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Toyota RAV4 2.2 Icon AWD

Click to view picture galleryIn 2013 sales of Dual Purpose
  vehicles (4x4s, SUVs, Off-Roaders
  and Crossovers) reached an all-time
  high with 247,942 of them sold in
  the UK. In fact they
re the third largest
  segment in the UK
s new car market,
  even overtaking the 208,449 sales
  for family-sized cars such as the
  Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia...


MOST CROSSOVER MODELS ARE NOW classified as Dual Purpose vehicles; some are only two-wheel drive but they have the style of a 4x4 or SUV. Interestingly, Nissan don't include their Qashqai or Juke Crossovers in the Dual Purpose segment because the majority of their sales are for two-wheel drive versions if they were included, this would further boost Dual Purpose sector sales by around 80,000 units.

One manufacturer more than happy to include their 2WD and 4WD models in the Dual Purpose sector is Toyota with their new RAV4 range. Sales of their new RAV4 increased by 78% in 2013 thanks in part to the introduction of an additional engine to the line-up the new 122bhp 2.0-litre D-4D turbodiesel 2WD.

“For countryside-living,
and given the horrendous
weather and worsening
road surfaces,
any SUV needs 4WD.
And because modern
4x4 systems generally
operate much of the time
in 2WD mode, there
really are no drawbacks
for all-year-round use.
..”
This attracted tax-conscious fleet and business customers, who increased their demand by 148%. A 4WD version with the 2.0-litre D-4D diesel unit is to be introduced soon, and in due course Toyota GB expects it to become the best selling version of the RAV4.

The latest RAV4 is the fourth generation (covering 20 years) of this mid-sized, five-seat SUV which is sold in over 150 countries world-wide.

And it is world-wide customer feedback that has created the more sociable, latest-generation RAV4. It's now less of a rugged off-roader and offers more sophisticated styling, a more refined interior with a higher grade of materials, improved levels of specification, a more comfortable ride, sharper steering and handling, and significantly more rear passenger legroom and luggage space plus it's also a more engaging drive.

The 122bhp 2.0-litre D-4D diesel unit currently powering the latest RAV4 2WD (front-wheel drive) versions will soon also be available in the 4WD models although details are still to be announced.

Matched to a six-speed manual transmission and benefiting from Stop & Start technology, it takes CO2 emissions to a new low for the 2WD versions 127g/km, which qualifies it for zero road tax in the first year of ownership.

The engine range also offers Toyota's 149bhp 2.0-litre Valvematic petrol unit with the Multidrive S CVT automatic transmission as well as a revised 2.2-litre D-4D 148bhp diesel that can be specified with either a six-speed manual or an autobox. Depending on the engine chosen, there are three trim specs: Active, Icon and Invincible. Prices run from 22,595 to 29,305.

My test model was the 2.2-litre D-4D 148bhp, 4-cylinder, DOHC turbodiesel manual 4WD in Icon spec and costing 26,500. Currently it's the most appropriate version for those who want an SUV to not only look like a 4x4 but to be one as well.

Officially, this version will return 49.6mpg in the Combined Cycle on test mine fell well short of the official fuel economy figure, averaging 40mpg. CO2 emissions are 149g/km, so road tax is 140 (and Benefit-in-Kind tax for company car users is 24%).

The load area is bigger
and the rear seats
  fold flat into the floor
in this new RAV4.
With the rear seats in
use the boot space
is 547 litres; with them
folded this goes up to
1,746 litres.
..”
For countryside-living, and given the horrendous weather and worsening road surfaces, any SUV needs 4WD. And because modern 4x4 systems generally operate much of the time in their 2WD mode, there really are no drawbacks for all-year-round use. For the record, while the new RAV4 might be more stylish, better equipped and sharper to drive, it hasn't gone 'soft' and remains as durable and capable as ever over all terrains.

The smarter-looking RAV4 shows off the latest Toyota design language of sharp styling lines mixed with shapely curves. Indeed, it could be mistaken for a Lexus RX 4x4 as it looks far more of a premium SUV than the former 4x4 rugged workhorse version did.

Inside there's a significant improvement design-wise with a quality specification and, most notable of all on the move, a compliant suspension that easily mops up the worst of the impacts and bumps caused by the ever-increasing number of potholes.

The driving position has also been changed, allowing drivers to set a lower seating position should they need to; Icon and Invincible versions come as standard with sports front seats and these offer much improved support and comfort. The layout of the controls has also been improved ergonomically and alongside the premium look and feel, these all add to the overall improvement in the driving experience just what customers want.

Those travelling in the rear will also appreciate the 100mm increase in the wheelbase which provides for really impressive leg room. And the 60:40 split/folding rear seats have better cushioning to further improve comfort.

As for load carrying, the rear seats fold flat into the floor and the load area is bigger: with the rear seats in use the boot space is 547 litres; with them folded this jumps to an impressive 1,746 litres. The rear load sill height has been lowered, and the width of the tailgate aperture has been increased both make for easier loading. The latest version's tailgate is now top hinged, and for Icon and Invincible models this is power operated so it's very user-friendly even if the electronic operation is on the sluggish side.

As for specification, the Icon version will meet most needs with AirCon, power windows and door mirrors, auto lights and wipers, cruise control, DAB radio, lots of storage space and part leather trim. Exterior features include 18-inch alloys, front fog lights, privacy glass and LED daytime running lights.

“The 2.2-litre turbodiesel
pushes out 148bhp
with a healthy 250lb ft
of torque from 2,000rpm.
This makes it responsive
and, despite its long
sixth gear ratio, it copes
very well at low to
medium speeds by
delivering power without
you needing to
constantly change down
a gear or two to get it into
its happy zone.
..”
My test car had the optional Toyota Touch & Go Plus SatNav with voice control and traffic information, which costs an extra 950. Acoustic parking sensors front and rear (which it needs) would have been beneficial but are not included with the Icon level of spec and cost 600 as an option. While a rear-view camera is included, it doesn't really do the same job.

The new 4WD system (Integrated Dynamic Drive) incorporates dynamic torque control in other words, it delivers the driving torque to the wheels with the most grip so in most cases (on-road only), the front wheels are driving and the rear wheels only come into play when more grip is needed.

The torque distribution can vary from 100% to the front wheels to 50:50 front:rear. A new integrated Sport mode also sharpens up engine response and steering assistance and brings torque transfer to the rear wheels to improve handling and cornering performance. Steering inputs by the driver also adjust the front-to-rear torque distribution.

The 2.2-litre D-4D common-rail turbodiesel unit generates 148bhp with a healthy 250lb ft of torque on tap from 2,000rpm. This makes it responsive and, despite its long sixth gear ratio, it copes very well at low to medium speeds by delivering power without you needing to constantly change down a gear or two to get it into its happy zone. Top speed is 118mph with zero to 62mph dusted in 9.6 seconds.

Technically, visually and specification-wise, this latest generation RAV4 is a much improved offering, as proved by the significant increase in sales since its introduction. Notably, it's now roomier for rear seat passengers and offers more load space, has better ride comfort, sharper handling, and premium brand styling. — David Miles

Toyota RAV4 2.2 Icon AWD | 26,500
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 40mpg
Power: 148bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2 149g/km