THE 4x4 credited with starting a whole new motoring market over 20 years ago by becoming the first compact recreational SUV has just been improved with the arrival of the fourth generation of the Toyota RAV4 writes Bryan Longworth.
Since it emerged as a trailblazer all those years ago the RAV4 has grown into what is now quite a large vehicle compared to the original model and it is now competing against such rivals as the Land Rover Evoque, Nissan Qashqai and Honda CR-V plus some premium sector SUVs.
The growth of the RAV4 which is available with two or four wheel drive has taken it into a new sector of this market and it is extremely roomy inside compared to the first generation model being able to easily accommodate five in its very comfortable cabin.
In fact it is now so large that it is unrecognisable from the first generation RAV4 but it has very distinctive rugged styling that provides it with plenty of kerb appeal and the test car attracted plenty of attention especially from admirers wanting to know what it was because it was so different from the original model.
On test was the RAV4 Icon 2.2 D4D Auto costing £27,905 that was powered by a four cylinder diesel engine with four wheel drive, six speed automatic transmission with a top speed of 115mph, zero to 62mph in 10 seconds and a combined fuel consumption of 42.2mpg.
First impression was of a very roomy and comfortable interior with a huge rear load area that is accessed with a top hinged tailgate for the first time which is a big improvement on the previous side hinged rear door and is much more user friendly.
There was also a favourable first impression of the steering and handling which made the latest RAV4 such a satisfying car to drive and the smooth automatic transmission provided a very relaxed test period.
Standard equipment is impressive and includes a powered tailgate, space saver spare wheel plus traction control, hill start assist and downhill assist control which all help to make it an ideal car for driving in severe winter conditions especially such as we have encountered recently.
The standard soft leather seats were very comfortable but the Touch 2 and Go screen unit that included a very comprehensive satellite navigation system was a ?750 option although one that was well worth the extra expenditure.
However, the touch screen Touch 2 multimedia system was standard and this incorporated numerous functions including hands free phone calls, texting, rear view camera and audio.
Switchgear and instruments are all easy to use and see but I found that the speedometer was difficult to see in certain daylight conditions so I switched on the lights each time I drove the RAV4 which made the speedo easier to see in all driving situations.
Toyota has done a good job with the latest version of the RAV4 and while it has lost much of its original identity it is a quality medium sized SUV
that offers a good deal in this market sector and of course the five year warranty is another attraction to those looking for such a vehicle.
Verdict: RAV4 has grown up and matured.
Model: Toyota RAV4 Icon 21.2 D4D Auto.
Engine: 2.2-litre four cylinder diesel.
Transmission: Six speed automatic.
Top speed: 115mph.
Acceleration 0 to 62mph: 10 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 42.2mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 176g/km.
Price: £27,905 on the road.