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Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4
Bulks Up To Emulate Land Cruiser
Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4
Toyota RAV4

Audi, VW, Skoda, Volvo, Others Will Soon Offer Similar “Cute-Utes”1
Million Compact SUVs Expected By 2009 As Family Hatches Dwindle
**** out of 5

LISBON, Portugal
The RAV4 is the leading “cute-ute” in Europe, and Toyota’s latest redesign is likely to keep it that way.

    The RAV4 also features in my search for the perfect SUV for £20,000. This apparently endless and fruitless search has taken so long I’m tempted to raise the price to £25,000. The RAV4, a terrific SUV in almost every way, fails to make the grade. It is too expensive, and doesn’t offer a prime requirement – a diesel with an automatic gearbox. My next SUV test will be the Kia Sorrento. Watch this space for the verdict.

    Between now and 2009, compact utility vehicles are expected to be the faster growing segment in Europe, and Toyota’s market leadership will come under attack from new entrants like the Audi Q5, Volvo XC-50, a Mercedes and maybe even a Jaguar.

    Despite all these new vehicles, the RAV4 is likely to stay in first place. 

    Toyota originated the compact utility 4x4 sector when the first RAV4 (stands for Recreational Active Vehicle) made its debut at the Geneva car show in 1994, and since then, despite being taunted from the sidelines as a “cute-ute” or “soft-roader”, the vehicle has scored a remarkable success with sales of more than 1.8 million worldwide by the end of 2004, with about 650,000 in Europe where it has been the best-selling SUV. Market share was a leading 21 per cent in 2005, down from 26 per cent in 2004, as more models appeared. The plan is to expand global sales from the current 190,000 odd to about 300,000 a year.

    For the last 4 years, sales have hit around 100,000 in Europe. Toyota says sales in 2006 will also reach 100,000 again, after this 3rd generation RAV4 hits dealer forecourts across the region in February.

    Car market analyst JDPower agrees with Toyota’s RAV4 sales projection for 2006, and expects the market as a whole to hit 650,000, rising to break through 1 million in 2009.

    Compact SUVs, crossovers
    “The market is going to get a bit more crowded, with the Audi Q5 in 2007, a couple of Gulfs – a 4x4 and a crossover, plus the Skoda Yeti – that’s 4 compact SUVs or crossovers from the Volkswagen Group,” said JDPower analyst Al Bedwell.

    Current competition includes the Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, and Land Rover Freelander.

    Bedwell reckons that the RAV4 sales will remain steady through 2009 at about 100,000 a year and will retain its market leadership, but its share will have dropped to around 10 per cent. By then the Honda CR-V will be in second place with about 6 per cent, followed closely by the Golf, Nissan X-Trail and BMW X3.

  
    Samsung for Renault
    Bedwell says look for more competition from Renault in 2007 with a Samsung produced vehicle. In late 2007 Peugeot and Citroen will get Mitsubishi based compact SUVs and the following year, expect a Mercedes X class and Volvo XC-50.

    “Buyers will be moving away from conventional family cars like the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra and Ford Mondeo, and maybe from the class above like the BMW 3-series. This is pretty much the fastest growing sector between now and the end of the decade,” Bedwell said.

  With all these impressive sounding vehicles on the horizon, it’s not surprising that Toyota has made the RAV4 look just like a baby Land Cruiser. It’s a bit longer, wider and taller with a longer wheel-base than the old one, and the new design has puffed out extremities which instantly suggest its much bigger and much more expensive sibling. It’s as if the old one had been bulking up in the gym.

    Premium compact SUVs
    With this 3rd iteration, there is no short-wheel base 3-door version.    Toyota, at the launch of the new vehicle here, even talked about entering a new sub-group, premium compact SUVs, where it dared to threaten the expensive BMW X3.

    “The quality, performance and high specification of the new T180 model (top-of-the-range RAV4) moves the RAV4 firmly into the premium market, where the BMW X3 is established as the key player,” Toyota said.

