• Friday, May 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

RAV4’s cross-over revolution

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These days when technological breakthrough is the order of the day among automotive manufacturers, it appears you cannot navigate through the concrete jungle without coming across a compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) of some sort. Well, this should not come as a surprise. In case you have forgotten, in 1994 Toyota kick-started the cross-over revolution with the very first RAV4.

Toyota’s freshly redesigned luxury car may not be groundbreaking; it is neither going to prevent any wars, save the world from an oil crisis, nor forestall any inevitable recession of the global automotive market, but in the world of modern crossover SUVs, however, it is an undeniably solid offering and has remained like that since inception.

After a few years of getting overshadowed by new, more modern competitors, the RAV4 is looking to get back in the game with a modest though precise redesign, one that specifically targets all the little things that small SUV buyers want.

Launched as a compact three-door model, the original RAV was a radically different animal to what was then on offer in the form of traditional 4x4s. It featured a small engine mounted transversally within a monocoque bodyshell, and boasted an all-round independent sturdy suspension system that makes it run firm on smooth and rough terrain.

The interior is where most drivers will find the bar significantly raised. Not only are the dash and centre stack more modern and attractive to look at and touch, the interior cabin has more space. In keeping with the more cockpit-like driver’s environment, the driving position of the new RAV4 has been extensively revised for improved ergonomics, greater comfort, better forward visibility and a more engaging driving experience.

In response to the continuing evolution of the compact SUV market, and the demand for ever greater fuel and emissions efficiency, it offers customers a wider engine line-up than before. Toyota has also ditched the previous RAV4’s available V-6 engine, which distinguished it from many competitors by offering an impressive 269 horsepower and meaningful towing capacity.

The big mechanical change is the new six-speed automatic transmission replacing the four-speed gearbox. The extra speeds give a nice bump to the RAV4’s fuel economy ratings.

On the road, RAV4’s handling feels more athletic, with communicative steering and surprisingly stiff suspension for a grocery getter. For critics in the industry, that is an upgrade compared with the numb feel of many past Toyota models.

The vehicle’s styling, inside and out, measures up to the mark that Toyota has set for itself and even the exterior has also improved on the previous model. The sharply angled tail lights, nose and grille of the new RAV4 make it seem more up-market and utilitarian in finishing outlook.

With interior that is functional enough and myriad of storage cubbies, pockets and compartments throughout the cabin, firm seats with thick side bolsters can hold both driver and occupants comfortably in place. The rear seats fold flat and can easily swallow a mountain bike without removing its wheels.

The new RAV4’s comprehensive range offers an unmatched balance between outstanding, front and four-wheel drive performance and class-leading carbon emissions in all petrol and diesel variants. The power train line-up now comprises a 107 kW 2.0 litre Valvematic petrol engine in two-wheel drive format mated to a choice of six-speed manual or Multidrive S (Toyota’s highly-advanced Continuously Variable Transmission system) transmissions.

In Nigeria where Toyota is the consistent leader, there are many vehicles that can lay claim to the title compact SUV, but it is worth remembering that it was the Japanese brand that pioneered this segment. The Recreational Activity Vehicle was launched separately in Lagos and Abuja, Nigeria’s commercial and political capital, respectively, last April.

Longer by 205mm than its predecessor (now without the spare wheel carrier on the tailgate) at 4570mm overall, the fourth generation of Toyota’s compact, versatile SUV showcases an all new silhouette that emphasises its versatility, roominess and sporting character. Available in over 150 countries, a record-breaking three generations of RAV4 have sold more than 4.5 million units since launch.

 

MIKE OCHONMA