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RAV4 ok but it’s nothing to rave about 


TOYOTA’S original RAV4 launch in 1984 kicked off the modern compact SUV market.

This Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive was a three-door model quite different to the traditional AWD vehicles already on the market.

This sector continues to grow in Europe, rising by around 18 per cent between 2008 and 2012.

The RAV4 has taken a fair whack of those sales with the previous models accounting for 1.2 million in Europe and almost 155,500 in the UK. A total of more than 4.5million have been sold worldwide.

With rivalry growing in this segment, the RAV4 has evolved over the years and the fourth-generation model arrived in March.

There are plenty of plus points in the latest SUV but it’s disappointing that the pioneer of this segment hasn’t raised the bar that much.

The new model is 205mm longer and 30mm wider than its predecessor, and sitting lower, has a more muscular look to it with the new-style grille, headlights and bumper.

There is more space inside with lots of head, elbow and legroom in the rear seats where passengers get an extra 40mm of knee-room.

The loading area capacity is extended to 547 litres, going up to a massive 1,746 litres with seats folded, and the tray beneath has doubled in size to 100 litres.

It’s also much easier to put luggage in with the wider tailgate – power operated on the model I sampled – also lowered.

The RAV4 ticks all the boxes required for compact SUVs – there’s lots of room for passengers and luggage as well as plenty of versatility on offer.

But I felt a bit let down after my time in the test car, an Icon 2.2D-4D.

There is a choice of petrol and diesel engines with two or four-wheel drive and three trim levels, Active, Icon and Invincible.

I didn’t think that Toyota’s new ‘high-quality materials’ matched that claim as I settled into what I did discover was a particularly comfortable driver’s seat.

The 148bhp engine was surprisingly noisy at tick-over but thankfully the noise wasn’t too obtrusive as I moved up the gears and it was quiet enough when cruising at motorway speeds.

Start-up noise apart, the engine was lively for this type of vehicle, going from standstill to 62mph in 9.6 seconds and capable of 118mph.

A big plus point was its combined fuel-economy figure of 49.6mpg.

Moving up and down the six-speed manual gearbox, the RAV4 did all that was required of it and ride comfort and handling were of a pretty acceptable nature.

The new models cost less than their predecessors, starting at £22,595 with the test model costing £26,495.

The RAV4 could well turn out to be your family favourite and maybe I just expected a little bit more of an exciting package in this highly-competitive sector from the compact SUV pioneers.