Toyota’s popular RAV4, one of the first SUVs launched, has kept pace with the growing competition in the lucrative market

SINGAPORE (June 17): Every carmaker wants a slice of the lucrative SUV pie, from mainstream Asian manufacturers such as Honda, Nissan and Hyundai to the luxury brands of Maserati, Bentley and Aston Martin. So, it is quite an accolade that the RAV4 has risen to become the world’s best-selling sport utility vehicle. We are now on the fifth generation of the car and the big question is: Has the RAV4 moved with the times and is it still a top choice for an SUV buyer?

The RAV4 has quite a rich history, considering that SUVs are a relatively new category. Toyota launched the car in 1994 and it was a true pioneer. It was a groundbreaking concept in the mid-1990s and a bold move for Toyota. By the way, RAV stands for Recreational Activity Vehicle and the “4” signifies its four-wheel-drive capabilities. This year marks the 22nd year of production for the RAV4 and it has proven to be a cash cow for the Japanese automaker as its fourth most popular model. So, understandably, it has put a lot of time and effort into this latest edition.

The last facelift was in 2012, so you could say a revamp was definitely needed. Not only have the body shape and appearance undergone big improvements, but there is also a refreshed interior and lots of new technology onboard. The new RAV4 is certainly bigger than previous editions. You do not need to look at the dimensions to see this, as it is obvious to the naked eye.


Toyota RAV4
$130,988 including COE
Engine: 1,987cc, four-cylinder, in-line
Power/torque: 170 bhp/203Nm
Fuel consumption: 6l/100km


Top speed: 190kphSome carmakers like to smooth out the lines to make their SUVs look smaller and sportier. But the RAV4 bucks this trend. Instead of smooth curves, it has interesting creases and sharp lines, particularly on the rear. You could describe it as boxy and a little square-looking from the back, which makes it pretty distinctive. So, if you want an SUV that stands out from the crowd, the RAV4 would tick that box.

While the appearance of a car is a major factor when it comes to buying, so too is technology these days. As a result, Toyota has added plenty of gadgets and improved existing ones in the cabin. For starters, the centre console is bigger (1.5in wider) while remaining highly functional. Connectivity is also a big deal to drivers who need to be always in touch with the outside world. So, the Qi wireless charger for smartphones will come in handy as a new feature. The heat-up steering wheel feature may not be used much in tropical Singapore, though.

What is far more useful is the number of cubby holes and spaces to store all your possessions — from coffee cups and water bottles to phones and knick-knacks. I noticed that the cupholders are deeper than those in the previous model as well. Overall, the cabin looks clean and practical, with the rubber controls lending an element of ruggedness.

Overall, the cabin looks clean and practical, with the rubber controls lending an element of ruggedness

This is true to the spirit of the original SUV, which was plain and simple, and designed for off-road antics. Another highlight is the boot space, which is gigantic. I reckon you could throw in two adult bikes in the back without having to fold down the back seats. You start with a generous 547 litres of luggage capacity, which can be extended to 700 litres with the seats folded down.

The RAV4 has a two-litre engine, which may come as a revelation for a car this big. I was expecting a bigger power plant, but it was a pleasant surprise once I started driving, as it definitely did not feel underpowered.

The engine is naturally aspirated — not turbocharged — but will still produce 170bhp and 203Nm of torque. The object here is not to speed your way through Singa­pore’s streets, and the RAV4 will not do that. Instead, it will comfortably transport a full load of adults/children without breaking a sweat.

Handling is also a major plus with this car. Having picked it up from the 10th floor of a car park with a spiralling ramp, I had the perfect chance to see just how well it cornered and steered at moderate speeds. For a big car, it handles very well. I would have liked a sunroof for the RAV4, but when you consider its price, you are still getting a lot of bang for your buck. As the SUV segment grows in choice and popularity, I think the RAV4 is keeping pace quite nicely.

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast