Review and photos by Paul Williams

It seems our long-term front-wheel-drive 2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE arrived at just the right time. I’ve driven and owned compact SUVs before, but this one was continually called upon to transport people and cargo to and from various locations – often to the exclusion of other vehicles (they were typically seen to be too small).

“Bring the RAV” was the mantra when students and their gear were to be retrieved from an out-of-town university; when people, food, plates, cutlery and glasses (not to mention a commercial Fender sound system) needed transport to the venue of a large wedding party. And when items were needed at a rural cottage, the roads to which were muddy and rutted after the spring thaw.

2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE FWD
2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE FWD
2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE FWD
2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE FWD. Click image to enlarge

Bring the RAV indeed! Bring the driver and a strong back, too… Having access to a useful vehicle like the RAV4 is clearly a way to meet new people and keep fit.

Our $29,905 (including freight and options) XLE is a $3,210 step up from the base LE version, but comes with a lot of extras. Included are sunroof, heated seats with premium fabric surfaces, dual zone automatic climate control, premium audio with 6.1-inch display, back-up camera, soft-touch instrument panel with stitching, rear cargo cover, silver painted roof rails, aluminum wheels, fog lights and variable intermittent windshield wipers with wiper de-icer. All in all, the XLE is sure to be a popular choice.

Our vehicle added one option: the $1,170 Navigation Package, which included XM satellite radio, display audio with navigation and voice recognition controls.

And just in case you noted the above-mentioned “too small” perception of other vehicles in comparison to the 2013 RAV4, the RAV is no way a behemoth. It’s about the same size as the 2013 Ford Escape and 2013 Honda CR-V, both of which possess similar cargo capacity (with seats down: 2,080 L for the RAV4, 1,920 L for the Escape and 2,007 L for the CR-V).

An explanation for the misperception may be that some people aren’t current with the size of the latest compact SUVs, or maybe it’s the all-new 2013 RAV4 exterior styling, which gives it a more formidable and distinctive presence than that of the previous model. Fact is, the 2013 RAV4 is actually smaller in length and height than the outgoing model.

I guess one thing we can conclude – from my experience, at least – is that its appearance effectively communicates its capability.

Another thing is that Magnetic Grey Metallic is very popular. I’ve been seeing myself (so to speak) everywhere these days. Toyota also offers green, red and blue if you like colourful colours, but I haven’t seen any of those. Or you can choose from silver, brown, black or white).

There’s no doubt about this vehicle’s practicality, but it’s also very comfortable and suitably peppy. The last RAV4 generation’s V6 is no longer available, leaving the current 176-hp 2.5L inline four to provide motive power for the full range of new RAV4 models (which at this point, omits the formerly available “Sport” model). However, let’s not forget that a generation ago, many V6 engines delivered less power than the RAV4 produces with its smooth four-cylinder. You’re hardly underpowered, here.

An added bonus from the RAV4’s I4 engine combined with six-speed automatic transmission is excellent fuel economy. The front-wheel-drive model is officially rated at 8.7/6.4/7.7 L/100 km, city/highway/combined, and during my extended time with this vehicle, it returned a solid and reliable 9.6/7.2/8.2 L/100 km combined – this from normal driving without consciously attempting to ‘hypermile’ (squeezing the very best fuel consumption from the vehicle using extreme fuel-efficient driving techniques). There are small cars that don’t achieve this impressive fuel economy.

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