Model/Engine size: 2.2-litre
Fuel economy combined: 48.7 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 7/10
The Toyota RAV4 comes with Toyota Optimal Drive, so making it one of the most efficient 4x4s, but how did it perform when tested at one of the UK’s leading mountain biking trail centres – in a foot of snow?
The RAV4, with its 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel engine, manages a combined economy figure
of 48.7 mpg, with CO2 emissions
of 154g/km. Many
are often compromised in other areas, so we thought it would be an interesting test to see if its efficiencies had any impact on the Toyota being fit for purpose as an off-roader.
The original RAV4, introduced over fifteen years ago, was one of the first fun-to-drive,
, with a road-going bias. Since then the RAV4 has grown into a bigger, heavier, more mature car.
To help offset some of the increased energy required to propel the heavier RAV4, it now comes with Toyota Optimal Drive
. This is a label for Toyota’s ‘efficiency’ technologies, which include its engines and transmissions having low friction components, lightweight compact designs and enhanced combustion efficiency. As well as lower emissions and improved fuel economy
, another result is better performance. The company is applying Toyota Optimal Drive across all models in its ranges.
With the diesel engines in the RAV4 range, the aim was to develop the established D-4D and D-CAT units to give better performance and low CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, while at the same time achieving a substantial reduction in the level of particulate matter (PM) and nitrous oxides (NOx) emissions.
Toyota claims that this has been achieved through the redesign of engine component systems, increasing torque at lower engine speeds and, on higher-powered units, introducing new piezoelectric injectors and a revised chamber design to optimise combustion
Although the Toyota Optimal Drive 2.2-litre D-4D 150 and 2.2-litre D-CAT 150 engines meet Euro 5 emissions standards, the D-4D 150 doesn’t come with a diesel particulate filter.
To get Toyota’s DPNR four-way catalyst you’ll need to go for the D-CAT clean diesel system, which promises extremely low combined NOx and particulates emissions.
Back to the test car, the 2.2-litre D-4D 150 engine was mated to a six-speed gearbox. The engine feels gutsy, but it can also sound harsh at times. The gearbox and clutch combination feels significantly less truck-like than a previous, early example of this latest generation of RAV4 that we drove. However it’s still not slick, and it’s not a good idea to try to rush gear changes in this car.
We didn’t get close to the official 48.7mpg, except on flat A-roads at 50-60 mph, but 36mpg after a test route that included negotiating a hilly forest in the snow wasn’t a disaster.
Although it’s a compact
, the RAV4 does feel big and bulky compared to some rivals. Its body isn’t the most aerodynamic shape; a crossover with a lower roofline would have less wind resistance and would therefore be more efficient. More modern crossovers also feel more car-like to drive than the RAV4, although this was a key selling point of the original RAV.
The interior has a good amount of space, especially in the height department due to the roofline, and Toyota has found a way to give us an off-roader with reasonable ground-clearance but also with a low boot floor – this is ideal for loading the luggage compartment, as well as for access by dogs that aren’t as agile as they once were. However the rear door swings open on hinges, rather than pulling it upwards as on most hatchbacks and estates, so you need a fair amount of space behind the car to open the door fully.
The rear seats can move forward and backwards, and even the angle of the seat backs can be adjusted to strike the required balance between space in the boot and space for rear occupants. The central armrest is a separate item, meaning that there are cars with easier systems for lowering the seats.
There also other rivals with better-designed dashboards; the RAV4’s dash appears rather cluttered and old-fashioned. The right hand side of the transmission tunnel also has a tendency to dig into your left leg.
In terms of off-road potential, the RAV4 is a compact size, with short front and rear overhangs, and the ground clearance of the diesel model is 182 mm, or just over seven inches.
It’s got an Active Torque Control 4WD system that mainly operates in front-wheel drive, but it distributes torque as required to whichever wheels need it, and it’s even got a diff lock if you get into a really sticky situation. This means that four-wheel drive is locked on, ie. engine torque is applied to all four wheels, for times when you’re stuck in mud or sand, but it only works at under 25mph.
