Toyota Rav4 Overview

toyota rav4 grillThe Toyota RAV4 is a small sport-utility vehicle, the smallest of Toyota's large family of SUVs. The RAV4 was one of the first entries in the crossover SUV market, which has become more and more competitive in recent years. Next to its competitors, many of which are in their first generation, today's third-generation RAV4 benefits from years of refinement and many first-in-class features. We have always described the Toyota RAV4 as possessing favorable on-road manners, good ergonomics and a high level of quality, even if that comes at the expense of macho styling and off-road prowess. It has the comfort and drivability of car-based architecture and benefits from fuel-efficient engines. As such, this highly evolved, well-packaged crossover SUV is best matched to young families and urban singles.

The current Toyota RAV4 comes in Base, Sport and Limited trims, with either a four-cylinder or a V6 engine, and either front-wheel drive or an on-road-biased all-wheel-drive system. Automatic transmissions come standard (a four-speed unit for the four-cylinder, a five-speed auto for the V6). Today's RAV4 is close to Toyota's midsize Highlander in length and actually has a more powerful V6. Yet thanks to its more narrow width and lighter weight, it's easier to park and achieves superior fuel economy when comparably equipped. The 179-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder provides surprisingly good acceleration and excellent fuel economy. With 269 hp, a RAV4 equipped with the available 3.5-liter V6 is quite fast and the most fuel-efficient six-cylinder SUV in its class.

toyota rav4 tail lightsThe steering is light and the brakes are strong, making the RAV4 feel effortless to drive. Maximum towing capacity for the V6 is a respectable 3,500 pounds. Even in Base trim, the Toyota RAV4 is well equipped with power accessories, cruise control and a full suite of safety features, including stability control. Sport trim brings exterior enhancements, a sport-tuned suspension and bigger wheels. The Limited model adds numerous luxury Toyota Rav4 Accessories available. The interior has Toyota's typical ergonomic flair, placing controls and switches right where one expects to find them. Among the RAV4's clever features are flat-folding split second-row seats that slide both fore and aft up to 6.5 inches and recline for added comfort.

The backlit, white-on-black gauges and stellar assembly quality contribute to the high-quality feel of the interior. In terms of the space, the RAV4 is cavernous, boasting more cargo room than some midsize SUVs. With its large swing-out tailgate (which can now be had with or without the mounted spare tire) and a low floor, loading bulky items into the RAV is quite easy. Optional third-row seats that fold flat into the trunk take up some of that cargo room, but at least provide a place for an extra set of children. It's uninhabitable for adults. In reviews, the RAV4 has always impressed with its blend of versatility, space and engine choices that are both powerful and fuel-efficient. It is one of the top choices in its increasingly crowded class.

toyota rav4 headlightsThe current Toyota RAV4 represents the third generation, which debuted for 2006. Compared to earlier models, this RAV4 is the largest, and the only one with an available V6 engine and a third-row seat. Changes since the debut have been minimal. In its second year, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags became standard (they were optional in '06). The RAV4 had a slightly different appearance prior to 2009, including no spare-tire delete option for the swing-out tailgate. Also, the standard four-cylinder engine found in 2006-'08 RAV4s was less powerful -- it displaced 2.4 liters and produced 166 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. The second-generation Toyota RAV4 was larger, with more styling and innovative removable second-row seats that gave it truly impressive cargo-carrying capabilities.

Early models had a 148-hp, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that came up short versus the larger four- and six-cylinder engines offered by competitors. Toyota addressed this to some extent in 2004 by replacing the 2.0-liter with a larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 160 hp. Acceleration was markedly improved, and buyers could still choose a manual or automatic transmission. Overall, we found this RAV4 to be a fun-to-drive urban runabout thanks to its precise suspension tuning and high fuel economy ratings. The first-generation Toyota RAV4 was offered in two-door and four-door body styles, with a convertible version for a brief period. The first-gen RAV4 was appealing to young singles, but due to its narrow width and tight rear legroom, this cute ute was ultimately no substitute for a traditional family vehicle.