    “Comparing price and equipment levels, the Toyota represents exceptional value, without compromising quality. In terms of on-the-road price, it is virtually identical (in Britain) to the X3 2.0d, but when like for like equipment levels are taken into account, the Toyota leaves the BMW standing,” said Toyota, and listed features which the RAV includes which would cost £5,500 more for the BMW.

    Toyota’s claims quality for the new RAV4 which matches the best, and it’s hard to argue. The interior is beautifully constructed with the best materials. The design of the dials and controls are understated, practical and attractive. Cubbies are everywhere. The rears seats fold flat.

    Improvements over predecessor
    On the road the vehicle drives well, with many improvements over its predecessor. The handling is sharper and more responsive, thanks to the redesigned suspension. In the front is a MacPherson strut system with an anti-roll bar and at the rear double wishbones with diagonally-mounted shock absorbers which cause less intrusion in the load area. The electronic power steering makes the steering more responsive. For those rare excursions off-road, the RAV4 automatic has DownHill Assist Control, while most manuals have Hill-Start Assist Control.

    Toyota was proud of its new Integrated Active Drive System (IADS), included in all models except the entry level, which combines the alphabet soup of computerised controls of the car’s dynamics and helps the driver keep control if the onset of a skid or slide is detected. Toyota says this is a first in the sector, and hired part of an air-force base north of Lisbon with enough space to allow road-testers to explore the power of the RAV4’s new technology on a skid-pan without harming themselves, or others.

    The flagship T180 is powered by a 2.2 litre 175 bhp 4-cylinder common rail diesel engine with piezoelectric injectors which zips the car from zero to 62 mph in 9.3 seconds. Combined cycle fuel economy is said to be 40.4 mpg (7.0 l/km). This motor provided excellent acceleration and quiet cruising ability.

    No diesel automatic
    Other power plants are a 136bhp diesel which Toyota says will be the biggest seller in Europe, and 2.0 litre, 150 bhp VVT-I petrol engine. RAV4s for sale in the U.S. will have a 2.4 litre 4-cylinder or a 3.5 litre V6. The European diesels aren’t available with automatic transmissions, with Toyota saying there is not enough demand to justify this. The diesels have 6-speed manual boxes, the petrol’s five-speeders, with a 4-speed auto option.

    All models have 9 airbags, including one protecting the driver’s knee.

    Prices start at £18,995 (€27,800), for an XT3 2.0 litre petrol engine without IADS, and peak at £26,995 (€39,400) for the T-180. Other designations are XT4 and XT5. The T-180 includes sunroof, leather seats, cruise control, satellite navigation, smart entry and start, and heated electrically adjusted seats. The T-180 also has run-flat tyres, and you can recognise this model by the lack of a spare wheel mounted on the rear door, which hinges from the side, not the roof.

    The RAV4 is an impressive machine with looks, and prices, that suggest a strong link with its bigger family member, the Land Cruiser. All those new entrants at least know what they have to beat.


Neil Winton – January 28, 2006
Toyota RAV4 T180
Engine:
2.2 litre D-4D 4-cylinder diesel
Power:
175 bhp
Gearbox:
six speed manual
Drive:
four-wheels
Acceleration:
0-62 mph/100 km/h – 9.3 seconds
Top Speed:
124 mph-200 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined 40.4 mpg-7.0 l/km
CO2:
185 g/km
Length:
4,315 mm
Width:
1,855
Height:
1,720
Weight: 1,595 kg
Suspension front:
MacPherson strut/rear double wishbone
Insurance group:
13E
Price:
£26,955/€39,400
Competition:
Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Land Rover Freelander, Mitsubishi Outlander, Suzuki Grand Vitara, BMW X3.
Would I buy one?
Not until there’s a diesel automatic.
Rating:
**** out of 5
For:
high quality, versatility, inoffensive looks, drives well
Against:
expensive, no automatic diesel

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