What's changed from the previous model?
Headlining the changes on the GX model is that advanced safety features are now available for the first time. These include forward collision warning system (can automatically apply the car's brakes, even if the driver takes no action), active cruise control, automatic high beam, lane departure alert with steering assist, rain-sensing wipers, front parking sensors and a sway warning system to aid when towing.
When applied to automatic GX variants, the $3800 safety packs adds satellite navigation, 4.2-inch colour multi-information display, upgraded instrument cluster, digital (DAB+) radio, dusk-sensing headlights, fog lights and revised front bumper. The option price is $3,800 for the GX.
Exterior changes include a bolder-looking front design with a larger lower grille and slimline LED headlights (now with high and low beams in a housing that also integrates LED daytime running lights), restyled front and rear bumpers, new wheel-arch mouldings and rocker panels sharpen the sides and contribute to a more flowing profile and LED taillights. The entry GX retains 17-inch steel wheels with low rolling resistance tyres. There are also three new colours - Deep Red mica metallic (replacing Wildfire), Hazel and Blue Gem.
Inside, there is new matte black trim with contrasting silver accents. The centre console has been redesigned so the front cup holder can accommodate mugs with handles. A 12-volt accessory socket in the second row (in addition to two in the front) and a new holder for sunglasses have also been adopted. Oddly, there is no power outlet in the boot.
The seats are comfortable and the material is soft to the touch but the RAV is a little utilitarian inside compared with the newer, more premium, offerings. The GX doesn't even get a leather-wrapped steering wheel!
Extra insulation and thickness has reduced road, tyre and exhaust noise while a more rigid body shell contributes to greater driving stability and improved ride quality and changes to the shock absorbers and springs give a flatter, more comfortable ride and enhance straight-line stability.
Is it big inside?
The RAV is definitely at the upper end of the compact SUV class. As a three-year-old car it's not quite as well packaged as some of the newer rivals, for example the Tiguan beats it in front and rear head and leg space) but the RAV has larger cargos space than most.
Fold the rear seats down and you get a flat floor that is 1.8m-long floor. With the rear seats up there's a cavernous 577L of cargo space. You have to fold the rear seats up or down via the rear doors are the no levers in the boot.
What's it like to drive?
Around town, the 2.5-litre petrol engine has plenty of grunt and it sounds rorty too! It accelerates quickly from the lights add the six-speed automatic has smooth and refined gear changes and doesn't hunt to find the right gear around town. The 233Nm of torque is low for the class though, so other rivals do tend to pull better in in-gear acceleration.
It's also pretty frugal. Our real world fuel testing recorded 10.1L/100km around town which is not bad for 1600kg SUV (and less than Toyota's claimed urban average). It also only requires regular unleaded petrol which is great for the hip pocket.
The RAV4 is not the best handling in its class but its set up to be comfortable around town and off road. It's a bit bouncy and wallows around town compared with rivals, but is confident and feels secure in its roadholding. It's not particularly quiet on coarse bitumen but most cars struggle with that.
The RAVs turning circle is actually quite good and with front and rear parking sensors it's certainly not a hard task in a car park. It's also not nearly as big on the outside as you'd expect – just 40cm longer than a Hyundai i30 for example, so it's not like trying to park a bus.
ff the road, the ride comfort is good but it's definitely louder than some of its rivals.
The RAV is equipped with Toyota's all-wheel drive technology, Dynamic Torque Control AWD that uses information from speed, steering-angle and yaw-rate sensors to control torque transfer between the front and rear wheels. The AWD version have a centre locking diff that adds to the RAVs off road credentials.
Weirdly, the RAVs great ground clearance is not great at 178mm, less than the VW Tiguan at 201mm.
Should I consider one?
If you're wanting an SUV to experience the great outdoors, then the RAV should be up the top of the list. There's a strong dealer network outside of town and Toyota has a strong history of good reliability.
If, however, you're looking to spend most of your time on the black stuff then the Subaru Forester and VW's Tiguan are also worth a look as they offer better on road manners and a more premium feel (albeit with a higher price tag).
Watch our RAV4 vs Volkswagen Tiguan video: