Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4×4 Review – 4th Generation RAV Still Superb

2.2 diesel engine is excellent & economical, decent off-road ability, comfy cruiser, good spec overall

Exterior design a bit… lacklustre

 RAV4?

Toyota RAV4 compact mid sized SUV 4x4

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Toyota RAV4, and it’s now on its fourth generation. RAV stands for Recreational Activity Vehicle, and with the RAV4 this was the first compact SUV on the scene. The original first-generation RAV4 was a very good vehicle. I know, because there was one in the family for a while, sent across to rural southern Ireland to live its life there for a couple of years.  There, fitted with a set of Yokohama Geolander A/T tyres, the 1995 bright-green 5-door 2.0 litre petrol automatic all-wheel-drive RAV4 endured the not only 24 months of ridiculously potholed and perma-knackered roads, but also one of the worst winters in a long time.

Not only did it do well, it exceeded expectations. Fully-independant suspension made for a comfortable ride with decent handling around the twisting roads, while an advanced (for the time) 4×4 system (front drive normally, 4×4 engaged under slip) made sure getting stuck in the snow never happened, and that plus stuff like air conditioning, and a handy low-load boot made this a superbly thought-out vehicle, and hugely practical. These old RAV4’s are tough too, the proof being that there are still absolutely loads of first-gen models driving about. So, how about the new one? Is it still as tough and practical as the old one, or has it gone all soft and weedy? We were sent a 2013 Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 litre manual to review and find out…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4

The RAV4 isn’t exactly an exciting thing to look at. While I’d not go be so cruel as to brand the design as dull, there’s nothing to really draw your eye towards it. It’s neither great-looking, nor bad-looking either, just a sensibly designed SUV overall. Really, I reckon the original has a more interesting appearance, and while it was different and stand-outish, this fourth generation RAV seems to slip in with the rest of the cars on the road a tad too easily.

Mid sized SUV 4x4 Toyota RAV4 Icon Diesel

On that point, the latest 2014 version is much, much bigger than its 20-year-old predecessor. In fact it dwarfs it. This is no longer a compact SUV, but a medium one. It has approximately the same dimensions as the Honda CR-V – its main rival – and while they are both similar in design, I’d sat the Toyota pips the Honda, but only just. The Honda’s front end is more striking, but that’s where it ends as the Toyota has more interesting lines down the side and on the rear.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4 Review

I was sent the RAV4 in black, which takes away from the design to an extent, and the Highland Green, Vermillion Red or Titan Blue colour options do this SUV more justice. I’d also option the 18″ Pitlane II alloy’s in the anthracite finish (£800) – you’d be surprised at how much better the RAV’d look with them over the standard wheels. The 4th-gen RAV looks just tough enough to have the appearance it’d do okay off-road, over the CR-V’s urban looks. This was always the case though, even when the two were battling it out in the late Nineties. Now though, this could be to do with the higher 187 mm ground clearance of the Toyota, and its puffed-out side flanks and wheel arches. Personally, I prefer the design of the rear of the RAV over the front, simply for the fact it’s more interesting.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4

Overall, the 2014 Toyota RAV4 exterior neither excites nor disappoints me. It fits in perfectly well either parked on a city street, or bouncing down some pot-holed farmers track, and if it was Toyota’s aim to design the RAV4 to belong in both of these worlds easily, then they’ve succeeded.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Toyota rav4 icon 2.2l 4x4 manual review front seat and console screen

Slide into the drivers seat and you immediately get the sense that this is a real four wheel drive car. The interior makes for a slightly distorted feeling at first too, as it’s way roomier than you’d think from an exterior view. The front seats are notably comfortable, as they are decently supportive also have a longer bottom seat section for your legs. Seats in the rear are decent too, and can be reclined backwards or forwards for further comfort.

Toyota rav4 icon 2.2l 4x4 manual review front seats

 

Toyota rav4 icon 2.2l 4x4 manual review rear seats

The cabin is large and airy, with plenty of head room leg room and elbow room for people in the front and rear. In the front, the dash layout is really very well designed. Physically, it looks appealing, the stitched leather dash sweeping across from driver to passenger side in one fluid movement. The controls are very driver-orientated, but the media system screen needs to be angled more towards the driver, as it glare tends to bounce off it, making it hard to see when it’s sunny. Apart from that the system itself is a good one, and easy to control. It includes the usual Bluetooth for your phone calls and music too.

Toyota rav4 icon 2.2l 4x4 manual review front seat and console.

Any dials and controls around the RAV4 are soft touch, and both good quality and well put together, and the overall impression is that it’s a solidly constructed SUV interior. The instrument panel for the driver is simple, but nicely laid out, modern and a the fact they glow blue softly gives the RAV4 a premium feel. Practicality is one thing that the RAV4 excels in, and there are also lots of areas to store your stuff, such as large doors  pockets, big cup holders and huge space under the centre arm rest.

