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TOYOTA RAV4

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The latest chapter in the RAV4’s story is about to be written with the arrival of the refreshed fourth generation; launched on local soil exactly two decades after the original.

Signifying its coming of age worldwide, the RAV4 (it stands for Recreational Active Vehicle with four-wheel drive, although front-wheel drive versions were offered virtually since inception) in its latest guise brings a host of upgrades – including a fresh exterior design and some telling interior updates.

RAV4 FRESH DESIGN

Its sleek new look includes revised LED-equipped headlamps, reworked upper and lower grilles, a different front bumper design and changed mud flaps (on the GX models).

The reshaped nose section around the upper front grille has been de-cluttered, simplified, and smoothed out, reflecting the latest Toyota look also seen on the new Auris and Yaris.

The new, slinky tail light design feature LEDs and no visible reverse lights, while the reshaped lower tailgate, revised rear bumper and rear fog lamps sharpens up the rear end.

A stylish shark-fin antenna, underbody valance and new alloy wheel designs for the different grade packages completes the subtle transformation.

IMPROVED INTERIOR

The sensory quality inside the cabin has been improved with better ambient lighting and materials and the layout of the gear shift area and cup holders have been revised.

The storage for sunglasses is now incorporated in the overhead lighting cluster and the ornamentation textures of the interior are now more distinct.

A 4.2-inch colour multi-information display has been added to the instrument binnacle of the top model, and this is coordinated with a centrally positioned 7-inch Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system (on the VX models) with ergonomically enhanced controls and a new high-resolution screen.

On-board infotainment also includes Bluetooth, a rear-view camera; trip data and vehicle information, the climate control profile, door lock and lighting settings, the connection of iPods and MP3 players and audio system management options.

Convenience changes include softened shoulder portions for the front door trim, and systems such as front sonar (VX models) with warning buzzer and back monitor (new on the GX models) with guidelines (VX only).

All models now have an additional 12V connector in the rear, while the GX models gained auto headlamp levelling and an auto door lock system that allow the doors to automatically lock once the vehicle reaches a specific speed.

Trailer Sway Control is now standard on all models, as well as seven airbags and active safety systems such as ABS with EBD, VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) and TRC (Traction Control), while the AWD models has VSC+ and the GX models gain an alarm system.

CLASS LEADER

Since its launch in 1994 more than 5.5 million units of RAV4 have been sold in over 150 countries. After evolution four was launched here in April 2013, Toyota’s market share in the compact SUV segment increased from 3% to 12% – cementing RAV4 as the current sales leader in the small SUV class.

While the exterior and interior has been refreshed, the powertrain line-up was left unchanged.

It still comprises a 107 kW 2.0-litre Valvematic petrol engine mated to either a 6-speed manual or Multidrive S transmission in two-wheel drive format, a 110 kW 2.2-litre D-4D diesel engine coupled with a six-speed manual or auto with all-wheel drive, and a 132 kW 2.5-litre VVT-i petrol engine with six-speed auto transmission and AWD.

ON (AND OFF) THE ROAD

The abilities of these engines, petrol or diesel, are well known – and in the sandy tracks of Southern Mozambique and the changeable road conditions of Northern KwaZulu-Natal (with AWD models) the diesel’s performance was preferable.

Not only was it better in terms of tractability and torque delivery, but also frugality and effectiveness, and the 2.2D AWD GX manual quickly established itself as the ideal model for these conditions.

Still, there is nothing really wrong with the 2.5-litre petrol unit. While it may be a bit lazy, it works quietly and efficiently, but since the launch of the Lexus MX200t with a 175 kW 2.0-litre turbo engine (not a likely option for the RAV, even though it is built on the same platform) spoilt it for us…

The refreshed RAV’s cabin was quiet and rattle-free in all circumstances, thanks to enhanced sound insulation, while its ride quality was well balanced and compliant on all surfaces.

Off-road its performance has now been enhanced by an interactive system that coordinates the Dynamic Torque Control AWD, VSC and power steering, and it works beautifully. However, the placement of the traction control button next to the digital clock boggles the mind.

Pricing for the RAV4 compares well with that of its competitors, with the Ford Kuga ranging from R329,900 to R449,900, while the VW Tiguan, Kia Sportage, Hyundai iX35, Chev Captiva and Mazda CX-5 are all within (or close to) that bracket.

A 3-year/100,000 km warranty, 5-year/ 90,000 km service plan and ToyotaCare Roadside Assistance is included in the range.

LAST WORD

With the latest, refreshed RAV4, Toyota has improved on the attributes that made the fourth generation models great, so if a compact SUV is what you need, go try it. You will probably not be disappointed.

Report by FERDI DE VOS  |  Images © QUICKPIC

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