Canadians love their small SUVs and crossovers. The segment accounts for nearly 20 percent of all new vehicle sales, with the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V sitting in first, second and third place in Canada’s small SUV/CUV sales race as we neared the end of 2014.
You could take this as a sign that Toyota is doing something right, since the RAV4 bested not just the very popular Honda CR-V but also the Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Dodge Journey, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Chevrolet Equinox and the list goes on.
You might also argue, however, that the RAV4 could do better. After all, the Escape outsold Toyota’s little crossover by almost 50 percent, with 45,152 Escapes going out the door by the end of October 2014 versus 30,974 RAV4s.
The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle.
In terms of things done right, the Canadian-built RAV4 is roomy, comfortable and well thought-out. Its proven powertrain offers reasonable performance and decent fuel economy, and ultimately it has very few real flaws. So if words like “practical,” “sensible,” “dependable,” and “value” grab your attention, the RAV4 may well be just the thing for you. Oh, and the accounting department called and said they may have a job opening you’d be interested in.
On the negative side of the ledger, the RAV4 lacks a little in the character and fun departments. It offers one sensible engine choice to the Escape’s trio of available powerplants. Its handling is composed rather than dynamic (yes, it’s a CUV, but so are the Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan, and they both manage to ladle up a fair helping of sportiness). Its styling is pleasant and unobtrusive instead of eye-catching (unless, perhaps, you select my test car’s Hot Lava paint colour, which is indeed a refreshing break from the sea of silver, grey, black and white out there). If words like “engaging,” “sporty,” “powerful,” and “distinctive” are what pique your interest, then you may find that Toyota’s little CUV leaves you wanting more.
2015 Toyota RAV4 AWD Limited, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The current, fourth-generation RAV4 debuted for the 2013 model year and has carried on essentially unchanged since. While the previous-generation RAV4 offered a V6, the sole engine offered in the current generation is Toyota’s ubiquitous 2.5L inline four with VVT-i variable valve timing. This engine is shared with the Camry and Scion tC, and in the RAV4 it churns out 176 hp and 172 lb-ft of torque. It’s hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission and will haul the 1,600kg CUV to 100 km/h in about nine seconds. So it’s not slouchy, but it’s not fast either.