When it comes to compact crossovers, most people would agree that the Toyota RAV4 is an icon and something of a benchmark for manufacturers entering this exceptionally intensive market. In recent years, compact crossovers have become probably the most popular class of vehicle in the entire automotive market in Canada.
When the first RAV4 was launched back in 1994 it was a tiny 2-door vehicle with a very short wheelbase that had basically no competitors to speak of, other than products from Suzuki. In case anyone’s wondering, “RAV4” stands for Recreational Activity Vehicle, 4-wheel drive.” Over the generations, the RAV4 has grown considerably, in line with what customers were asking for.
The previous RAV4 was a hard act to follow even for Toyota. One or two rival manufacturers out there are probably still trying to match the old RAV it was that good. It’s without doubt one of Canada’s most popular compact SUVs.
For 2019, Toyota is bringing us a fifth generation RAV4 and there are many highlights that are worth mentioning. The vehicle is based on a new “global architecture platform,” which means that it will form the basis of several products, not all available in the Canadian market. It’s longer and wider than the last model and just a bit lower.
The bodywork is all-new (Toyota says it has a “chiseled” appearance) and there’s a new cabin design too. Toyota points out that the new bodywork is 57 per cent more rigid than that of the earlier model. A new powertrain offers more power, improved fuel efficiency and better on and off-road capability. As before, there are front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive available. And following on with previous RAV4 variants, a hybrid model will be available almost from the start. Both versions are built at Toyota’s Canadian plant.
Standard and optional goodies include Toyota’s Entune entertainment and information system, Apple CarPlay, a new all-wheel drive system with multi-terrain select, a very useful hands-free power rear lift gate and a digital display rear view mirror. Next generation Toyota Safety Sense is a feature of the new RAV and the automaker points out that this takes some big steps forward in keeping everyone safe on the road.
Among the safety features of the next-gen RAV are enhanced deceleration features, enhanced pedestrian detection, cyclist detection, road edge detection and better lane tracing assist. Also updated is the vehicle’s dynamic radar cruise control. Some 95 per cent of all Toyota vehicles now have standard-equipment Toyota Safety Sense features.
Power is supplied by a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine is also used in the hybrid variant. The updated cabin includes a seven-inch touch screen (eight-inch on upscale models) for easy manipulation of entertainment and navigation and the increase in exterior dimensions means more room for the occupants.
This exciting new RAV4 won’t be at the dealerships just yet and some performance details await release. One thing’s for sure though. There’s little doubt that the product will be even more successful than the last and reach an even wider market. The love affair Canadians have with SUVs or all kinds shows no sign of slacking off and it’s also worth mentioning that fuel prices have given more impetus to the hybrid SUV/crossover segment. There could come a day when hybrid RAV4s will outsell gasoline-only models and if it does, Toyota has the expertise and distribution ability to meet demand.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: Five-place compact SUV/crossover
ENGINE: 2.5-litre 4-cylinder gasoline-only/2.5-litre hybrid
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic (continuously-variable on hybrid)
TOWING CAPABILITY: Increased over the 3,500-lbs of the last model
FUEL ECONOMY: TBA, but improved over last model