Toyota rav4 icon 2.2l 4x4 manual review front passenger seat and console

Open the boot lid – which is powered on the RAV4 Icon – and you’ll notice the storage space is huge. There’s also plenty of practical stuff in there too, such as a superbly useful cargo net to hang belongings, which can also be covered over away from prying eyes. Large compartments underneath the boot floor (where the spare sits normally) also stow a load more gear as well. Folding the rear seats forward is easy, and it’s a simple matter of pulling one lever for each side, allowing the seats to fold flat in one fluid movement. This creates a cavernous space as they then sit almost flush with the rest of the boot.

Toyota rav4 icon 2.2l 4x4 manual review boot space with cargo net.

 

Toyota rav4 icon 2.2l 4x4 manual review boot space with folded seats

Standard ‘luxury’ equipment on the RAV4 Icon includes automatic headlights with LED running lights, rear tinted glass, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, cruise control, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, plus the Touch & Go 6.1″ touchscreen with a nice, clear rear-view camera, the aforementioned bluetooth, plus USB and AUX ports, plus more. Lots of goodies to keep you happy, then.

Toyota are certainly moving the car towards being more of a medium to large SUV – by UK and European standards at least – rather than one that is simply a medium size. This is a good thing, and driving the Toyota gives you a feeling of security and, to a degree, that this is a properly tough 4×4.

Engine and gearbox

There are three engines available for the UK-spec RAV4; a 2.0 litre petrol Valvematic, a 2.0 litre D-4D diesel and a 2.2 litre D-4D, which was in the RAV4 we had on test. The 2.2 turbo-diesel is an in-line 4-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC with chain drive, producing a decent 148 bhp at 3,600 rpm, and a more important 250 lb ft (340 Nm) of torque between 2,000 – 2,800 rpm.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel engine

Quoted miles-per-gallon (UK) figures for the 2.2 litre D-4D 6-speed manual are; Urban: 40.9, Extra urban: 56.5, Combined: 49.6. These read excellently, but you can’t really go by these tests, even by the manufacturers admittance. However, a motorway run easily saw upwards of 45 mpg, and slower speeds in light traffic would see over 50 mpg on the live reading. CO2 emissions are 149 g/km, which equate to £140.00 per year tax currently (Feb. ’14).

As mentioned, our tester had the 6-speed manual, which was a good transmission, with long first and second gears which nod towards the RAV4’s off-road ability. From there, actually all the gears are fairly long, and a long 6th sees decently-low rpm at motorway speeds, allowing less engine noise and vibration as a result.

Drive

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2-D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4

Fire up the Toyota’s 2.2 litre turbo-diesel engine, and there is yet again in the sense that this is more than just a soft-roader. While the diesel isn’t overly noisy or obtrusive inside the cabin, it also isn’t some slick, polished-sounding unit either. This, however, was to me reassuring in a way. Toyota’s 4×4 vehicles such as the Hilux and Land Cruiser are world-renowned as being tough, reliable beasts, and to a good degree the RAV4’s chunky 2.2 D-4D engine tone somehow serves one a reminder of this.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4 instrument panel

Set off, and you’ll notice that while the manual gear lever is fairly light, there is still a slight heaviness to it, and yet again this reinforces the fact that this is not some small town car, but an SUV with the ability to power down a boggy, rutted farm track without bother.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4

The Toyota RAV4 drove better than  thought it would. Certainly, the ride is comfortable and for the most part it sails over potholes and rough road surfaces without overly obvious harshness. Much like the original RAV4, Toyota have developed the chassis and suspension admirably, allowing for long distance travel in comfort, while also setting it up so that you can tackle winding, tight country roads at decent enough speeds with confidence.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4 off road

This new RAV4 also has a Sport button (taking a bit of a liberty calling it that though, in all honesty), which allows a more dynamic drive by allowing ‘torque transfer to the rear wheels begins even before any understeer develops. From the moment the steering wheel is turned, the Dynamic Torque Control AWD System operates a new pre-torque control: taking feedback from the driver’s steering inputs, it automatically adjusts to a 90:10 front:rear torque distribution, the transfer of torque to the rear wheels helping the cornering force.’

Handling, as mentioned, is decent enough and there is little roll considering that this is a large vehicle. As it’s front wheel drive normally – until it detects slip and sent torque to the rears – there can be a fair amount of understeer should you push the Toyota hard out of a really sharp bend, or off a roundabout, say, but the Sport setting should counteract that to a large extent. Aside from that, I enjoyed the drive and ride of the RAV4.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4 Review

From a standstill, acceleration can be a very lively and the Toyota is surprisingly quick off the mark, with a 0 – 62 mph time of 9.6 seconds. There’s plenty of low-down torque at hand, and upwards of that it gets to motorway speeds strongly and briskly enough too. Safety features abound on the new RAV4, and include front, side and curtain airbags, as well as one for the driver’s knees. Electronic driver aids are ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) and brake assist, traction control, stability control plus (VSC+), hill start assist, active torque control and Integrated Dynamic Drive with Sport mode, and finally a Dynamic Torque Control AWD System. That enough safety stuff for you? Good!

