The RAV4 is a keystone in Toyota’s lineup. Through three generations, it has been the entry level crossover vehicle for over one million families. In the last 10 years the small crossover segment has grown from virtually nothing to almost 20% of the new car market. Because it is a segment filled with many first time car owners, or the first new car people have purchased, it’s also a critical segment for building long term customer loyalty.
The acceleration in development in this segment has been very brisk and what looked new and fresh just two or three years ago, looks cheep and outdated today. In to this Toyota brings its fourth generation RAV4, looking to cement its place among the volume sales leaders in the segment.
Toyota says that they have sold 1.7 million RAV4’s since the model came to market in 1994 and that 80% of them are still on the road today. The compact SUV market has gone from just a few models in the early 90’s to now 45 different models today.
In many ways what Toyota is doing with the trim levels of the new RAV4, harkens back to the days of the mid 80’s when, there would be two or three trim levels and few options to choose from. The fourth generation RAV4 comes in three trim levels, LE, XLE and Limited.. Toyota’s philosophy was to bring trim levels to a spec where each model offers 90-95% of the options that customers tend to order. This philosophy gives RAV4 customers more bang for their buck when they go to purchase. For 2014, all RAV4 models will come with a 6.1” touch display as well as a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity and projector beam headlights with auto off.
As you move up trim specs you will get ENTUNE with Navigation, 17” alloy wheels, (18” alloys are exclusive to the Limited model), power moon roof and dual zone climate control. Cloth is the material of choice for LE and XLE, with Soft-Tex being offered on the Limited models. Toyota describe Soft-Tex as, “leather, without the cost”. There are soft touch materials through the cabin in all trim levels, and some hard plastic materials in high touch point areas for controls like the window switches, and the gear shift.
The RAV4 comes standard as front wheel drive, with All Wheel Drive being an option. Toyota also note that 65% of RAV4 purchasers will choose the AWD option. New in the AWD models is active torque control, which works to put the power where it’s most needed, and aids in sharpening handling on dry pavement. Sensors in the system will direct power to the wheels to aid in turn-in for corners giving the RAV4 a sporty feeling when driven on twisty roads. It is still possible to lock the differentials in AWD mode for off road driving, or in snow or muddy terrains, and Toyota has now made this a maintenance-free system as well.
Also aiding in handling, the RAV4 is 1.2 inches lower than the out going model, though it still maintains a healthy 6.3 inches of ground clearance.
A big change for the new RAV4 is the elimination of the V6 as an option. Across the range there will be one engine choice, a 2.5 -iter four-cylinder producing 176 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 172 ft/lb of torque at 4,100 RPM. While the peak power is higher in the engine range, Toyota is bringing the RAV4 into the modern age by dropping the previous models four-speed automatic gearbox for a standard for the class six-speed unit. With more gears spaced closer together, the RAV4 looses little in acceleration to the previous V6, yet sees considerably gains in fuel economy.
The 0-60 sprint takes 8.9 seconds and the EPA rating for the RAV4 is 24 city, 31 highway and 26 combined for front drive models, and 22/29/25 for AWD models.
Pricing for the 2013 RAV4 starts at $23,300 for the front-drive LE model, $24,290 for the XLE and $27,010 for the Limited, the AWD option adds a $1,400 premium. Toyota estimates that 45-50% of buyers will choose the XLE model, which will come with a moon roof, dual zone climate control and sports seats. There will be the option of Navigation with Entune for $1.030.
One of the trademarks of the RAV4 has been the spare tire carrier out back, and the swing open door to the rear cargo area. With the 2013 model, both of those are now gone. The spare tire is housed below the cargo floor and the rear hatch opens traditionally, and now with power assist and the ability to set an opening height for those that are short of stature or in areas with low overhead ceiling height. Not only does this aid in functionality, it also in rearward visibility.
Special attention was focused on making the cabin of the 2013 RAV4 much quieter. Acoustical glass was used for the windshield, and extra sound deadening materials were placed throughout the cabin. Driven back to back with the outgoing model there is a noticeable difference in wind and road noise that protrudes into the cabins of the two RAV4 generations.
While the new RAV4 lacks the fore and aft adjustments for the rear seats that the outgoing model had, the rear seat of the 2013 RAV4 has more leg room over the outgoing model, and the rear seats do recline for added passenger comfort. With the rear seats up, the cargo area has 38.4 square feet of cargo room and with the seats folded down it increases to 73.4.
The dashboard and the driver’s cockpit now look modern in the new RAV4. The use of soft touch materials and French stitching bring a new level of refinement. Going back and forth between the old and new RAV4’s lets you see just how much of a leap forward the new car is. Toyota is using what they call a “color block concept” in the interior, and it gives a strong bold look to the interior that refrains from being over the top.
Out on the road the new RAV4 is miles above the outgoing model in every way. The ride, handling, comfort, and NVH levels are noticeably better right off the bat. The new RAV4 has electric power steering for the first time. What buyers of RAV4 will notice is that below 10 miles an hour the steering is effortless, yet, picks up weight and feel as speed increases to give good feedback and confidence when going down the road.
Previous owners of the RAV4 will take note of is that there is no longer an option of third row seating. Toyota’s research deemed, that customers looking for seven passenger accommodations would be better served by stepping up to the larger Highlander. In making the RAV4 a five-passenger only configuration, they felt they could maximize space efficiency, passenger comfort and legroom.
With the 2013 model, the RAV4 is now competitive in its market segment. Some of its competitors may offer more space, and/or more power, however, it comes at price that is often times far north of the RAV4’s. What the RAV4 brings to the market is a solid product with exceptional value that stays true to what made it so popular, yet now, is competitive with its modern interior, amenities and numerous convenience features that buyers today expect.