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FIRST DRIVE | 2022 Toyota Rav4 raises the game with extra kit and revised styling

06 April 2022 - 11:09
A striking shade of blue helps it stand out.
A striking shade of blue helps it stand out.
Image: Supplied

Vehicles evolve differently. Some progress with slight alterations, gradual tweaks to the recipe as the lineage moves along. Take the Porsche 911, for example. It has grown considerably in dimension, but the core template set by the original remains clear.   

Others change dramatically. Such as the Toyota Rav4. It started out life as a dainty pseudo-off-roader available in three-door and a partial convertible. There was also a roomier five-door version: the body format in which the model is exclusively available in today.    

But its persona as a cheerful accessory for the urban jungle and occasional outdoorsy exploits has changed. Today, the Rav4 is positioned foremost as a family-friendly C-segment sport-utility vehicle. It takes company in rivals with equally serious characters, such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V and the Hyundai Tucson, of which a new version was launched earlier this month.    

The Toyota RAV4 wears an aggressive look.
The Toyota RAV4 wears an aggressive look.
Image: Supplied

The current Rav4 was launched in SA in March 2019. The range has  seen additional derivatives, including a hybrid version that arrived last year. This month the manufacturer revised the range further, adopting a two-grade strategy offering customers the choice between GX-R trim at the bottom and VX denoting the more generously-equipped of the pair. Visually, both sport subtle differences in grille treatment.

Basic kit in the GX-R includes leatherette upholstery with orange cabin accents, 18-inch alloys with a smoked appearance, rain-sensing wipers, keyless-entry, reverse camera, cruise control, heated and ventilated seats, and power seat adjustment for the driver. This is in addition to a touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charging, a reverse camera and five USB ports.    

The VX ups the ante with power seat adjustment for the passenger, front and rear park distance control, a panoramic-view monitor and a digital rear-view mirror that uses rear-facing cameras to project a wide-angle image onto the mirror surface. It also serves up a suite of driver assistance features — adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and blind-spot monitoring. In terms of safety, both have dual front and side curtains and driver’s knee airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and vehicle stability control.    

Interior quality is of the usual Toyota standard.
Interior quality is of the usual Toyota standard.
Image: Supplied

We drove the GX-R in hybrid specification. It uses a 2.5l four-cylinder normally-aspirated petrol unit aided by two electric motors. One is at the front axle, the other is at the rear. In isolation, the engine produces 131kW and 221Nm. The electric motors are capable of chipping in with 88kW and 202Nm (front axle), with the rear-mounted motor rated at 40kW and 121Nm. But before you brag to your friends, let it be known that adding these figures up does not mean you have 259kW and 544Nm at your disposal all at once.

Allow the manufacturer to explain: “Toyota Motor Corporation doesn’t provide an aggregate figure, and in technical terms, the following forms part of the reasoning: due to the variable interface of the electric motor it doesn’t provide a constant power and torque contribution.  

“Due to the reduction processes in the transaxle and transmission, the state of charge of the battery and relevant RPM point of the petrol engine, the power and torque delivered to the wheels is constantly varied.”

Its hybrid powertrain is frugal.
Its hybrid powertrain is frugal.
Image: Supplied

Claimed consumption is 4.5l/100km. Toyota says a range of 1,145km could be expected, in theory, from its 55l tank.    

The drive is smooth, for the most part, save for the characteristic up-and-down drone as the continuously-variable transmission (CVT) does its thing. That annoying acoustic signature is only pronounced on the freeway as you adjust pace in accordance with the flow of traffic. Around town it is a lot quieter as the electric aspect of the powertrain comes into play. Its interior is especially pleasant with quality materials and comfortable seats. Luggage capacity is a capacious 733l.    

This is notably larger than the 440l offered by its sibling, the Corolla Cross. But unless you desperately require the additional space and all-wheel drive, the Cross is likely to be a more compelling alternative. Especially considering that the Rav4 starts at R606,600 (2.0 GX-R CVT AWD) and tops out at R723,200. The range-topping Corolla Cross 1.8 XR CVT (hybrid) will cost you R448,300.

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