The exterior of the RAV4, particularly its snub-nose design, isn’t what I would call pretty compared to others in the class. But it’s not entering a beauty contest. The RAV4 is about providing the utility you need -- namely a lot of cargo space in the rear and flexibility with the rear seating so you can expand that cargo space.
The back seat of the RAV4 is also as roomy as you’re going to get in this class of smaller SUVs.
The seating on my test vehicle was comfortable, but not luxurious. And the overall interior design features a bit more hard plastic mixed in than I would have preferred.
The vehicle is roomy for its class, but still pretty tight in back seat, so I would move up to a larger vehicle size if you transport large numbers of the family regularly.
Among features on the RAV4 I tested were: LED headlamps, taillamps and DRL; power moonroof; and roof rails. Heated seats and steering wheel were also available.
Helping your efforts to get more storage space are the reclining and fold-flat second row seats. In the end, 73.4 cubic feet of space is offered behind the front row of seating.
The only engine offered on the 2017 RAV4 is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, which features a 6-speed automatic transmission. It offers a total of 176 horsepower, and 172 lb.-ft. of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard but you can upgrade to AWD.
While I will call the ride smooth, it also didn’t stand out as especially quick to accelerate or distinguish itself as an overall driving experience. It’s fair to say that some of the competitors offer a more enjoyable ride.
On the positive side, the RAV4 is generally quiet inside, even moreso than some of the competition.
Also, I will say the drive in a RAV4 is better than what you’ll experience if you choose to try out a RAV4 hybrid. That’s a vehicle that I have found to be disappointing in terms of overall comfort and I would recommend avoiding the hybrid and sticking to the standard RAV4 if you’re going with a Toyota in this segment.
If the driving experience in a RAV4 has you down, it gets back its mojo when we start to talk about safety and technology.
First, the RAV4 is excellent (near perfect) in government crash test scores. There are multitudes of tech features offered; some standard and some requiring additional fees.
Toyota Safety Sense is standard and features: Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection; lane departure alert with steering assist; auto high beams; and dynamic cruise control.
The Star Safety system offers: Enhanced vehicle stability control; traction control; anti-lock brakes; brake assist and start/stop technology
Other options include blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert, along with a premium JBL Audio sound system, and a Birds Eye View camera system.
Regarding the tech setup/infotainment system, I found voice controls worked well even for navigation. The actual screen looks dated and could use an update to catch up to competitors, but centralized location and setup of buttons is ideal so it’s really just a cosmetic issue.
The bottom line with any Toyota family vehicle is that the company’s reputation of reliability and safety remains a big selling point. It’s a large part of why the sales numbers are so high.
The RAV4 features official fuel mileage numbers of 22 city/28 highway/24 combined.
Not terrible numbers, but they are a bit behind competitors such as the Honda CR-V and Mazda’s CX-5. My average during my time in the RAV4 was 24.4 miles per gallon.
My loaded test vehicle was just over $37,000, but the base price for a RAV4 is closer to $24,000, so this is an affordable SUV, which also helps the sales figures. Factoring in the reliability of the brand makes the price even more enticing.
Nobody will test the 2017 Toyota RAV4 and say it’s best in class across all categories, but it’s strong enough in so many that its deficiencies are easier to overlook.
If you want a roomy compact SUV with storage capacity, plus a smooth and quiet ride, and don’t need a hot rod, the RAV4 makes a good case for itself.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.