Love them or loathe them, crossovers sell. They’re the right size for a lot of folks. They’re relatively capable and efficient. And thanks to their car-like underpinnings they don’t feel too trucky on the road. It’s a winning recipe, which is why practically all manufacturers have at least one offering in the segment. With all those options how is one to ever determine the best of them?
Top marks in crash safety are a good place to start. The newest RAV4 received the highest ratings in frontal, side, and rollover tests. A decent price tag is a plus too. With base models starting at under 25k, this crossover fits that bill. All that and the FWD models boast 30 mpg highway.
The exterior of the RAV4 is, in a word, inoffensive. It’s hard to find something to complain about. It’s not overly embellished, or dripping with machismo. It’s not cutesy either, it just looks good… quietly. From the 18″ alloy wheels to the tapered side glass everything is in proportion. The rear window is plenty large making for good visibility. The foot-activated liftgate is nice and wide. it opens to reveal a cargo floor that’s not too high off the ground.
Our test car was trimmed with black and cinnamon-colored Stoftex synthetic leather. There’s nothing quite like the real thing for sensual indulgence, but this stuff is a cut above most synthetics. It feels and looks great. A lot of that had to do with the handsome color and layout of the interior. Drivers are kept comfy by the six-way adjustable seat, and dual-zone climate control quells any quibbles over the temperature settings. A 7″ touchscreen controls the JBL audio system and integrated navigation. Legroom is good for front and rear seat passengers. Cargo room is ample, and it nearly doubles when the rear seats are folded flat.
Under the hood, the 2.5 liter four cylinder churns out 176 horsepower and almost as many pound feet of torque. Acceleration could be better, I expect the AWD system is gobbling up some ponies before they’re able to gallop to the wheels. The steering is responsive and light. Nothing about the car shouts at the driver. It is comfortable and quiet. The EPA estimated mpg is 28 on the highway which is not bad. Of course, the fuel savings increase exponentially in the frictionless environment of outer space. A bird’s eye view camera and cross traffic alert make backing out of a spot in a busy parking lot breeze.
If you’re looking for a low-key, comfortable, efficient, smallish SUV with a Toyota badge. This is your car. In fact, even if you want a comfortable, efficient, smallish SUV with a Lexus badge, this is the car for you. It’s meek and mild, but in the Platinum trim level of the RAV4 punches above it’s weight. When stacked up against the comparable Lexus product, the NX 300, it has more interior space for front seat passengers, and an up-market feeling interior that the plastic-clad NX lacks. Granted it is a $40k RAV4, but that’s about where the NX starts. And wouldn’t you rather have the best of something?
The RAV4 beats out most of the other vehicles in its class not by having the most vast cargo space, or the shortest 0-60 time, but rather the shortest list of cons. It’s well-sorted, comfortable, and reasonably refined.