Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Evolution Solution

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Evolution Solution

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK JAMES

IT'S not hard to see why the Toyota RAV 4 is the best-selling compact SUV in the world. Since its introduction in 1994, it has been a huge success story.

However, it now faces plenty of excellent opposition from the likes of the Freelander, Honda's CR-V and the Nissan X-Trail, to mention just a few.

But this vehicle is an example of what Toyota excels at - gradual evolution.

This has been apparent in cars such as the nowdeparted Corolla and the Avensis, but RAV sales remain resilient despite a downturn in 4x4 sales.

The RAV may not be the prettiest in its class, but it still looks modern enough, more so since the spare wheel was dumped from the tailgate But recent upgrades make potentially better value than ever.

It has received a front-end facelift and a new entry level model with two-wheel drive, so it now boasts being a crossover as well as an SUV.

The front end now features wider grille, revised headlight styling, a new bonnet and front wing design, together with a new full-width front bumper. The 2.2-litre D-CAT engine matched to six-speed automatic transmission is another highly popular combination.

The vehicle has always been renowned for its carlike driveability - and rightly so. It handles, well, like a car, and is only really upset on rougher surfaces.

It is also capable off-road, where the four-wheel "active drive system" automatically transfers torque between front and rear wheels for optimum performance, while a dashboard control allows the driver to lock into all-wheel drive.

Practicality is the name of the game inside the car. It features Toyota's "Easy Flat" system, which allows the 60/40 split rear seats to be folded into the floor at the tug of a lever.

The boot also features an underfloor compartment.

Boot access is via a side-hinged tailgate, so you need to be careful where you park before opening it. Despite the rev i s i o n s , some of the plastics and switches are beginning to show their age, and the test models dark leather and Alcantara seats and trim made it feel a bit gloomy at times. …

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