like it’s nothing. It has a proper transfer case, and that extra low gear does great for pulling a motorhome out of a barn (then flat-towing them across town). Or just slip it in part-time for those slippery days.

            The Liberty also weighs, as pointed out, 1,000lbs more. Mainly that goes into the extra heavy-duty bits of hardware, like that great solid-axle out back.

            The Rav4 might be a little more softer and plush, that’s not going to pull out camper up to the mountains.

            My point is, over a decade ago, something was already made that achieves nearly the same kind of efficiency, that’s the same size/basic “shape or outline” so to speak, while being a far more capable and stronger vehicle. If you don’t care about such abilities, that’s fine, but I do, and I also like driving up the Eastern coast on one tank of fuel to boot.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Not bad. I’m too scared to drive a Liberty (narrow body/high center-of-gravity/I like to swerve), but that’s really quite good fuel economy for a vehicle that’s that heavy. Are the diesel Liberties worth significantly more than their petrol-powered counterparts?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Did you read the part where he averaged 29 mpg? I don’t care if you’ve got a Liberty CRD, you’re not beating that in suburban traffic. Gas engined Liberties do little better than half that on Fuelly, and the overall diesel Liberty average is 23 mpg.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Why do so many CUV’s ride so harshly? I jumped in my in laws Q5 expecting German opulence and was staggered as to how stiff it is. Is it a desperate attempt to make cars on stilts handle like cars that are not on stilts?

    • 0 avatar
      Upthewazzu

      Our 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe is the same. I guess I didn’t pick up the harshness on the test drive, but this thing feels like a truck, maybe even worse. It’s like they went out of their way to design a family oriented CUV with the ride quality of a Wrangler. Like the CRV reviewed here, it doesn’t help with body roll either.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Surprisingly, our 2003 Kia Sorento EX (which was equipped with a full 4WD system and which *was* a truck) was smoother than the 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe that we test drove, as well as the Nissan Murano that ultimately replaced the Kia…

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Because the choices are limited. It either is a roll over hazard, is lower or wider than what people want, or has springs / roll bars that are stiff enough to counteract all that CGH. Even with an optimal balance of spring, bar, and shock a jounce of one wheel is going to smack the isolation bushings. All those compliant bushings lead to dead feeling steering and they’re still not enough. Answer is easy, get a lower CGH (car).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It’s simple physics – TANSTAAFL. The only way to make a tall car handle is to make the suspension really, really stiff to control the roll. Do that and it rides like a buckboard. Or you can make it ride OK but it will handle like mush. You can mitigate it to some extent by spending money on things like air or active suspension – my Range Rover both handles and rides noticeably better than a similarly sized Tahoe (but you PAY for that). But ultimately, you can call it “car-like” ride and handling, but it will never ride or handle like a proper car. Which is why I drive a 328i wagon and not an X3.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    A small correction, the engine is port injected. No DI here folks.

    Gf’s parents bought a 2013 Limited last summer. Very crashy, uncomfortable ride on those 18 inch rims. Rear seats are uncomfortable as well, felt like a park bench on a 3 hour drive. It did get good mileage, 28 mpg loaded with 5 people and luggage, with climate control on auto (A/C running), and going 70-75 on the highway. Engine is adequate for the application, transmission works well. Interior has some glaringly cheap plastic and like the author said, that faux carbon fiber is just out of place.

    These faults are made ever more obvious by the fact that they traded in a 2005 Highlander Limited for it. Except for fuel economy, the Highlander blows the new Rav4 out of the water.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      Interesting comparison to the Highlander. FYI, Toyota’s press site says the 2.5 is now DI

      http://toyotanews.pressroom.toyota.com/releases/toyota+2014+rav4+entune+audio+advanced+safety.htm

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Wow you’re right, 2013 is port injected, but 2014 is DI. Pretty crazy, power rating didnt’ seem to change a whole lot or at all?

