Off-road Test: Soft Serve-RAV4 AWD

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Words & Pictures by Andrew Middleton

After its inception in 1994, Toyota’s Recreational Active Vehicle (RAV) caused quite a stir, entering the market as the first-ever compact SUV to successfully lure city slickers and urban commuters to the 4×4 world.
The RAV4’s tiny stature and car-like driveability resulted in low running costs and ease of use, while offering the benefits of a higher seating position.

Despite its obvious appeal to soccer moms, the RAV4 was offering more than just scaled-down-SUV looks; it also boasted high clearances, incredible manoeuvrability and a featherweight build, all of which afforded the midget SUV impressive off-road abilities. Following the recent introduction of the 4th generation RAV4, the vehicle no longer competes with the likes of the Daihatsu Terios or Suzuki Jimny; the latest RAV4 has climbed up the quilted ladder of luxury to compete against far fancier (and less capable) rivals. As a result, the RAV4 has become soft − so soft, in fact, that it is most definitely destined for a life of grocery-shopping trips and kiddie carpools.

Much of this change has come about through the RAV4’s increased dimensions. Some 880 mm longer than the original model, the latest RAV4 has now entered the mid-size SUV segment, thus raising new challenges and some important questions. For example: is the RAV4 still a capable softroader?

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