When the original Toyota RAV4 was launched in 1994, it created the compact SUV. The fourth-generation model went on sale in early 2013. The third-generation RAV4, which was on sale from 2006 to 2013, is now a good used buy.
The third-generation RAV4 is a five-door, compact SUV that is available with either front- or four-wheel drive. It is longer and wider than the previous generation models but remains good to drive benefitting from a comfortable and car-like feel.
Refinement is one of the RAV4's strongest suits. Little wind- or road noise makes it way into the cabin.
In addition to its on-road manners, the RAV4 is capable off-road as well. The Toyota won't bother the likes of Land Rover but with four-wheel drive, a lockable centre differential and reasonable ground clearance, it can easily handle mild off-roading.
Inside, the cabin has plenty of room for four adults. Five adults will fit but shoulder room in the rear seats will be tight.
The boot measures 410 litres. This is not the biggest in the class but the addition of split, fold-flat rear seats means that the RAV4 is very practical. The only negative for load-lugging is that the rear door is hinged at the side which makes boot access difficult in tight parking spaces and multi-storey car parks.
A variety of engines is available. Those after a petrol get a 2.0-litre unit. From 2006 - 2009 this engine produced 150 bhp. When it was facelifted in 2009, the engine was changed to another petrol 2.0-litre that produces 156 bhp. Manual and automatic options are available.
Those after a diesel model have a choice of power outputs from a 2.2-litre unit. The 2.2 D-4D produced 134 bhp up until the facelift in 2009 and 147 bhp after that. A more powerful 2.2 D-4D engine that produces 175 bhp is also available. This is the first diesel RAV4 to offer an automatic gearbox as an option.
We recommend choosing one of the lower-powered 2.2 D-4D engines. It is smooth, refined and economical with an official combined fuel economy of 42.8 mpg. The diesel is available with two- or four-wheel drive. Both are good cars so choose the one that meets your needs.
All models come with air conditioning, electric windows and a CD player.
XT-4 cars get climate control, leather and electric sunroof while XT-5 adds sat-nav, cruise control and electric seats.
SR180 and T180 trims are the sporty models and come with the more powerful diesel engine and a sports body kit.
After the 2009 facelift, the specifications were changed to XT-R and SR180.
XT-R is our pick of the range as it comes with leather, climate control, bluetooth, automatic headlights and wipers and keyless entry and start.
A 2006 RAV4 2.2 D-4D XT4 costs about 5400. Our favourite version is the 2.2 D-4D XT-R which you can pick up for about 9,500.
Toyota is famous for its reliability. But, when buying a used RAV4, there are a couple of things to look out for.
The run-flat tyres can deflate over time even if there is no obvious puncture. There is no remedy so the only option is to change the tyres.
Check the paintwork. The paint used on the RAV4 is soft and susceptible to damage from stone chips.
On cars with higher mileage, the clutch can need to be replaced, a repair that proves to be expensive. Test drive the car and make sure that you have no difficulty selecting a gear.
The RAV4 was subject to a couple of recalls, one for the rear suspension and one for faulty window switches. The rear suspension can fail due to corrosion. Affected vehicles should have had their suspension arms changed by Toyota. Water can get into the driver's door that can damage the window switches and ultimately cause a fire. These cars were recalled and had the relevant parts replaced.