2010 Toyota Rav4
Base price: $21,675 – $27,810
As tested: $29,808
MPG: 19 city/26 highway
- Excellent reliability
- Safety features, crash test ratings
- Styling is dated
- Better choices from competing models
- Uninspiring to drive
By Jim Prueter
RAV4 still good but showing its age
It has been awhile since I last drove and tested Toyota’s popular small crossover, the RAV4. The third generation RAV4 got a complete makeover for 2006, and a modest facelift last year. Unfortunately not much has changed for 2010. I say unfortunately because driving a RAV4 is enough to bore the daylights out of you.
In most respects the RAV4 makes all the sense in the world, with a strong emphasis on functionality and practicality. There’s nothing superfluous or portentous here; it’s just a journeyman of a vehicle that’s hard to fault. Sensible enough.
But no one will call it beautiful and it won’t turn any heads as it passes by on the street. Oh, there’s a sport appearance package available on the four-wheel-drive V-6 modeland 4-cylinder models that hides the protuberant spare tire, and includes rear door chrome accents, run-flat-tires, stainless steel exhaust tip, body colored rearview mirrors, and a few trim items that marginally dress up the otherwise pallid interior.
The RAV4 uses excellent 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 3.5-liter V-6 engines transplanted form the Camry. The V-6 offers a boost in horsepower to 269 from 179 in the four-cylinder offering.
RAV4 is offered in three models — base, Sport and Limited — with front or four-wheel drive, with prices ranging from $21,675 to $27,810.
We tested a RAV4 Sport all-wheel-drive model equipped with the V-6, a five-speed automatic transmission and seating for five. The second row seats both slide and recline. RAV4 is one of only two small crossovers that offer three rows of seating, which is an advantage. But it costs an additional $1619 and provides only a modicum of seating space.
The V-6 is noticeably quicker than the four-cylinder previously tested. But, given that most people are convinced that fuel prices will skyrocket once again, the latter may be the smartest choice. Case in point: Six-cylinder engines are not available on the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson or Subaru Forester.
Still RAV4 is a good all-around performer with a comfortable ride, compliant handling with good agility, but it just isn’t very inspiring to drive. Braking was very good.
Front seats are comfortable, but this tall driver wished for extra thigh and lower back support. Even with a telescoping feature, we found the steering wheel to be too far away for our liking.
Cargo and storage area are good, but with the third-row option, space behind the seat is scarce at best.
Our test vehicle came equipped with a navigation system ($1550) but we would recommend saving the money and picking up a portable navigation system for a fraction of the price.
Standard safety gear includes both stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, driver and passenger front and seat-mounted side air bags, front and second row roll-sensing side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system and child safety door locks. RAV4 has earned the highest possible safety ratings from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
RAV4 was the first of its kind car-based vehicle when it was introduced 14 years ago, and remains the number three best-selling small crossover behind Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. But the competition has caught up, not only in terms of sales, but also in refinement, interior and exterior styling (without the rear swing gate that is both obsolete and takes up a lot of room while compromising parking), and better ride and handling.
Most have longer warranties and are more fun to drive. If Toyota wants to retake the sales lead or remain near the top in this segment, it needs to think about the next generation RAV4. It’s either that or watching as other makers continue to challenge and pass it by.