Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 13, 2020
The 2020 Toyota RAV4 is an SUV that we would happily buy with our own money, without second guessing ourselves, without feeling the need to haggle, and without a doubt in our minds that it would be the best use of our hard-earned cash. There, review done. Toyota did not pay us to say that. Interested in our rationale? Keep reading then.
We just spent a week with the new RAV4 Limited AWD and were delightfully impressed by its on-road manners, simple interior layout, top-notch cabin insulation, and sublime ride quality. There aren’t many compact SUVs out there that can match what Toyota has clearly achieved. It goes without saying, telling your friends that you drive a RAV4 automatically slots you into the dad-bod group, and it won’t garner you much praise from fellow motoring enthusiasts, but the RAV4 will get the job done, whether it be family hauling, errand running, mattress moving, or boat towing.
It won’t break the bank either. The base RAV4 starts at $28,090 and comes with front-wheel drive, heated front seats, Toyota’s entire suite of safety features, and blind spot monitoring. Hike up to the fully-loaded Limited AWD model ( $41,250) as ours was, and you’ll get nifty tech like brake-based torque vectoring, the ability to disconnect the rear axle to save fuel, ventilated front seats, and a 360-degree camera. These are all features that used to be reserved for top-of-the-line premium cars. Now they’re found in your run-of-the-mill RAV4. The fact that you can spend $40 grand and get all that is just staggering. Some say that the golden era of automobiles is ending. I’d say with the RAV4, it’s never shone brighter. But the best deal of the lineup and our preferred trim, is the XLE AWD ($33,790), hammering down the volume with a power moonroof, heated steering wheel, dual-zone auto air conditioning, Apple CarPlay, and keyless start and entry.
Under the hood of every RAV4 except the Hybrid, is a stout 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder that produces 203 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, but the biggest advantage the RAV4 has over its competitors like the Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester is that it uses a traditional 8-speed automatic transmission, not that pesky, droning CVT that buzzes up the revs until kingdom come. As such, build up of power comes naturally, predictably, and is less intrusive to the ears. No, the four-pot is not as spritely as the V6 that came years before it, and it can get noisy when you ask it for full beans, but it’s competent enough to give you sufficient forward propulsion when you need it, and stay behind the curtains when you don’t.
The RAV4 is far from being a graceful dancing partner but I’m sure the majority of its owners will appreciate the soft ride and agreeable handling. I’d say it feels more planted and solid than a Subaru Forester, especially when negotiating tighter turns. There’s substance to the drive, and inspires confidence in both low and high speeds. The RAV4 is very fuel efficient as well. With an equal mix of city and highway driving, we averaged an impressive 7.8 L/100km, and while it’s not enough to trump the 5.8 L/100 km average we had with the RAV4 Hybrid, it beats many other small economy cars that we’ve tested. In that light, the Hybrid is actually our preferred variant of the RAV4. If you can get over the slight bump in price and that annoying CVT transmission, you won’t ever look back. Yes, the Hybrid is even slower than the gasoline model, but the gains in fuel economy fit the SUVs mojo enough that I couldn’t find any other valid reason to choose otherwise. It outsells the Prius for a reason.
This is clearly the best looking RAV4 to date and that’s not a compliment to take lightly. We hardly ever call these family haulers pretty, but this Toyota nails it down with a bold front end and a conventional rear that amalgamates together to create a fair amount of road presence, especially in the new TRD Off-Road trims. It won’t catch your eye the way a Mercedes does, but you will notice it amongst the millions of other SUVs in the concrete jungle, surely more so than the hunchback Honda CR-V and lukewarm Mazda CX-5.
Being an urban family SUV, the RAV4 interior favours functionality and doesn’t play party tricks. Every button and panel is purposefully positioned and placed ergonomically for fast, intuitive, and easy inputs from both the driver and passenger. There are cozy seats padded with soft leather on high traffic surfaces, and a meaty gear shifter within arm’s reach. Aside from the swaths of leather, I really don’t see why the RAV4 can’t hang up there with premium offerings like the familial Lexus NX.
The 8-inch touchscreen houses hard buttons on each side, and is perched right on top of the dashboard instead of being cleverly integrated into it like the CR-V. Still, the cabin is spacious and six-foot adults will find comfort in any one of the five available seats. When comparing top-trim specs of the CR-V, Forester, and RAV4, I’m going to go with the latter. It exudes eco-luxury with hints from Lexus in every dial and knob. The CR-V and Forester on the other hand clearly use more hard black plastics and just aren’t as appealing or as soft to the touch.
The perennially best-selling RAV4 has always been on the top of our shortlist, not because of its legendary reliability or that it’s already one of the most popular SUVs on the block, but because Toyota adeptly backs up those claims with a polished powertrain, spacious interior, and solid ride quality. Its stellar fuel economy and excellent fit and finish are just cherries on top of the sundae. If you’re looking for a competent five-seat family hauler that won’t break the bank, the RAV4 is the way to go. Looking to save even more money in the long run? Look for the Hybrid.
Model: 2020 Toyota RAV4 Limited AWD
Paint Type: Ruby Flare Pearl
Base Price: $41,250
Price as Tested: $41,250
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,596 / 1,854 / 1,707
Curb weight (kg): 1,642
Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower: 203 hp @ 6,600 rpm
Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 7.8
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.2 / 7.1 / 8.2