Words by Gugu Masuku

The Rav4 nameplate has been around since 1994 and has stood the test of time to be where it is today in a bustling segment of SUVs in every corner of the market. What’s more important, though, is that it has shown steady growth over the past two decades, and it now steps back into the arena refreshed and with a glint in its eye, ready to take on the likes of the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda MX-5 and the VW Tiguan.

This was my first official interaction with the Rav4 beyond just a visual encounter, which I had with the outgoing shape. This time around, I got to spend some time behind the wheel and experience the vehicle. One thing that caught my attention with the predecessor was its design and shape—it didn’t appeal to me one bit. I felt it had lost its masculinity and had adopted a more feminine slant in the form of a more edgy and streamlined design; especially in the front and rear. The nose pointed out sharply, with slim headlamps to match. The most recent version of the Toyota SUV addresses this mild issue and does so decisively.

The 2019 Rav4 looks stronger, bolder and is a completely new vehicle from the one it replaces. The bigger squared-off grille and flanking LED headlamps give the Rav a face that resembles that of the Toyota Tundra, which isn’t a bad thing considering the Tundra is a model we never got to see as a market, so we get a piece of it here in the Rav. Squared off arches with cladding complete the look along with a ground clearance of 200mm—the perfect stance!

 

 

 

The Rav’s interior has taken a leap in the general direction of premium

 

To complement its tough-guy exterior, the interior is equipped with off-road settings which give leeway to timely trips off the beaten path, if adventure is your thing. That is exactly what I did at the launch of this new shape. Taking a sharp left into a gravel road, the final stretch to my accommodation for a few days, the charmingly stunning Thando game lodge. I dialled the Rav into the correct setting and wasted no time kicking up stones and dust! To my surprise, the Japanese SUV handled this mild torture superbly. The all-wheel-drive keeps all four wheels duty bound, doing what they are meant to do to keep you on the road. What impressed me the most was the level of comfort offered by the vehicle while ravaging up the uneven terrain at more than average speeds. Moreover, it feels very confident and sure-footed while doing this, giving you the confidence to pick up speed and raise the stakes—great job Toyota.

 

If you thought the changes made to the new Rav4 were only skin deep, you're wrong. The Rav’s interior has taken a leap in the general direction of premium. In fact, the new interior looks and feels like it has taken inspiration from the Lexus brand, and there’s absolutely no foul in that because they’re family after all. You see it in the overall layout and dash area; if you’re still not convinced, just look at the gear selector—it’s Lexus. The only let down in the cabin is the outdated infotainment system, which also looks like an organ harvested from the premium version of the Toyota brand. I guess you've got to take the good with the bad.

 

 

Pricing for the new Rav4 starts at R416 400 for the 2.0 GX 2WD. You can go all the way to premium at R577 900 in the 2.5 VX 8-speed, with all-wheel-drive and a 360-degree monitor. Only petrol engines will be on offer here, seeing as the days of the diesel engine are few and numbered for emissions reasons. Toyota is leading by example and keeping the line-up as clean as possible.

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