My view is that the Toyota is a very good drive all-round, with a comfortable ride quality, and an ability to cover long distances very well. While Toyota have done a lot in the way of sound-proofing on this 4th generation RAV4, and it was fairly quiet on the whole, motorway speeds saw a slightly higher degree of noise coming from the road and wind than I’d have expected. Not too bad, but could be improved on that front. It’s good news on the road then, but what about off-road? Let’s have a look how the RAV4 does on the slippery stuff.

AWD and off-road. Stuck or superb?

It’s the end of January and I fully expected a good amount of snow, ice and freezing temperatures to arrive in time for the Toyota RAV4 bring delivered for test. I conjured up thoughts of photographing it pushing its way through deep snow banks, and tackling icy country roads. This is Yorkshire, England, after all, and you’d expect it at this time of year. Sadly, our ridiculous UK weather system meant temperatures averaging a positively-balmy 6˚C and vast quantities of rain falling most days. Annoying.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4 Review-1882

Anyhow, a few points about the AWD system are that it’s fully automated, save for a button to turn the centre differential lock on or off. The RAV4 is driven by the front wheels normally, and should the car detect these starting to slip, torque is sent to the rear wheels making it all-wheel-drive. Set off from a start on a slippery surface such as snow, ice, or mud, and the Toyota automatically sends up to 50% torque to the rears, up to 15.5 mph where it’ll revert back to front-drive until it detects slip again.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4

However, if you’re stuck or want to set off in confidence without the fronts slipping, pressing the ‘LOCK’ button will immediately direct 50% torque to each axle. This will then stay permanent AWD up to a speed of 25 mph.

Just like the original RAV4, when it starts sending power from front to all wheels, this is a highly fluid experience, and you’ll have difficulty telling that it’s actually done its job, save for the obvious that the car will stop slipping and get going again. In boggy conditions, I found it worked rather decently, determinedly forging its way ahead until it was in the clear, the 187 mm ground clearance being easily enough for situations that most RAV4 owners will find themselves in. I’d recommend sticking some decent mixed on/off road tyres on too, such as the Yokohama Geolander A/T’s, as you’ll get way more grip then.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4 off road in mud

Price

Up against rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, the Toyota RAV4 is competitively priced. The base Active model (only available as a 2WD 2.0 D-4D manual) starts at £22,595, moving up to a smidge over £29,000 for the Invincible 2.2 D-4D automatic 4×4, minus any options. This particular RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D manual 4×4 cost £26,500 base price, but £27,495 with the metallic paint and Touch & Go media system option boxes ticked. Did the RAV4 feel like it was worth the money? I thought so, especially against the competition.

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4×4 verdict & score

Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4x4

I liked my time with the RAV4. It’s very much a no-nonsense SUV, which comes across as being a bigger vehicle than it actually is – while you’re driving at least – giving anyone inside a sense of security, and a feeling that this belongs in with the Toyota-tough line up of 4×4’s. I like how practical and comfortable it is too, and while the exterior styling doesn’t really float my boat, the rest of the car more than makes up for this. The 2.2 D-4D is a great engine, with plenty of torque, is geared nicely and highly commendable for its fuel economy too. All in all, if I was looking to buy a medium-sized SUV, the Toyota would certainly be one of the more tempting vehicles up against its rivals.

Do you own a Toyota RAV4? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  6.5
Interior  7.5
Engine  8
Gearbox (man.)  7.5
Price  8
Drive  7.5
Overall Score  7.5 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Toyota RAV4 Icon 2.2 D-4D Diesel Manual 4×4
Spec includes AWD, ABS, EBD, VSC+, hill-start assist, Sport mode, DAB radio, power tailgate, dual-zone climate control, Touch & Go 6.1″ touchscreen with bluetooth for phone & music + USB & AUX-in, and sat nav (optional), LED running lights, 18″ alloy wheels See website for more info
Options you should spec  Pitlane II 18″ alloy wheels (£800)
The Competition  Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Suzuki SX4 S-Cross
Price  (Feb. ’14) £22,595 – £29,000 (minus options). This model: £26,500 or £27,495 inc. options
Engine  Diesel, 2.2 litre, in-line 4-cylinder, DOHC, turbocharged
Power, Torque, CO2  148 bhp @ 3,600 rpm, 250 lb ft (340 Nm) of torque @ 2,000 – 2,800 rpm. | CO2: 149 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front & AWD | 6-speed manual
Ground clearance  187 mm
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed (ltd): 118 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 9.6 seconds | 5-star Euro NCAP rating
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 40.9, Extra Urban: 56.5, Combined: 49.6
Weight (kerb)  1,605 – 1,680 kilo’s (3,538 – 3,703 lbs)
Websites  Toyota UK, Toyota USA, Toyota Global

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Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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