Yes Yes Yes oh YES: spacious, nippy, economical, lots of stuff in top model
Oh dear me no: dashboard design, uninspired metalwork, JBL stereo sounds cheap, WAY too expensive
If you hold your mouth just right, the Rav 4 looks like somebody took a bike pump to a Corolla hatch for a drunken nights bet. They started pumping, and kept right on pumping. The lines also seem slightly reminiscent of Mazdas and Hyundais with all that flowy, watery, fluidness. Some like the look and some don’t. I think it rather sad that the familiar Rav look has gone. It’s also much bigger than the first car we saw a couple of decades ago. The designer says the all-new style is aggressive, and features an “under priority” front end. I’m not convinced, not by the Rav 4 nor the similarly styled Corolla.
We had the top model (Cruiser) with the range costing from $32,458 to and eye watering $55,520. It had particularly nasty looking grey/black plakky bumpers, but for 55 grand let’s have colour coded bumpers please. I realise the unpainted look is just the ticket for off roading, but this kind of SUV would see nothing more taxing than a gravel footpath where it has been illegally parked. Body coloured bumpers make a car look classy even when it isn’t. Toyota tell me this is a black resin finish and it is there to protect the sticky-outty bits for off-roading, I say no no no no no. For the zero point zero zero zero zero zero one percent of time this model will ever be off road, this is folly. They are selling a life style, but surely this one misses the point. The Rav buyer is not an off-roading big butchy, out-doorsy chest-thumping type of guy. The early ads had a couple of blokes and their dog going for a nice gay-friendly picnic. I don’t think this model has the same appeal. For me, the exterior completely misses the bulls-eye.
Moving inside the Cruiser via the smartkey finds a cabin lavished with leather accents. I don’t know what “accents” is, but I suspect it means more pleather than genuine cow. I got excited when I saw a leather covered dashboard, but this turned quickly to disappointment when a gentle touch revealed plastic and stitched pleather trying to simulate luxury. This roller coaster journey continued throughout.
The Toyota infotainment system was upgraded with Satnav and JBL speakers and I felt better. With much haste, I connected the phone to stream some dulcet tones, but this too was a bit of a letdown. There is a honking great subwoofer taking up vast amounts of room in the cargo hold, but frankly it isn’t pulling its weight. The sound is thin and reedy and no amount of fettling the bass and fade made the slightest difference. For 55k I wanted a symphonic orgasm, but I wasn’t even close to a warm hug and kiss on the cheek. I was starting to feel despondent.
I discovered electric adjustments to the driver’s seat and felt slightly better, but manual levers on the passenger’s seat so I felt worse again. I saw a sunshine roof and felt better, but when I opened it the opening was tiny so I felt worse again. I looked back and noticed the spare wheel was no longer on the rear door and felt better, then I looked down and saw the rear floor was much higher, and felt worse. Are you seeing the pattern?
The cabin, like the exterior was a miss for me. Things were looking pretty dire.
I rang up one of the chaps on the electric telephone and said “Soph, Soph, Soph, you have to come for a spin in my Rav. I’m having a split personality psychotic episode and I need slapping”. I say this when I want an honest opinion from a non-car guy. I depend on the kindness of friends for a bit of perspective. I’ll explain the “Soph” bit some other time.
I went straight round to Soph’s joint who rolled out of his luxury digs with a martini in one hand and canapé in the other. “Not for me dear”, I said. “Waste not, want not. There are starving children in Africa who would give their eye teeth for Tanquers to wash down their caviar”. I deftly pointed out starving Africans have neither of those things.
Soph is a gadget fiend so we took a moment to play with the lecky tailgate as tiny sips were taken. You can raise and lower it from the front seats but as entertaining as it is, one gets over it very quickly. I took a moment to point out the HID headlamps and upgraded alloys but this merely elicited a snort of disinterest, and a final gulp.
Once ensconced in the posh seats, soph looked back to the peasant’s seats in back and said “there’s a bit of room back there. Is there enough room for a fridge?” but that question was so out of left field I chose to roll on and ignore it. I pressed the start button and off we went. Oddly, Soph approves of a diesel as he and his hubby own a diesel top-of-the-line Focus Titanium with self parking and embellishments. Sounds a bit like Hyacinth doesn’t it? We drove around for a bit demonstrating the gadgets just as you would if you were taking a test drive on a Saturday afternoon. Remember, many people buy on the strength of a drive much shorter than this, and I wonder how people might make such a big choice so quickly and with so little information. Well, of course they don’t, they do it on instinct and feeling. “I like it on paper but it doesn’t feel right in the flesh,” can be heard echoing in many a showroom each and every weekend.
But back to our drive: Because the Rav seems sensibly economical Soph suggested a run somewhere nice, but neither of us had eaten breakfast so we had a shorter run with nibbles and beverages at the end. We sat down and gobbled down our brunch and were on our third coffee before we got around to talking about the car. We to’d and fro’d for ages because the Rav genuinely does nothing wrong, so why didn’t we feel warm and fuzzy? There were nagging doubts that neither could really fathom.
Soph had a few minor bitches about the cabin, namely the dashboard. Let me explain: When you’re riding in a car you move about in your seat. You move dials, make phone calls, talk to your fellow traveller, and you move your legs. Soph is over 6 feet tall in old money and has big old lanky legs. With the legs pulled back towards the seat cushion instead of being stretched out, the knees are fairly close to the bit of dashboard that juts out. To make matters worse, the edge of the dash is sharp, and in an accident is close enough the make a meal of knee caps.
I then pointed out that I could get a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo in petrol for 3 grand less, or in diesel for 2 and a half grand more. The Laredo is a full 2 classes bigger, with bigger engines, a bigger cabin, far more room, and far more “stuff” in it. Not only that, the Jeep is a proper four wheel drive, and very, very attractive. Toyota claims the Rav 4 outsells the competition in the same class, and so it does. What about the other classes? Who in their right mind would buy a soft roader AWD when they could have a much larger full 4WD for the same money. You could also get the top-of-the-line Volvo V40 premium hatch with AWD crammed full of industry leading technology. Toyota’s own drop dead gorgeous FJ Cruiser is cheaper and is 4WD. It has more space, and a bigger engine. I’ll admit it too is far too expensive. However it makes up for this by being stunning and unbelievably capable especially off road. People still turn and look, and I would buy one in a heart beat.
No, I don’t get the Rav 4, not one little bit.
The drive is smooth enough. The 2.2 diesel puts out 110kw/340Nm which gets her moving quick enough. The 6 speed auto is nice and smooth and the steering is fairly light with a surprising amount of feel and weight.
Would I buy one? No. It’s way too expensive and it’s looks are not to my taste. I’d buy the Jeep
Price: $32,548 to $55,520
Engine: 2.0L 4cyl petrol, 107kw/187Nm, 7.7L100k
2.5L 4cyl Petrol, 132/233 8.5
2.2L 4cyl diesel 110,340 5.6