Review: Is the 2020 Toyota RAV4 worth RM 200,000?

Zamil Syaheer/Jun 20, 2020 08:00 AM

Toyota RAV4

After much speculation, teasers, and leaks, the 2020 Toyota RAV4 has landed on our shores directly from Japan (CBU).

The first-generation Toyota RAV4. Still a unique looking SUV around.

The RAV4 nameplate is one of the most recognizable names in Toyota’s line-up, having pioneered the first compact crossover SUV segment worldwide in 1994.

Now on its fifth-generation, the RAV4 faces off serious competition from many other manufacturers in the trending SUV market.

The design was first previewed by the FT-AC Concept SUV shown in 2017, and much of the design cues and features have been carried over to the RAV4 which was launched in 2019.

Naturally, one would compare the C-segment RAV4 with its arch-rival, the long-time Honda CR-V, or the newer kid on the block, the Mazda CX-5. You’re not wrong, because both of these cars ARE the rival for the RAV4.

But once you start looking at the price point, you begin to wonder (and mumble) why the RAV4 is THAT expensive as compared to both the CR-V and CX-5. The RAV4 2.0L CVT starts at RM 196,500, while 2.5L 8AT will set you RM 215,700. 

In comparison, the top-of-the-line Honda CR-V 1.5 TC-P will set you at RM 175,900, while the Mazda CX-5 2.5 Turbo is RM 181,660.

The answer boils down to: the RAV4 is fully imported from Japan (CBU), while both the CR-V and CX-5 are locally-assembled here (CKD). Well apart from the price being the obvious weak-point for the RAV4, fortunately, there are many other positives too.

Under the hood, one gets to choose from two petrol Dynamic Force engines, ranging from 2.0 or 2.5 liters. Both run D-4S direct injection with VVTI-iE.

2.5L pictured.

The base 2.0L M20A-FKS 4-cylinder engine has 173 PS and 207 Nm of torque at 4,800 rpm paired with a CVT.

Meanwhile, the 2.5L A25A-FKS 4-cylinder engine makes 207 PS and 243 Nm at 5,000 rpm, mated to a Direct Shift 8-speed torque converter automatic. The 2.5L powertrain is similar to the one in the current Lexus ES 250.

Both the CVT and 8AT have a manual mode with paddle shifters, and three selectable drive modes – Normal, Eco and Sport.

A rarity here is that both 2.0L and 2.5L variant shares similar equipment apart from the powertrain, hence it only boils down to whether you're willing to pay the extra premium for better performance, road tax, and the car price.

Exterior

At first glance, you will notice that the RAV4 has a very rugged and old-school SUV feel to it, kinda reminds you of the old Land Cruiser.

This is due to the combination of the cross octagon and trapezoid shape evident all over the exterior design.

Toyota calls the RAV4 sophisticated and refined. Two octagons intersect at a 90-degree angle to create a wide front stance and a look of enhanced utility in the rear (utility is actually enhanced, so it’s no illusion).

Each body panel has a chiseled appearance that combines athleticism and charisma.

The black lower body flows from the side and runs up towards the rear with a polygonal motif, creating an illusion as if the wheel arches are holding the tyres from a high position in order to emphasize the lifted-up body outlook.

There’s an aerodynamic-enhancement found in the exterior design too. For example, the angular rear combination lamp contributes to stability via aero-stabilizing fins on the outer lenses.

Even the door handles, rear spoiler, and side fin design help.

Both 2.0L and 2.5L variants come standard with Bi-LED parabola headlamps and daytime running lamps with signature LED daytime running lights to produce a more premium light source.

There’s even a powered rear tailgate with hands-free (kick) operation. On the outside, you’ll find 18-inch five-spoke alloys mated to 225/60 Bridgestone Alenza tyres.

Interior

The cross octagon and trapezoid shape theme continues inside the RAV4, evident on instrument-panel vents, the door handle surround, and the outline of speaker grilles.

If you look closely, some of the trim in RAV4 is mocha-colored and is used effectively as an accent on bezels for the front cupholders and the tray holding the Qi wireless charge pad, as well as in storage cubbies on the instrument panel.

The same pattern is used elsewhere in the vehicle sans the mocha shade – on speaker grilles, around the Qi charge pad, in a tray inside the center box, the rear boot, and in the bottom of front cupholders.

The cabin materials are good or on par with Toyota C-HR, but they’re not RM 200,000 good. Touch and feel are closer to cars in the sub-150,000 price range. Everything else like the button on the steering wheel and knobs is solid to touch or hold.

If you have to talk about practicality, then leave that to the Honda CR-V as there are more cubby holes and storage elsewhere.

