First drive in the new Toyota RAV4

Do you remember when the first-ever Toyota RAV4 launched in 1994? I was so in love with that car. That first generation was still one of my favourite cars when I matriculated in 2000 and a friend of mine received one as his first car. There was so much jealousy I had to end the friendship. Just kidding, we just grew a part.

Fast forward to 2006 when the third generation arrived and another friend of mine bought herself one. Thankfully the friendship was solid, I didn’t want history repeating itself. But since then, I haven’t given the RAV4 much consideration. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, it just got a bit lost among the crowd. The likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan took my attention (and others) away from it.

It is great delight that I can tell you that after having driven this new fifth generation RAV4, it is back on my radar.

Toyota RAV4

It looks fantastic and is now more capable and practical than ever. It had to change the accommodate the ever-changing market. RAV4 used to stand for Recreational Active Vehicle 4WD. It now stands for Robust Accurate Vehicle 4WD. So, what does Robust refer to? The styling, handling, cabin and luggage, space, and rough road capability. Accurate refers to the visibility, interior usability, storage and efficiency and range. So basically, everything is covered.


The range consists of the entry-level GX (manual or CVT), the high-spec VX (CVT 2WD or CVT AT AWD), and the new GX-R (CVT AWD) which sits slap-bang in the middle of the two familiar trim levels. The base model GX doesn’t leave you high and dry boasting standard features such as LED headlamps, speed sensitive door lock, cruise control, and back guide monitor to name only a few. The GX-R adds leather seats, power adjustable seat with lumbar support, seat heaters (fun for pranking), smart entry and push start wireless charger and three USB ports. The VX grade adds all the, what I deem, unnecessary extras you don’t really need, but are nice to have, such as memory seat and a panoramic sunroof. It does add a few extra safety features that can come in very handy such as cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor and Toyota’s Safety System

The new Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platforms means the new RAV4 is longer by 30 mm, wider by 10 mm, larger in diameter and has been elevated by 15 mm. The look of this new RAV4 is what has so many people talking. And so they should be talking. It looks goooooood. It’s all very modern SUV. And if you want even more aggressive styling you can opt for the GX-R which has an enlarged upper grille and larger skid plates and wheel arches.

When it comes to colour choices, there are nine to choose from for the GX and VX and five for the GX-R. And if you want to stand out in a cool way, not in a purple Lamborghini way, then check out the Urban khaki colour.

The interior has been completely modernized and it is super spacious. The build quality is great and the materials used feel all fancy and sh*t. Just take a look (I don’t love this tan vibe going on, but you don’t have to choose this):

Toyota RAV4


If you want to know what motoring journalists get up to on the long test drives we conduct on launches you might be surprised to find out that we are not always professional. Well, I am not. So much so that one of my favourite pranks to play on my unsuspecting driving partner is to activate their seat heater without their knowledge. I usually pull this off with skills slicker than Cat Woman. But not this time. It was 37’C with a humidity of 5 million (my hair was unruly!), and as my driving partner was getting in to the car I switched on his seat heater. After 70 km we were due to do a driver change. Having forgotten I had switched on said seat heater, I hopped in the driver’s seat only to be met by a seat that was literally on fire! Well not literally, but damn close. Two things; 1. What is wrong with my partner’s bum that he could not feel it? and 2. How did I end up pranking myself here? It made for a rather uncomfortable drive. Thankfully I matured somewhat over the rest of the launch and so our drive back to the airport was incident free and a far more comfortable experience.

Two petrol engines are available, a 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre either mated to a six-speed manual, an improved CVT or an automatic transmission. Power is pretty instant and so overtaking is generally easy enough. The ride is smooth and comfortable, even if you’re off the beaten track. It was what left me most impressed. The new RAV4 performs gracefully on gravel and one can push it a bit and still feel confident. It is not exactly a hardcore 4X4er, but it is not built to be and who really goes 4X4ing? Ok lots of people, but then you wouldn’t be looking at the RAV4 then anyway. This is more for the soft off-roaders out there. The all-wheel drive derivatives feature a mode dial which allows you to select modes such as Rock & Dirt and Mud & Sand, depending on the terrain.

The RAV4 offering is broad and so there should be one to suit most budgets and most requirements. It has a Toyota badge so you can bank on its reliability. The competition better watch their backs.  


2.0 GX 2WD                 R416 400

2.0 GX CVT 2WD         R427 600

2.0 GX-R CVT AWD      R508 100

2.0 VX CVT AWD         R505 400

2.5 VX 8AT AWD         R577 900

I’m Julz, South African motoring journalist with a passion for cars and a questionable sense of humour. I am not your average motoring journalist, and this is not your average motoring website.

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