The Toyota RAV4 was America’s bestselling non-pickup in 2017.
The crossover beat out the Camry as passenger cars continue a sales decline.
We reviewed the vehicle in early 2017, and while the liked it, there were some drawbacks.
No segment is currently more important in the auto industry than SUVs.
Both compact and mid-size crossover SUVs account for 35% of all cars and trucks sold in the United States. In 2017, the Toyota RAV4 surpassed its rival, the Honda CR-V, in sales – and in the process also beat out the Toyota Camry sedan as America’s bestselling vehicle that isn’t a pickup truck.
That’s stunning for an ageing platform. The vehicle has been in Toyota’s lineup for two decades, and the fourth-generation was rolled out in 2013.
We got a chance to drive the RAV4 over the course of a week. Here’s what we thought of Toyota’s most important crossover.
Danielle Muoio wrote an earlier version of this post.
I spent a lot of time in the RAV4, mostly under pretty unpleasant circumstances. I sat in it through two hours of bumper-to-bumper New York traffic. I also got lost in on the way to a sushi restaurant in New Jersey. I like to think that means I experienced the RAV4 under standard, everyday driving circumstances in the New York-New Jersey area.
The Toyota RAV4 starts at $US24,350, but the 2017 Platinum all-wheel-drive model I tested here costs $US36,150. That’s a little pricier than the premium version of the Honda CR-V, but still well within the same price range.
The car is 183.5-inches long with a 104.7-inch wheelbase. That’s only three inches longer than the CR-V, and yet the RAV4 feels so much bigger.
It has the kind of mileage you would expect for an SUV of its size: 22 MPG in the city and 28 MPG on the highway. The vehicle comes with a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine that cranks out 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque.
The SUV feels very durable and stable. It’s something I would be more than comfortable taking on a long trip — I never once felt a pothole or sensed an uneven road surface. I can’t say that about every compact crossover.
But at the same time, the vehicle doesn’t feel truly compact. While there’s plenty of space both for passengers and cargo, the downside is it doesn’t feel as zippy as a Nissan Rogue or Subaru Forester.
The RAV4 hunkers down on the highway. You don’t weave in and out of lanes in this SUV, you keep it at 65 mph in the middle lane.
Toyotas aren’t exactly known as fun cars. But the compact SUV space is only becoming more crowded, so if you don’t enjoy driving one, there are plenty of others to choose from. For me, the RAV4 simply wasn’t an enjoyable ride. Sturdy, yes. Reliable, certainly. But fun? Not so much.
The RAV4 accelerates from zero to 60 mph in about 8 seconds, a bit slower than the CR-V and the Honda’s slightly more robust engines, one of which comes with a turbocharger. The RAV4 also felt sluggish to pass on the highway. The transmission is a six-speed automatic that can be slipped into a manual mode.
Essentially, the allure of a smaller SUV is that it gives you plenty of passenger and cargo space while still being nimble. The Toyota RAV4 is anything but nimble.
The RAV4 is comfortable from the moment you sit in it and has great sight lines. It’s without a doubt easy to drive — you won’t spend an inordinate amount of time fidgeting with the settings, trying to get everything just right for a trip.
And with its size, the RAV4 comfortably seats five with quite a bit of legroom to spare.
The Platinum-grade RAV4, just introduced this year, comes with a suite of new tech features that keeps the new model fresh without being flashy. Like a lot of cars on the market today, it comes with a smart key fob you can keep in your pocket — because you push a button to fire it up.
The Platinum version also comes with a heated steering wheel that gets to just the right temperature very quickly.
Toyota offers a lot of safety options for its 2017 RAV4 models, like lane departure warning and steering assist. The safety features aren’t overly sensitive or distracting. As an added bonus, the warning signal for when you do drift is very soothing. I never once felt startled, which allowed me to respond productively instead of haphazardly.
I also appreciated that the RAV4 made all of its assistive driving features accessible to the left of the driver.
Various infotainment systems and dashboard menus could be operated using the steering wheel controls. Hands in the wheel, eyes on the road!
Our RAV4 also came with a birds-eye view camera that made reversing a breeze. It also alerted me when I was getting to close to an obstacle in the front, which was helpful pulling a vehicle of this size in a tight spot.
The infotainment system is very clean. It’s not overly cluttered with apps and although it has some fun additions like a weather app built in, Toyota knew to keep navigation and audio front-and-center.
The car comes with SiriusXM all-access satellite radio, and I never experienced any glaring problems or hiccups using the system.
I unfortunately can’t say the same for navigation, which is a problem considering Toyota doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
I will say the navigation interface is solid — it remembers frequently used addresses and autofills locations when you’re entering a new place.
That being said, the interface could be better. It does show directions in the instrument cluster, but in my experience they were inconsistently displayed. Not ideal when you’re in an unfamiliar place.
The nav also wasn’t very flexible when it came to choosing a route. It didn’t show different options or let you choose a faster route if one become available. If I missed a turn, it lagged when finding an alternative.
Most in-car navigation systems have their bugs. I’ve yet to experience a system that wasn’t frustrating on some level. But my inability to default to Apple CarPlay felt like a big drawback.
Overall, the Toyota RAV4 feels luxurious — for a mass-market compact SUV — without breaking the bank. Its size could either be its biggest asset or biggest drawback, depending on what you’re looking for. I’d recommend the RAV4 for anyone looking for a safe car with good cargo and passenger capacity. But it’s a bit behind the times on the technology front.
NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos