Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Toyota RAV4 CV and Cruiser
RAV re-invented
July 2006

IF Toyota`s RAV4 has one single thing going for it, it`s how unbelievably nimble it is.

Rather than the usual modern-day two-tonne plus four-wheel-drive, it offers the ability to get its feet wet in the great outdoors but still offer the agility required to turn on a dollar coin and grab a reverse park in a crowded shopping precinct.

True, it`s not ever going to take you over Big Red, but plenty enough ability to take you camping off the beaten track.

The latest generation RAV, released earlier this year, has six variants - three specification levels and two transmissions.

It is built on an all-new five-door platform with a longer wheelbase and wider track, offering 20 per cent more interior space, including improved rear head and legroom.

The specification levels consist of CV, Cruiser and new "hero-grade" Cruiser L the first Australian RAV4 with leather seat trim.

Right across the board are air conditioning with a dust filter, 17-inch wheels, projector-type low-beam headlamps, reach as well as tilt steering adjustment, ABS and EBD. The six-speaker MP3-compatible single-CD stereo has steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Cruiser and Cruiser L models get front side and full-length curtain-shield airbags (optional on CV), a new Hill-start Assist Control and, on automatic transmission models, Downhill Assist Control (DAC).

They also get climate control air conditioning, MP3-compatible six-CD multi-changer, leather-bound steering wheel, leather gear knob, privacy glass, six-spoke alloy wheels, front foglamps, overfender flares and roof rails.

Cruiser L has the additional features of leather seat trim, leather door trim inserts, power drivers seat adjustment, heated drivers and front passengers seats, and moonroof (optional on Cruiser).

There are two transmissions: a five-speed manual and an electronically controlled four-speed automatic. The test car's manual `box had extremely tight gates - not necessarily bad, just different.

The big news with RAV is that it`s ... erm ... bigger. It is larger in every interior dimension than the vehicle it supersedes.

One-touch remote-release fold-flat rear seats mean some pretty flexible seating combos at the press of a button, while the range has 35 per cent more cargo volume with the rear seats in the normal position, thanks to a more compact rear suspension set-up. There is also a hidden 90-litre under-floor storage compartment.

The wheelbase has been increased by 170mm, increasing the couple distance (from front-seat hip point to rear-seat hip point) by 120mm to 865mm.

The vehicle is 80mm wider overall, thereby increasing interior width, shoulder room and the distance between driver and front passenger seat by 30mm and the roof is 10mm higher.

A 991mm cargo area height, 942mm length and 1335mm of cargo area width mean you can stack plenty of camping gear and the 90-litre under-floor storage box is great addition.

RAV4s new 60:40 split rear seat can slide forward, tilt down on one side or tilt down on both sides using a one-touch remote release function.

The rear seat also has one-touch remote release for super tilt down allowing the seat to be folded flat to the height of the deck. This helps in creating a large, flat deck to carry extra cargo.

So the new RAV4 has more room for humans and more room for the gear needed to do what humans do when they get off the beaten track.

The entry level price of $31,990 is not out of the league, but the upper-grade variants are certainly up there. That said, with so many people finding their full-sized four-wheel-drives guzzling record-priced fuel from week to week, perhaps they will forego the size but opt for the creature comforts.



ENGINE: 2.4-litre VVT-i four cylinder

POWER: 125kW at 6000rpm

TORQUE: 224Nm at 4000rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed manual (as tested) or optional 4-speed auto

FUEL ECONOMY: 9.1 litres/100km

PROS: Compact versatility; flexible seating

CONS: Manual gearbox could be slicker

BOTTOM LINE: RAV4 CV $31,990; RAV4 Cruiser $37,490; $41,990