Most critically, it doesn’t come with silly road tyres with no tread, instead it’s shod with a set of Yokohamas which we already know perform extremely well on Subarus both on the road and in the snow.
So how did it perform when tested at one of the UK’s leading mountain biking trail centres, Coed Llandegla Forest in North Wales? As if the terrain isn’t challenging enough, if there’s ever any snow to be had, you’ll find it at Llandegla. The forest was covered in a blanket of snow over a foot deep for more than four weeks over Christmas and New Year, and most of it still remained on the higher ground for our test. Lower down in the forest the tracks had just an inch or so of snow and ice, so life here started off easily for the RAV4.
However just like mountain biking, to go down, you need to go up first, so the Toyota was negotiated along the tracks that led up to the summit of the forest. The higher the contour numbers, the higher the snow levels. We’re talking single track, with huge remains of ice either side, the result of forest machinery attempting to make a clearance through the snow. And the trails get steeper as they approach the top of the forest.
In the face of all these challenges, the RAV4 maintained secure forward progress at all times, with no dramas other than the relatively limited ground clearance providing some concerns. It even made it all the way to the very top of Llandegla Forest completely under its own steam – and even without having to resort to using the diff lock.
So even though the RAV4 is an efficient, family-friendly 4×4 package, it evidently has the genes of the more serious off-roading members of the Toyota family, such as the Hilux or Land Cruiser. If you want a 4×4, you should really get one that works if a few flakes of snow fall over the UK, and the RAV4 proved that it’s up to the job.
The RAV4 XT-R 2.2 D4D 5 Door Manual, as tested, is our recommendation for the best RAV4 to go for, however other options include a petrol engine and automatic and CVT transmissions, but be aware of the combinations of the above.
A six-speed automatic transmission is available but this comes with the 2.2-litre D-CAT 150 engine. And this means that the economy and emissions are considerably worse, with 39.2 mpg and 189g/km CO2.
If you want petrol power, then this is also possible. The 2.0-litre Valvematic petrol engine has more power, lower emissions and better fuel economy than the previous 2.0 VVT-i engine. But if you want four-wheel drive plus petrol power, then you’re obliged to have Multidrive S, Toyota’s new continuously variable transmission.
Another option is that if you like the look of the RAV4 but don’t think you need four-wheel drive, then Toyota has reintroduced a front-wheel drive version – but this is available only with a petrol engine. The 2.0-litre Valvematic engine, matched to a six-speed manual transmission, has power and torque that match the performance in the AWD petrol version, but emissions and fuel economy improve slightly, to 174g/km and 38.2mpg (combined) respectively.
All models in the RAV4 range are fitted with alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, bluetooth connectivity, automatic wipers and headlights, six-CD changer, aux-in socket, electric heated, retractable door mirrors and an electrochromic auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
The XT-R AWD and SR models also have leather upholstery, smart entry and start, heated front seats and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
Options include Toyota’s new touch-screen navigation system, which includes a hard drive for storing digital music files and a rear parking camera.
Despite the company currently being in the news with an accelerator pedal recall, Toyotas have one of the best reputations for reliability, as well as excellent service from its dealer network.
The Toyota RAV4 is good to drive, it’s got a gutsy engine, it’s efficient, it’s got adequate amounts of space for a family, and it should be durable and reliable. It gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 7/10; it could increase its score if it came with a diesel particulate filter, but the main issue is that there are now newer crossovers on the market that have beaten the RAV4 at its own game of being more car-like to drive.
However at the time of our test, as the UK was again subjected to yet more snow, people were still talking about how useful a 4×4 would be, but that they don’t want a fuel-guzzling off-roader. So we’re pleased to report that the RAV4 is one of the more efficient 4x4s, yet it also shares the 4×4 capability genes of its more hardcore relatives, so it can also cope extremely well with snow. Well done to Toyota for fitting sensible tyres to the RAV4 so it can make the most of its 4×4 capability.
Fuel economy extra urban:
Fuel economy urban:
VED band G – £150
Company car tax liability (2009/10):
£22,815 (From £19,690 to £25,990)