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        DI means direct ignition in toyota speak, not direct injection. My wife’s ’14 is definitely port injection only. DI is denoted by D4-S in toyota speak.

        I have a nearly 2 year old kiddo that quickly gets bored sitting in the back all alone, so I end up sitting back there with her quite often. I have no complaints with the back seats. Tons of leg room and reclining seatbacks FTW.

        The headrests are backwards in the pics above, BTW.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    First of all, my sympathy regarding your family member.

    “As a man who occasionally wears sandals and socks…” Boy, you might have opened up a can of worms with that comment!

    It appears the RAV4 is on a par with the CR-V for size, now. There used to be a significant difference, but in recent years, they’ve grown. RAV4’s interiors still seem to be of lesser quality than the Honda, at least the last time I looked.

    Due to the smaller rear overhang, I guess the rear fender panel doesn’t flutter on the highway like the Camry’s does, and that’s a good thing.

    Funny, all these reviews in recent years of Japanese cars touch on the point that overall quality in many areas has fallen somewhat. Am I correct in saying that? Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re junk or anything, just not as good as they were a decade ago.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “just not as good as they were a decade ago.”

      I think they are better than they were, it’s just that everyone else has improved so much. A 2004 Accord/Camry was much “nicer” than a Sonata/Optima Fusion/Malibu now that gap has narrowed dramatically.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “RAV4′s interiors still seem to be of lesser quality than the Honda, at least the last time I looked.”

      I don’t know. I think they’re about the same in terms of quality. Toyota is certainly trying a lot harder than Honda at making its interiors interesting from a design standpoint (the new Avalon has my favorite non-luxury-car interior). But, at least with the CR-V, Pilot, Odyssey and Accord, Honda gets kudos for better ergonomics and for getting the small, everyday details right,

      • 0 avatar

        Plus the ride, at least in the CR-V vs. Rav4 comparisons.

        The CR-V was praised by several reviewers for its quite reasonable ride quality. Sounds like no such praise could be given to the Rav4.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I actually think the Escape is just as clumsily-designed as the RAV4, but having driven one, I would agree that it feels like a richer product than other vehicles in its class and price-range…sort of like a budget alternative to the Audi Q5 (which means that the Escape-based MKC will probably be on *very* good terms with me). I think the RAV4 would be toward the bottom of my list because I can’t find anything I particularly like about it. It feels like Toyota ticked off items on a list rather than considering the car’s features and design as part of a cohesive whole.

    As far as my ideal compact CUV goes, I really like the look of the CX-5, but I like the drivetrain of the Forester. So it’d probably be one of those two, or the Escape. I don’t much like the Tiguan, but I would consider a Jetta SportWagen as an alternative to all three of the aforementioned CUVs. I had the new Cherokee on my list, but—as was pointed out in TTAC’s reviews—it is indeed severely lacking where cargo space is concerned. And I’m not sure about the Rogue yet. We almost test-drove one last week, but my grandmother decided the car’s interior was unwelcoming, so it was on to the next thing.

    And as for the Outlander you mentioned, I don’t honestly know why anyone would purchase it. First of all, I can’t believe that they really expect people to put premium fuel in the V6-equipped model. It’s a Mitsubishi (and it’s not an Evo)! Second, if you really want a manageably-sized, inexpensive crossover that *actually* deserves to be called a seven-seater, go and buy a Journey. It’s a much better vehicle than the Outlander, it commands relatively-low prices, and it is subprime-financing fodder. Oh, and the Journey looks better than the Outlander, too…both inside and out.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      > “It feels like Toyota ticked off items on a list rather than considering the car’s features and design as part of a cohesive whole.”

      Thank you Kyree. I now have the words to articulate my feeling about the Camry SE I couldn’t think of a reason not to like but still didn’t.

      • 0 avatar

        The one benefit of the Tiguan is that it is available as a 6-speed manual with it’s 200hp turbo-4cyl. Basically a little CUV GTI. These days the manual is only available on the base model, but it used to be available with leather, xenons, nav, etc. I’ve seen optioned as such on the street. Of course, all of this comes at shocking prices (how is an R-line Tiguan $50k?).

