13 FEBRUARY 2012

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Article from BTNews 13 FEBRUARY 2012

MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

Toyota RAV4 SR 2.2D
Character retained but with more class

Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) first became apparent to me with the launch of the original Toyota RAV 4 about a decade ago.  It was a compact 4x4 (with a cheaper two-wheel drive sibling) that cleverly combined robust road performance with an ability to shuffle off into the undergrowth with impunity.

That original model and subsequent developments have proved a rip-roaring success, the message clearly getting through that there was hot hatch back performance to be had with this versatile vehicle to the degree that I suspect a strong customer following developed.

I have come across a number of enthusiastic owners now on at least their third RAV4.

Fast forward to the present and I found myself enjoying the comfort and refinement provided by the back seat of my friend’s new generation RAV4.  Suffice to say, he has always sworn by prestige brand German saloon and estate cars.  Not only was he applauding the lifestyle of his latest acquisition, he was also constantly telling me of the fuel savings he was enjoying, especially on his long cross-Europe journeys when fully laden.

Testing an example for myself it is obvious that Toyota has wisely retained the handling panache so evident with the RAV4 design while engineering in a more composed, more insulated ride through the fully independent suspension system.

The body lines of this 5-door vehicle are smoother and there is now no spare wheel bolted to the side-hinged rear door, in fact no spare wheel at all, unless you pay extra and sacrifice some luggage space.

What is clearly evident is that this new generation version is altogether a more generous vehicle, notable for space and comfort but also for overall build quality.  One glance at the stylish and well-equipped fascia tells a strong story.  Additionally, this top specification SR version includes leather upholstery and a power adjustable driver’s seat.

The driving position is excellent with good pedal spacing, adjustable steering column and a generous sized yet very supportive seat.  Indeed, all five seats are of good size and head and leg space in the rear is close to limousine dimensions.

Luggage capacity with all five seats in operation is comparable to a medium sized estate car at 586 litres and up to 1,469 litres with all rear seats folded or somewhere in between if the central ski hatch or part of the rear seating is flat folded.

Useful innovations are the reversible luggage floor mat and the under floor storage where a puncture repair kit is located.  There are also netted pockets in rear door panel and the availability of a full height dog guard which could also be employed to prevent light items of luggage moving forwards under hard braking conditions.

The RAV4 range starts with a two-wheel drive version using a 6-speed manual transmission, a 2.0-litre all wheel drive version and, clearly the more popular 2.2-litre turbo diesel models employing (as tested) a 6-speed automatic transmission.  Basically there are two specifications, both highly equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century motorists.

Toyota is justifiably faring reasonably well under an economic climate that hardly favours the motor industry and checking out this RAV4 indicated the efforts that the company has made to justify this success.  For example, the power and transmission units have benefitted from the company’s Optimal Drive programme aimed at greater overall economy, performance and lowered emissions but also introducing far greater levels of mechanical refinement.

I found the RAV4 to be amazingly quiet, even from cold start up and clearly very flexible, the 150 bhp engine delivering a claimed top speed of 115 mph and with 60 mph from rest achieved in about 10.5 seconds.  The combined fuel consumption is a quoted 39.2 mpg and based on my experience with the test car and my colleague’s similar car I would suggest that about 35 mpg is attainable under mixed conditions.

The 6-speed selectable automatic transmission is a real gem – play with it or leave it to its own responses.

The ability to eat up motorway miles in a noiseless and unruffled manner (cruise control and Stability control are standard) is a strong testament to the car’s far better than average aerodynamics for this class of vehicle plus the ability to automatically transfer the power effort to the right wheels at the right time.  The ride is smooth and easily copes well with bad road surfaces.

Braking performance inspires confidence even when fully laden and distances are short, the big discs with anti-lock don’t require a lot of effort and there is also some engine braking through the all wheel drive system on lift off which adds to the balanced braking effect.

Dislikes are few.  I would certainly want a spare wheel and the turning circle feels a bit large though driver vision is aided by audible paring sensors and a rear view camera.

Likes are so numerous.  Here’s a few – the automatic folding of the large door mirrors when remote plip locking the car, the cooled glove compartment (not just for drinks but for any necessary medications), the easy satellite navigation system, the effective (dusk sensing) headlights and the dual zone air conditioning and heating. There’s so much more to discover.

Safety?  There are at least an air bag for everyone in the car plus one for the driver’s knees and the front head rests have anti whip-lash technology.

Toyota claim that the RAV 4 is the world’s most successful compact SUV. I am not surprised.

That it comes with a 5-year/100,000 mile warranty is testimony to the proven reliability record.
 
 Rivals include: Kia Sportage, Honda CRV, SsangYong Korado, Peugeot 3008, Audi Q3.
 
STAR RATINGS
Performance 9
Handling 9
Transmission 9
Noise 9
Economy 9
Ride and Comfort 9
Accommodation 9
Styling 9
Brakes 9
Finish 9
TOTAL: 90%

Price from: £28,620 on the road.  www.toyota.co.uk

 

NOTES FROM TED WILKINSON’S MOTORING DIARY

SEAT: The Spanish car maker is pressing on with fleet sales drive.  Just introduced is a 12-item fleet service package as well as additional customer services (a free wash and vacuum each time the car visits a dealership) and a new pricing structure aimed at making budget controlling simpler. www.seat.co.uk

AUDI: A new pair of low friction 2.0 turbo diesel engines rated at 136 and 163 ps have been introduced into the stylish A5 Coupe and Sportback  models. Prices start at £28,775 on the road. www.audi.co.uk

SSANGYONG: A special LE version of the compact SsangYong Korando SUV has been launched.  Price is from £17,995 with a low interest 5-year purchase scheme coupled to a 5-year servicing and unlimited mileage warranty. www.ssangyonggb.co.uk

VOLKSWAGEN: Future models in Volkswagen Group, including Audi, Skoda and SEAT will be produced under a Modular Transverse Matrix design.  This could potentially see different models being assembled on the same production line, all featuring transverse mounted front engines. First examples will be new generation Golf and Audi A3 models. www.volkswagen.co.uk

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