2016 Toyota RAV4 – review

2016 Toyota RAV4

2016 Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4s are extremely popular.  You see them everywhere.

That’s no surprise.  Auto manufacturers have responded to the buying public’s seemingly insatiable demand for compact CUVs.

North Americans have fallen in love with this class of vehicle.  Think of CUVs and SUVs as the modern day interpretation of the ‘stationwagon’ class of vehicle that was hugely popular in the 1960s.

CUVs/SUVs offer all the practicality of a stationwagon with cargo space galore, but usually built on the platform of a car, thereby benefitting from lighter weight.  Lighter weight means you can use a smaller, more fuel efficient engine.

The RAV4 is really a Toyota Corolla on steroids, bulked up to give that tall, ‘command seating’ position that so many people like.  Its compact size makes the Toyota easy to wheel around town, and the 176 horsepower 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine provides enough power for most people.

Our demo unit was a Limited top-of-the-line model with leather, heated seats, sunroof and just about every option you’d want.  The base RAV4 starts at an enticing $25,240, but that’s with front-wheel-drive.  Unless you live on Vancouver Island, we’d recommend going for the fulltime all-wheel-drive model (starting at $27,505) and enjoy the added security of superior traction in winter driving.

RAV4's instruments are large and easy to read

RAV4’s instruments are large and easy to read

Our demo Limited model has an MSRP of $37,750 – certainly not inexpensive.  The Limited model gives you niceties such as push button start, premium audio system with GPS and satellite radio, dynamic radar cruise control (a nice safety feature that automatically slows the vehicle when approaching slower vehicles) and numerous trim pieces, plus larger 235/55R18 in place of the 225/65R17s that come on the more pedestrian models

Plenty of cargo space for groceries or a mountain bike

Plenty of cargo space for groceries or a mountain bike

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Driving

On the road, the RAV4 does everything a solid, practical CUV should.  Acceleration is decent given the 4-cylinder engine – don’t get into a drag race with a 185 horsepower Mazda CX-5, or either of the two powerhouses of the compact CUV segment – the Subaru Forester XT or Ford Escape EcoBoost, both of which have turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engines.  If you do, all you’ll see is Subie and Ford’s liftgate disappearing into the distance.

While the Toyota’s 2.5-litre engine certainly feels peppy enough around town, accelerating smoothly from a stop is challenging until you get to know the RAV’s idiosyncratic throttle, that has a very quick tip-in.  Give the car a little throttle and the Toyota leaps unexpectedly in response.

If we have one complaint about the RAV4, it’s the unusual amount of noise inside the cabin at highway speed.  The rear tires and suspension generate more noise than is average for the class.

Button allows second row head restraint to fold down so backrest can be lowered for increased cargo hauling space

Button allows second row head restraint to fold down so backrest can be lowered for increased cargo hauling space

Overall

Overall, we liked the 2016 Toyota RAV4.  It’s an ‘honest’ vehicle – what you see is what you get.  Toyota has not hidden any surprises in this attractive package.  Of the RAV4s main competitors, we like the new Honda CRV for its class-leading easy-to-fold-down second row, the Subaru Forester for its impeccable (Toyota-like) reliability and high re-sale value, and Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape for their handling capabilities.

There is a lot of competition for the RAV4.  But as a brand, Toyota is still the industry’s leader when it comes to reliability, durability and low cost of ownership in the long run.

Highly recommended.

Likes

  • Modern styling
  • Toyota build quality, reliability, and durability
  • Fuel efficency

Dislikes

  • Noisier on the highway than many other compact CUVs
  • Rapid throttle tip-in takes getting used to

 

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