        However, comparing the Golf and Tiguan…sheesh. The Golf had a vastly preferable ride while handling better. Too bad its not cool.

  • avatar
    ixim

    I had a 2010 last – gen RAV4. Funny how the likes of CU branded the current gen as mostly new. I don’t agree. Toyota spiffed up the interior, got rid of the full size spare on matching wheel, and added a six-speed shift and backup camera right out of the Camry parts bin. Those faux-alloy steel wheels tend to rust where the lugs bite. Still there, saving Toyo a few bucks. The rough noisy ride on all but freeways is still there. MPG’s are up. Bluetooth for all! Best actual cargo space in class. A little tinny – mine never lost assorted squeaks and groans despite the dealer’s best efforts but mechanically bulletproof. Great in snow. I traded mine for an Equinox that was $4,000 cheaper OTD, but you see zillions of both cars here in North Jersey.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I really liked your gen of RAV4, to the point that I talked my roommate into buying one when he went car shopping a year or so ago. I had several as rentals, and have had a couple new ones too. But the new one is just awful by comparison, at least from the perspective of one who is a keen driver. ZERO steering feel, mushy brakes, mushy handling but a brittle ride at the same time. And you can’t see out of the thing. A major step backward, IMHO. The previous gen was one of the most surprising rentals I have ever had, I really expected to hate it, and I actually like it enough that if I didn’t have to tow a 6500lb boat around fairly regularly I would probably own one.

      • 0 avatar
        ixim

        I had the same mushy, but still effective brakes. Very touchy tip-in, but you get used to both. The ‘Nox’ gas, brakes and steering have a nice, solid, progressive feel lacking in the RAV. Smoother, quieter; similar handling. It is also bigger on the outside, smaller inside. Versatility, utility, reliability – those are the RAV’s strong suits. Like most current Toyotas, a little out of date.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    We have a ’14 Limited. Low load floor (useful for picking up 10 bags of mulch last Friday), tons of leg room (not crowded by the rear facing baby seat), good gas mileage (29mpg with mixed driving in Columbus and Dayton thrown in), planted drive, very good seats, good stereo (optional JBL), and solid handling if just a smidge firm over some surfaces. I love that it has a 4WD “lock”. Snow handling in Jan and Feb was quite good. I’m glad Toyota finally offered an all black interior as I think that really improves the interior and makes the shifter bezel a little more subtle. My only complaints are no factory hitch in the US or harness for a utility trailer. I’ll have to rig something up from Curt/Ecohitch.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      There is definitely a lot to like here. I don’t think the RAV4 shines on a spec sheet the way some competitors do, but the fundamentals are definitely solid. I never warmed up to the seats, I’m sure the Softex and additional adjustments would help

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Thanks for writing in. It’s good to get a view from someone who likes the car and who has put his money where his mouth is.

  • avatar
    DepreciatedDerelict

    I always thought the last generation V6 RAV4 was quite the sleeper.

    Using the term ‘sleeper’ very lightly here… we are discussing CUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel Latini

      This is TTAC – we are always discussing CUVs. And sometimes Panthers and Fox bodies.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        There are a lot of CUV closet cases here, because you know, (cough, cough) my wife/gf wanted it so I had to go along, to keep peace

        • 0 avatar
          DepreciatedDerelict

          To be honest, as labeled the ‘car guy’ in my circle of friends, my default recommendation is either the V6 RAV4 or used RX300.

          … but as we all know these recommendations fall on silent ears.

