The 2.0-litre diesel has 141bhp and comes with front-wheel drive only. It’s pretty flexible, picking up eagerly enough from low revs. It gets noisy as you increase the engine revs, but there’s reasonable punch, meaning you don’t have to stir the six-speed gearbox too much.
The hybrid model is the other option if running costs are a consideration. There’s a front-wheel drive version aimed at business users and a four-wheel drive version with an additional electric motor on the back axle. Both undercut the diesel for emissions, but are unlikely to prove as economical on long motorway trips.
A 2.0-litre petrol is offered with a CVT automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard, but the gearbox makes the engine over-rev noisily when you want to make progress. The hybrid models also suffer from this.
Refinement is generally a weak point with the RAV4; the diesel is quite noisy and transmits noticeable vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals. Wind and tyre noise also become wearisome at high speeds.
Still, the handling is always secure and precise, making the car easy to place and confidence inspiring, even if a Mazda CX-5 is better. Don’t feel you have to go for the four-wheel-drive model for maximum stability, either – the front-wheel-drive car provides plenty of traction in anything but very icy or snowy conditions.
The front-wheel drive 2.0 D-4D will tow a braked trailer up to 2000kgs in weight, while the 2.0-litre petrol can only muster 1500kg. The front-wheel drive hybrid is even worse at 800kg although the 4WD variant can pull a fairly impressive 1650kg.
Ride comfort on all models is a bit busy around town, but it settles well and feels comfortable at higher speeds.