It may be difficult for some to believe, but the Toyota RAV4 has been in SA for 25 years spanning four generations. Earlier this week the new Toyota RAV4 was launched into the local car market.

Click here to read about the Lexus UX SUV.

What’s new?

Well, pretty much all of it. The new Toyota RAV4 has no links to the outgoing model, bar its name. Generation five is based on Toyota’s new global architecture platform. This means it has grown in all key areas. Increasing external dimensions has created more room in the cabin for passengers and luggage. While it has grown considerably since that very first model, Toyota still considers its small SUV, slotting in above the CH-R and below the Fortuner in the pecking order.

Most notable of the changes is the new appearance. New Toyota RAV4 looks quite different from its more demure predecessor. This new version is far more distinctive and butch in its appearance. Squared lines and complex surfaces lend it an air of sophistication. The more rugged-looking GX-R model, in particular, with its hexagonal grille appears more closely related to the likes of the Hilux and Tacoma pick-ups. Toyota could easily slap a Lexus badge on this vehicle and no one would be any wiser.

The air of sophistication continues inside. High perceived-quality materials are prevalent throughout the cabin, particularly on contact surfaces. Standard specification is also quite high across the range, though too vast to go into here, you can find more info on Toyota’s local site.

Under the bonnet

At the time of launch, Toyota SA will only be offering two engine options. Both are naturally aspirated petrol units. The Japanese firm is still not keen to offer turbopetrol mills in its larger vehicles. The smaller, 2,0-litre engine (127 kW/203 N.m) can be paired with a six-speed manual or CVT and is available in front- or all-wheel-drive guises (see below for the model breakdown).

The larger, 2,5-litre motor (152 kW/243 N.m) is available solely with an eight-speed automatic transmission mated with an AWD driveline. Interestingly, Toyota SA has done away with turbodiesel derivatives completely, in keeping with international trends and a lack of interest from local buyers.

Trim levels

Three trim levels will be offered locally: an entry-level GX, mid-level GX-R and range-topping VX. While the standard specification is high, each successive model offers a little more than that which precedes it. At the very least owners can expect LED headlamps, cruise control, rear parking sensors, eight airbags, front and rear foglamps, air-conditioning, alloy wheels, and a full suite of passive safety systems.

How does it go?

We sampled two derivatives on the ride and drive event along the treacherous section of road between Richard’s Bay and Pongola on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast. We started off with the GX-R variant for our north-bound trip.

My experience co-pilot and I were quite impressed by the ride quality and refinement of the new model. There is very little noise intrusion and the 140-odd km journey passed without much notice. Plump tyre sidewalls and a well-resolved suspension ironed out most of the road imperfections we encountered along the N2. Our initial impressions were underlined later in the day as we traversed a section of dirt track.

The area that didn’t impress, however, was the response of the CVT transmission. Coupled with the less powerful 2,0-litre motor we really needed to mash the throttle to make any sort of decent progress, and even then there was a rather unnerving pause before we really going. In the face of maniacal drivers found in this part of the world, one really needs a drivetrain that responds with alacrity.

Later we sampled the 2,5 VX version. As mentioned earlier, the 2,5-litre motor is coupled with a more traditional automatic transmission. Armed with additional power and torque, with the faster acting transmission is a far less nerve-wracking experience. It’s a pity that Toyota SA does not offer the eight-speed auto with the smaller engine.


When the very first generation RAV4 was launched all that time ago, there were just seven competitors in the segment, today there are over 40. Despite the tough competition the ‘small’ SUV from Toyota has managed to stay competitive and retain a significant market share.

This new Toyota RAV4 is a quality product that is highly specced, has plenty of space, rides well and is keenly priced, which means we should see quite a few hitting the roads soon.

New Toyota RAV4 pricing

2,0 GX FWD                        R416 400

2,0 GX CVT FWD               R427 600

2,0 GX-R CVT AWD          R508 100

2,0 VX CVT FWD                R505 400

2,5 VX 8-spd AT AWD       R577 900