Toyota’s quirky RAV4 acronym translates to Recreational Active Vehicle 4 wheel drive. Well it did originally. The latest model was devised to create a robust accurate vehicle with 4 wheel drive. So technically, the range of 2.0-litre front drive models should be called RAV2.
These front-drive RAVs aren’t new however. Many moons ago we had a first-gen RAV that drove from the front alone. On first inspection I was a bit shocked to look underneath and find a lack of drive bits on the rear end. I quickly thought, well, we’re never going to take this off road, and a front drive manual was going to be better on gas than an auto AWD. And cheaper is what the 2.0-litre front-wheel drive RAV4 is, at least the entry model GX and GXL, being $34,990 and $37,990, respectively.
We had the Limited which, at $44,990 (on the road, no haggling) ain’t exactly a budget buy, but it’s a 10 per cent saving on the hybrid Limited and Adventure models. The electrically assisted version is proving popular, with a bit of a wait involved to secure one. While it’d be our choice of the RAVs, if you can’t wait the 2.0-litre has its merits.
Compared with the 2.5, it doesn’t have quite the same midrange urge but the CVT helps compensate. Normally, we’d say a conventional auto trumps a CVT every day, but Toyota’s eight-speed has odd ratios and shifting protocols. The CVT is smoother, without the need to swap cogs. Its take up is refined and quick thanks to Toyota’s tricky ‘launch gear’ which then seamlessly hands duties over to the belt drive.
While the 2.0-litre is hardly groaning with grunt, it pulls the RAV2 along adequately with enough below three thousand for rambling. A decent prod on the gas gets the CVT into action, whipping the engine up to 3500rpm quickly and it heads to 5000rpm smartly, which is about where it does a faux upshift.
And when you’re ahead of that guy that was next to you at the lights, it then settles the engine right down (50km/h equating to 1200rpm, while 100km/h registers 1500rpm) to maximise those fuel numbers. These were similar to the 2.5 we tested, in and around the mid 8L/100km mark overall (6.0L/100km is the official average).
The city ride quality is okay considering the big 19-inch wheels, and these also increase the turning circle a tad. It’s not bad though, neither is the actual steering, the assistance well tuned.
All RAVs are loaded with safety bits, including speed limit recognition which is particularly good at reading variable LED signs. Push the set button, and the active cruise will adjust to the new speed limit. We also like how the lane centring function is available for use rather than being the default setting.
With its new underpinnings, RAV is now better at cornering. The steering is effective, so too the suspension, maintaining decent composure through the curves and over bumps. It’s now less inclined to understeer when heaving it around bends, with far less electronic intervention.
The CVT is quite smart here too, keeping the 2.0-litre spinning when you’re on and off the gas, which means better overall throttle response. Some CVTs let the engine fluctuate wildly, making for an awful drive experience. There’s a detent on the pedal and when you’re hard down on it, the CVT will keep the engine at peak power but if you don’t push it all the way, it’ll ‘change up’ at around six thou.
Along with some flasher trimmings on the exterior, the cabin gets a few extras too. The leather trim is superior to the stuff they lumped on the Adventure model, and there are additional soft surfaces and rubberised bits over the lesser versions. It’s nicely made and the seats are comfy, giving access to a sound driving position while the outward vision is sorted too.
The RAV’s a spacious five seater, with a generous back seat. The boot is sizeable; wide, deep and long, with a space saver underneath. While the seats fold easily, and flat enough, the powered tailgate needs a boost; we’ve seen a sloth move faster.
The 2.0-litre RAV we found preferable to the 2.5 for urban use at least but the hybrid is the one; the GXL at $44,990 sounds good to us.
|Model||Toyota RAV4 2.0 2WD LTD||Price||$47,990|
|Engine||1987cc, IL4, EFI, 107kW/187Nm||Drivetrain||CVT, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||7.0L/100km||C02 Output||162g/km|