Monday 18 December 2017

New RAV4 is bigger, bolder, better... and a staggering €5,000 cheaper

Philip Hedderman

Credit where credit's due. Toyota were the first out of the blocks with the compact/crossover SUV – they just didn't know it.

Rewind back to 1995 and the birth of the RAV4, or to the great unwashed ... the Recreational Active Vehicle with 4 wheel drive.

This funky little motor was such a breath of fresh air, it\[Mark Hayes\] literally blew the lid off the motoring industry and rewrote the book on how it looked at customers and their individual needs.

With its elevated driving position and rugged good looks, Irish motorists were completely smitten – especially women who fell hook, line and sinker for its quirky charm.

Fast forward 18 years and the C-SUV is now so popular that the segment is putting massive pressure on the traditional saloon as the primary choice for growing families.

Unfortunately though,  Toyota took their eye off the ball and a host of newcomers – namely Nissan, Hyundai and Kia entered the fray with similar products at knockdown prices.

Even though the pretenders to the crown were inferior in quality and lacked the sparkling personality of the RAV, they have made massive inroads into the segment – especially the Qashqai, which has a huge slice of the pie now. Smaller engines, bigger cabins and more recently a seven- seater option,  proved too tempting for even the most loyal customer.

But that's all about to change with the launch of the fourth generation RAV4 which is longer (155mm), wider (25mm) and lower (60mm) than it's predecessor.

The result is greatly increased cabin space, limo-like legroom in the rear and a boot with an extra 100mm taking the luggage capacity to 547 litres.

Most importantly, though, is the new engine line-up which includes a 2.0 litre D4D 2WD version, which  sees emissions slashed by a massive 18.6pc.

The punchy 125bhp diesel 4 pot now has a CO2 count of 127g/km with road tax of €270 – a saving of €300 on the outgoing model.

This in turn means Yaris-like economy with this hulking beast returning an astounding 57mpg or 4.9l/100kms.

But the greatest change of all is the price, which is a staggering €5,000 cheaper than its older brother.

 The price alone puts it back in contention and it is now destined to slug it out more with the Ford Kuga and the equally new Mazda CX5.

The drive and level of comfort defy the SUV tag on the back, as does the generous level of equipment. The entry-level Aura comes with  17 alloys, snazzy LED daytime running lights, air con, Bluetooth, touch screen multi media system with rear view camera (Luna models) Hill Start, USB/iPod/ MP3 connectivity, tyre pressure warning and a spare tyre (albeit a space saver type).

Opt for Luna and you'll get roof rails, chrome grille, cruise control, leather dash and door panels, steering and dual zone climate control.

If you’re feeling rally flush, the Sol spec comes with 18 inch alloys, full leather (choice of black or grey) heated seats, retractable door mirrors, parking sensors and power assisted boot opening/closing.

A fine bus.

Prices from €27,995.

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