I love this car so much that my next car will be a Rav4.
I have driven a Honda CR-V , Land Rover Freelander and Land Rover Range Rover but have found the RAV 4 a far superior drive.
In term of looks, it beats the pants off other cars in its class. I commute in a 45 mile radius down many types of road, the RAV 4 handles them all well. Fuel economy is poor especially when I drive in mainly urban, suburban routes. This is to be expected of a 4x4 I guess.
However, the lack of feedback off the road reduces driver confidence, even after driving this baby for a year. I sometimes find I have to concentrate extra hard to get that good speed and braking-distance balance.
Practicality for a supposed family 4X4 is average in my opinion. The rear room is cramped and there is no cut-off switch for the airbag in the front passenger seat area. The tailgate is awful, it swings back when you are parked on a slope and doesn't open 90 degrees. I have been hit on the back a few too many times by the tailgate when parked on slopes.
The dash and the parcel shelf are ordinary for a 20k car as well compared to many of its rivals.
I would recommend this car to most people. However, because of its bad praticality failings that may hinder its "family friendliness" I am considering trading it in for a more spacious compact 4x4 eg Nissan X-Trail T-Spec.
If the sort out the tailgate, rear room and airbag, this car would be spot on.
I test drove the Kia Sorento, Hyundai Tuscon and the Freelander (yuch) prior to buying the XT3 D4D just before Christmas 2004 and have clocked up nearly 3500 miles already.
The handling knocks the spots off our 2.0 X-Trail, as does the engine with its low-down torque. My only gripe with the driving experience is an overly short first gear, a notchy change from first to second and a little too much diesel rattle.
Handling wise it's about as good as you could expect from a medium size 4x4, and my 54 mile commute to and from work each day over A roads, B roads and a short strech of dual carriageway are accomplished in a fuss-free manner.
Economy has been bang on the button with 39mpg easily achievable - although I doubt the accuracy of the trip computer and reckon it's 5-10% optimistic - still, it's not bad. Living up a farm track in the Grampians has given me the opportunity to try out the 4WD system - it's not bad but could do with some more off-road biased tyres for snow and mud.
Quality wise, there have been a few rattles (the ubiqutous dash and rear parcel shelf to name but two) but I'll live with them until the first service.
Space wise, it's not up with the X-Trail, but that's not a big issue - I like the fact that the seats tumble and come out, which has been useful for carting around armchairs and washing machines.
All in all - top notch and I'm glad I made the decision.
Purchased our RAV a year ago now. It's an excellent car, reliable, comfortable and drives very well.
So many poeple have commented on how well it handles in the lanes where we live.
It's well built and has a good level of equipment. It's not a tough off-roader but I didnt want that. I don't have a problem with the rear door either - just take the pin out when you need to load wide cargo.
The diesel D4D engine pulls well, it's good on fuel (normally 39mpg around town), the steering is responsive, and it's very good to drive.
Excellent Toyota back up, following up that I am happy with the car. All round, it's an excellent "soft" roader, although it handles well when we take it across our fields.
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