“Fun-Fact: RAV4 stands for Recreational Activity Vehicle with 4-wheel drive, even if not all vehicles are equipped with with. Now you know!”
There is a reason why hundreds of thousands of drivers give up their sedans and upgrade to crossovers year after year, and when it comes to crossovers the RAV4 is at the top of most shopping lists.
2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Toyota RAV4’s North American debut, and it’s safe to say the RAV4 paved the way for most, if not all small SUVs or CUVs as we refer to them nowadays. With so much experience under its belt, you’d expect the RAV4 to outperform its segment competitors, but does it? Let’s find out!
The Orange Crossover That Could
It took me a while grasp the concept of the RAV4 and how to put it into words for you. If you think about it, the RAV4 isn’t designed with one specific goal in mind alike its competitors. Think of the Honda HRV – it’s designed for maximum cargo space and fuel efficiency, the Mazda CX’s were designed to offer a sportier feel behind the wheel, yet the RAV4 – well, hmmm…
I remember being a teenager and experiencing the switch from analog multi-prong plugs on computer accessories to generic USB plugs, if you are younger than 25 years old you may not have a clue what I am talking about. Remember those old mice, keyboard and printer chords that had color coded connectors with a bunch of little prongs on them? Anyway, what I am trying to say is that when USB devices first came out, they all had this big phrase on the packaging —PLUG’N PLAY. That’s it!
Plug and play is the best way to describe the Toyota RAV4 for many reasons, but mainly because it caters to a specific customer base that only cares about the Toyota reliability and efficiency. The RAV4 is not high-tech, luxurious, fast, or even that comfortable, but it’s exactly what it is not, that makes it a great crossover. See, there was a time when cars were just cars, and they were designed to drive from point A to point B in relative comfort, safety and convenience. Keyword —relative.
Ok, what is this non-sense I speak of? Start with this, our XLE model did not feature power seats, so adjusting your seat is a rather simple task, the transmission, gauges and steering wheel were equally minimalistic with basic buttons for basic functions, clear and legible real gauges (no digital screens), and even though the radio and AC controls are built into the rearview camera screen, the radio volume and tuner are still controlled via knobs and buttons, unlike some of its competitors.
The majority of RAV4’s and its CUV competitors are sold to brand new families, therefore it’s to be expected that most RAV4 owners will throw in a car seat or two in the back, as well as a stroller and many other baby accessories in the trunk. And guess what, you can!
The rear bench seat in our RAV4 was rather spacious and featured a two-texture cloth surface which also featured a red center accent color with the rest of the seat in black cloth. The LATCH/ISOFIX front and rear anchors are easy to access, so fitting up to two car seats shouldn’t be a problem. The trunk in this orange-mobile is more than capable of swallowing a full size stroller, grocery bags, and because I always like to measure trunk space in TV sizes, you can most definitely fit a 50-inch screen (in box) with the rear bench folded down. Oh, and for you height challenged folks, the optional power tailgate is height adjustable, although our test model featured a somewhat heavy and tough to operate manual tailgate.
The Driving Experience
Once again, I refer to the plug and play theory. Driving the RAV4 is simple and straight forward, simply engage drive and go. Although there is a Sport driving mode button on the dash, I would most definitely stay away from it, as all it seems to do is make the steering overly heavy and allow for higher engine revs. If you want a sporty ride, look elsewhere.
On the road the RAV4 feels light and nimble through the steering and pedals, and maneuvering it through traffic and parking lots is a breeze. It’s relatively small size and plenty of windows make it easy to park and diminishes awkward blind-spots.
Whether your daily commute primarily consists of highway or city driving, the RAV4 should do the job without any complaints, although I feel that wind noise levels are a little higher than normal, and the suspension can feel a bit stiff at times. But once again, referring back to my opening sentences, this is ok, and this is normal for the overall purpose of this vehicle. No luxuries, this is as utilitarian as it gets.
The RAV4 is an excellent vehicle for the plug’n play crowd. Whether you are a millennial, middle-aged, or senior citizen, the RAV4 excels at nothing other than being a utility crossover. It deliveres a combined 25 miles per gallon, it looks OK, it has a clean interior, and if the kids puke in it, they won’t be puking on polished mahogany center consoles and supple Nappa leather.
The 2015 RAV4 does it’s job, and it does it well.
- Affordable pricing.
- Favorable fuel-efficiency.
- Modern styling.
- Simplicity at its best.
The not so great:
- May be too simple for some.
- Suspension is on the stiff side.
- Manual tailgate may be too heavy or difficult for young kids to operate.
- Plastic as far as the eye can see.
Starts at: $23,680
Price as tested: $26,125