Fortunately, the RAV4 has a best-in-class boot space with 580 litre when seats are up, and a whopping 1,690 litre when the back seat is folded down. The CR-V and CX-5 are no match for this. 

The 7-inch DVD (who uses them anymore?) touch screen is easy to use and it comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Even the sound system is great as it emits a powerful, crisp, and clear sound through the 6-speakers. It even comes with a built-in DVR.

Driving performance and handling

This is where the price is justifiable. For this drive, there’s only a fleet of 2.5L variants available, so we’re going to base it on that.

We started our brief half day-long test drive going through Shah Alam town from UMW Toyota HQ before entering the highway stretch heading to Pulau Indah and back.

The first thing we noticed was how sharp the throttle response moving from a stationary position. The engine is eager to rev at such a low range.

With 207 PS and 243 Nm of torque, the 2.5-liter Dynamic Force engine lives up to its name as it provides responsive acceleration and performance in the most efficient manner while delivering superior fuel economy.

With ample gearing from its 8-speed Direct Shift automatic, power and torque are spread equally from lower range onwards. It makes overtaking in the 2.5L variant a breeze.

We can’t help but ponder how the Toyota Camry would feel with this engine in place.

We have raved and praised the TNGA platform so many times before but when it’s really THAT good, it's worthy of more praises again.

The RAV4 uses the same TNGA-K platform that underpins the Camry and Lexus ES, and it’s the driving experience that shines.

It handles corners precisely in the most gentle and compliant way. We personally think it offers the best road-holding capability among its competitors as it does a fantastic job at soaking up road irregularities.

There’s no dead off-center in the steering feel (which is nicely weighted) too.

The way the steering response to your input is linear, typical of Toyota but with enhanced preciseness which caught us by surprise, seeing as this is an SUV.

Generally, past SUVs are known for not being engaging to drive, but with Toyota and Mazda’s latest generation of SUV, that is no longer the case.

However, the Mazda CX-5 tends to be a bit more on the eager side, hence we think the RAV4 managed to balance things out in providing a comfortable yet engaging experience behind the wheel.

What about the Honda CR-V? As per our previous review, it is good for straight-line only, and not corners.

Ride comfort

It glides effortlessly going through the town area and impressed us even more once we get onto the highway. The RAV4 cabin is quiet, although not as quiet as the CX-5 but it is heaps better than the CR-V.

The RAV4 rides comfortably on your normal driving duties, yet if you are feeling a little spirited, the suspension and damper handle the duties like a champ.

Think of it as a bigger C-HR with a more refined tuning, and you’re on the right track.

Behind, there’s ample space as the roofline is quite tall as compared to the Mazda CX-5. We can say it is on par with the CR-V. The rear seats are adjustable too, so there’s no issue in the long drive or for a taller passenger.

Legroom is ample, while seat material and anti-slip are of high quality.

However, if you’re keener on practicality, the Honda CR-V is still the definite choice on this. The RAV4 doesn’t offer much cubby holes nor cupholders all around. Plus, the door card is thick too. 

There are rear air-conditioning vents and it even comes with 2 USB charging below, the latter which is a little bit of rarity for Toyota because you usually get the air-conditioning vents only or none.

Wind noise is only apparent at speeds well above the speed limit. Engine and road noise are sufficiently insulated away.

As this is a brief test drive, we couldn’t do our usual cabin noise measurement but follow us on our Facebook for more updates.

Safety Equipment

The RAV4 comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0), which includes:

  • Pre-Collision System (PCS)
  • Lane Departure Alert (LDA) with steering assist
  • Lane Tracing Assist (LTA)
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) for all-speed
  • Automatic High Beam (AHB)
  • Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • UMWT also adds on its security and solar window film, and telematics system.
  • Hill-Assist Control (HAC)
  • Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRC)

Other than that, the RAV4 comes with the usual 7 airbags (front, side, curtain, driver’s knee), front & rear digital video recorder (DVR), tyre pressure warning system, and a 5-years unlimited mileage warranty.

Conclusion

The controversial pricing certainly divides opinion and wreak havoc on social media, and we whole-heartily agree. To fork out an additional RM 30,000 extra over the CX-5 and CR-V is definitely no small amount.

If you want sheer practicality and brand status, you’re better off with the Honda CR-V. If you’re the type that enjoys driving, appreciate the craftsmanship, and not bothered by the lack of space, then get the Mazda CX-5.

If you want a balance between comfort, practicality, and driving experience, we highly recommend the Toyota RAV4.

So it begs the question: is the RAV4 worth the price? The best answer here is to go out and test drive it for yourself.

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