          They all want something able to ‘throw a kayak on it’ during the weekend and get Geo Metro efficiency during their 9 to 5 commute.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Polarization about the side-opening tailgate never ends, especially among those who’ve never had a side-opening tailgate. Having lived with a Grand Vitara for 8 years with the same setup:

    Advantages:
    – can be opened with long things on the roof without hitting them
    – usually opened and closed by the driver, and as the driver walks to/from the driver’s door, the way the hatch opens and closes comes handily “to hand”.
    – rear-mounted spare allows full-size spare plus more space for a larger cargo area
    – bicycle rack can be mounted on spare and the whole works swings completely out of the way

    Disadvantages:
    – doesn’t act as a roof to catch rain when open
    – repair costs for rear impacts are high
    – can be awkward when parked on steep sidehills

    Neutrals:
    – no more frequently obstructed from having enough clearance to open than top-hinged hatches
    – though the hatches hinge on the wrong side for North America, in the real world you infrequently use them while parked parallel to curbs or close to rushing traffic (opening the driver’s door is more dangerous).

    So for me it’s a wash. More lately we got an suv with a top-hinged tailgate, and I just don’t prefer one over the other. Worthy of chatter I suppose, but it shouldn’t affect vehicle choice.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    One advantage of the top – opening hatch , at least for delivery drivers, is the ability to back close enough to loading docks to more easily load cargo . One change I like about the Rav 4 redesign is the elimination of the rear mounted spare , also a PITA for loading cargo .

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    Without the former V6, the Rav4 just isn’t the same anymore.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    For shame.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I know this RAV4 is objectively better than its predecessor in a number of ways, but there was something about that last one that seemed more unique and likeable. A family member has one of these and I can’t really warm up to it, despite its overall competence.

  • avatar
    Southern Perspective

    Here in central Mexico, and for reasons which I do not understand, these have been abandoned by the yuppity women crowd for CR-Vs long ago. I wonder why?

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Excellent review full of pertinent details and pictures to back it up. Many reviews leave me wondering if the author actually drove the car; this one gives me a good idea of what to expect from a RAV4.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    Sport mode in the Toyota RAV4? Thanks but no thanks.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My boss and her husband spent an afternoon test driving a 2013 in LE trim similar to this tested vehicle. She didn’t care for the dash and found rear visibility lacking. She also said the seats were like sitting on a park bench they were so hard and that it rode and drove worse than her husbands pickup truck! They didn’t drive long enough to get a really accurate mileage test but the trip computer was saying 26. They both agreed the tailgate opens the proper way now and that legroom and rear space are good. The all black interior and the harsh cloth seat material were mentioned and the lack of a V6 for towing and long hill climbs basically left this vehicle off the list. They ended up getting an Explorer AWD and seem happy enough with it overall save the mileage.

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    I rented one of these just a couple of days ago, and I can say this review is spot on. My takes:

    The good. With the rear seats down, the RAV4 has loads of storage. When I arrived at my daughter’s college and saw everything she had to bring home I thought, “No way.” But the vehicle accommodated numerous suitcases, boxes and her bicycle (with the front wheel still on), with room to spare. Also, I made the trip there and back–350 miles–on about 13 gallons of gas.

    The bad. It’s tedious to drive, with mushy steering. Also, the brakes don’t inspire confidence. The vehicle had 24K miles, so I’m assuming it didn’t need a break job. Rear and rear/side visibility is a problematic, and, as the review notes, the screen tends to wash out in the sun, and when it does you lose the rear camera view.

    The ugly. The dashboard looks like a 1980s box radio. Also ugly, though not the car’s fault, was having to pay $40 plus fees etc for returning the car less than a half hour late (I usually rent from another company that’s more forgiving about this). Renters be aware: When that company says it “tries harder,” it means to tries harder to suck money out of your wallet.

  • avatar

    So very sorry to hear about your loss… Driving to funerals can be quite an experience on the inside. I disagree with some of the people here as I am still a hardcore RAV4 fan. I still believe that although there have been massive changes on the outside, the Toyota RAV4 is still a very stylish, comfortable and sporty car. Though the brand new seating could be a little bit more comfortable, they take a bit of time to shape to your body’s requirements but once they’re spot-on, everything from the handling to the visibility delivers an overall nice ride.


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