Still going strong after 20 years

Toyota unveils its fourth generation RAV.
Toyota unveils its fourth generation RAV.

Toyota can feasibly claim to have invented a whole new segment when they launched the RAV4 back in 1994.

Their original Recreational Activity Vehicle with four-wheel-drive was an instant hit with 8,000 orders placed in the first month alone.

Since then it has evolved through three more generations with the fourth launched at the 2012 Los Angeles Motor Show.

This latest model is very much a family-orientated vehicle with comfort and safety improvements up there with the off-road capability that made it such a popular choice for country-lovers.

There are now 11 models, with both two and four-wheel drive, four diesel and petrol engines and three transmissions.

A number of improvements were announced for 2014 including higher specification levels for the top two trims and a couple of options including a blind spot monitoring system which uses a radar to detect vehicles coming alongside in the driver’s blind spot, particularly useful when reversing out of a parking space for example.

The 2.0 D-4D engine is now available with all-wheel drive for the first time. And, as an added bonus, the two-wheel drive version of this engine has been reduced by £400.

Last weekend I took one of these to Pickering for the weekend, packed to the roof with luggage and supplies for a few days away with a group of friends.

It proved a capable pack-horse with the two-tier luggage compartment and cargo hammock releasing a lot of very useful space. The slow-opening of the electric tailgate the only grumble — especially in the pouring rain.

All our miles were on Tarmac so the lack of four-wheel drive was never going to be an issue.

The main benefit of front-wheel drive is fuel consumption and, over the course of the weekend, we managed an average of 50mpg — a few miles short of the advertised 57.6mpg but impressive nonetheless.

Seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of room for driver and passengers.

Internal fixtures and fittings are robust and finished in quality materials but some of the controls are tucked away and are not as handy as they could be.

The driver’s seat in RAV4 is lower than in other SUVs. This, say Toyota , gives ‘better comfort, better forward visibility and a more engaging driving experience’.

Initially sceptical, as I do like to sit as high as possible in the driving seat, the resultant lowering of the hip-point meant my passengers found it so much easier to get in and out and I became a convert.

Prices for the RAV4 range start at £22,195 for the entry model two-wheel drive, two-litre manual diesel with the range-topping 2.2 D-CAT AWD 6AT in top-level Invincible trim at £29,295.

Insurance bands range from 26E to 29E and VED from D to I.