Right off the bat – as Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain't bad
Strange how your subconscious works sometimes. I found myself humming a little of Meat Loaf's 'Two out of Three Ain't Bad' a lot over the course of the time I had this RAV4. I don't know all the words and I am by no means a fan.
I know someone who is and had been eulogising the recent concert in Dublin, so maybe that was working its mental magic, too.
Sorry, before taking this pseudo psychoanalysis any further, it is important to understand the following.
I had fairly clinically reduced this car to three main elements within a relatively short time frame. Two of the three were extremely positive. The other was not. So the old mind, God help us, must have got to work and scanned the archives of grey matter like a juke box selecting a record. And up it came with 'Two out of three ain't bad'.
One of the two:
The RAV4 scores big on price – it is €5,000 less expensive than the old one. These days there is nothing to beat a great dollop of lolly slashed off the cost of anything. Invariably, the first question anyone asks is the price of the car I'm driving.
Toyota has been able to cut the price because it came up with a smaller and more efficient engine. It costs €300 a year less in road tax. And there is little doubt Toyota has cut the price anyway on top of that. There's a savage marketplace out there. You've got to have the sticker-number better than your rivals. One up.
Two of the two:
Alongside that this new SUV, now in its fourth generation, is a good deal roomier, is smarter to look at and, to be fair, it has created a nice bit of extra space and stowage.
It is 155mm longer and 25mm wider. Importantly, it is 60mm lower. You know why? Because people don't want big, tall burly SUVs; they want sort-of-SUVs. Some call them 'crossovers'. I'm fed up with that word already. They have two-wheel-drive, mostly, and are heavily driven by design as well as decent handling. But they have to be flexible as well as practical; the real secret in Toyota's case is that it has increased the wheelbase (+100mm) because that provides for better cabin and boot space.
The two-wheel drive version I had on test is typical of what people seem to want. It drove particularly well on the road; the engine had plenty of pulling power (torque) and the 125bhp engine – there is a more powerful 2.2-litre – gave me decent response when I needed it. Well put together. I liked the high driving position. I think this is one of the biggest things in a compact SUV and why drivers feel safer – they have a much better view of the road.
All the combinations of seating, folding, flattening, luggage room were there, too. We used some of them. And it looks so much better: sharp angles across the nose/bonnet/light clusters; enough of what I call 'visual muscle' to make it look the part of Compact SUV 2013. Nice package.
One of the three:
I just hated the dashboard. Apart from a minor crib that a lot of the stuff you want being over too far to the left, Toyota used this awful bronzy plastic to adorn the Luna version I had. I feel it let the whole cabin down as a result.
Every time I got in, it glared at me. I glared back. Why do this? Here's a splendid motor. It doesn't need cheap gestures like this. Now it might not seem that huge a criticism. In and of itself it probably isn't I suppose, but I felt it was a bit like a lovely room ruined by the curtains.
Enough to put me off? I'd buy the car, no doubt, but I'd get a version adorned differently. Liked the drive a lot; the more I drove, the more I warmed to it. Still one of the giants of the genre.
And, in anything these days, two out of three isn't bad.
* Toyota RAV4 Crossover/SUV, 2.0 D-4D (125bhp, 127g/km, €270 road tax), front-wheel-drive.
* Standard equipment includes: 17-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights, front fogs, air con, Bluetooth, audio/phone switches on steering wheel, electric windows, USB/aux-in connectors for iPod and MP3, tyre-pressure warning indicator light, rear seat folding, seven airbags, Hill-start Assist, stop/start system and temporary spare tyre.
Luna spec (on test) adds: Toyota Touch multimedia system, 6.1-inch colour touch screen display, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, rear view camera, control of iPod via touch screen, roof rails and front seats with higher seat bolsters.
* Price from €27,995; Luna version from €29,995. Remember delivery and related charges are extra.