It’s just so easy, isn’t it? It would be too easy to fall into that trap of writing off the latest RAV4 as just the latest evolution of the crossover equivalent of a toaster; room inside for five, pretty good cargo space and the occasional tech flare in the form of USB ports, heated seats, maybe a backup cam.
I’m convinced that if I showed you one of the lenses on its own, you would never guess they belonged to Toyota’s vanilla crossover.You wouldn’t be talking about the styling, though. Which is where that theory of “meh, it’s just the next version” kind of falls off the rails a little. Why? Because – and I may get yelled at for this – the latest RAV4 is actually a pretty good-looking car.
The front grille has been reduced – indeed, with a quick glance, you may not even realize the 2016 RAV4 even has a grille – to provide a clean-looking front fascia. It allows you to focus more on the newly styled headlights, and I’m convinced that if I showed you one of the lenses on its own, you would never guess they belonged to Toyota’s vanilla crossover. The Scion FR-S (sorry, Toyota 86), perhaps. Not a people mover like this, though. No way.
The theme continues around back, where clear taillight lenses with smoked frames, a standard – yes, standard – roof spoiler, tinted glass (new for ’16) and corner lights either side of the rear tailgate are all nice features. Some sharp new wheel options help finish the detailing off; even our tester’s blocky winter rubber couldn’t kill the vibe presented by the two-tone 17-inch rims on our ride. Yes, they are technically steel wheels with covers, but I’d say that’s pretty hard to spot for most folks.
Inside, though, it’s a little more of the same, especially considering that my tester was the base-base-base LE FWD model, meaning it doesn’t receive the swanky new gauge cluster that other models in the lineup get. Instead, it gets a spitting image of what was on the last car. Guess they had a few leftovers laying around. The button group at the base of the centre stack (your seat heater and drive mode controls reside there) looks the same, too, as do climate controls above that, made up of three large dials for your fan speed and temp. If you spec automatic climate control for your RAV4, however, that setup evolves into one made up of both dials and buttons. I did find my car’s controls nicely sized and well-damped, meaning little time spent fiddling with them or looking to see their settings. Our car had A/C and power windows and doors, too, which is nice.
Going green? Test Drive: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Limited
Otherwise, the interior of this LE model returns pretty much unchanged from last year. That means a nice, tall driving position for a good view out from all angles (made even better by new blind spot-reducing convex wing mirror glass), plenty of headroom (just over 1,000 mm up front, and just under that in the rear) and a nice, airy cabin with broad, flared surfaces and neat touches like roundel air vents and leather dash inserts, providing a more upscale feel. Size-wise, everything from front and rear head- and legroom as well as storage remains exactly the same as last year.
I guess we’re going to have to wait until an all-new RAV4 arrives before we can get a little more space, especially in the back seats. The narrow bench back there makes seating two adults a bit of a challenge. I also found the pedal box to be a bit narrow, as I struck my shin on the centre-stack’s leading edge a few times before I smartened up and began exercising more caution upon entry.