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2017 Toyota RAV4 succeeds on its spaciousness, reputation for safety and reliability Featured

Oct 18, 2017 Hit: 79 Written by 
The 2017 Toyota RAV4 competes in a tough segment, but has the loyal fan base to maintain high sales numbers.
The 2017 Toyota RAV4 competes in a tough segment, but has the loyal fan base to maintain high sales numbers. Photo by Matt Myftiu/AutoTechReviews.com

Toyota’s got a good thing going in the U.S.A.

Not only do their sedans dominate the sales charts, but when we move up to the SUV/crossover ranks, they’re right up there too.

Case in point: The Toyota RAV4 compact SUV. When this vehicle’s first generation came around in the mid-1990s, it was among the first offerings to fit into this new segment, which is now among the most dominant in the overall sales numbers two decades later. By being an early bird, the vehicle drew many fans and its current sales success reflects that.

For those who aren’t aware, the RAV4 is neck and neck with the Honda CR-V for the best-selling SUV in America (RAV4 sold 352,154 in 2016, vs. 357,335 for the CR-V). Not too shabby, and it might explain why RAV4s are as common to see on the roadways as overly eager road-crossing squirrels.

Still, this is a really tough segment -- with not only the CR-V but a ton of other options available (Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Chevy Equinox, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue are just some of the other vehicles to consider). So does the experience in a RAV4 live up to the sales numbers? I recently spent some time in one and I’m back with a full report.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle:: 2017 Toyota RAV4 Platinum AWD
  • Price as tested:: $37,180 (base price is $24,410)
  • Best feature:: Smooth ride; boatloads of safety and tech features
  • Rating:: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?:: Anyone looking for a compact SUV that’s roomy and built to last

LOOKS

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.

ENGINE, HORSEPOWER

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.


TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

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.

MPG

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.


PRICE

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.

BOTTOM LINE

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.

==============

AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

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Matt Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

Website: www.autotechreviews.com

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