What is it? The small SUV that created the category back in 1996 gets a fourth-generation redesign for the 2013 model year.
The sole engine offered will be the company’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which puts out 176 hp for 2013 (that engine produced 179 hp in 2012). A new six-speed sequential gearbox replaces the old four-speed automatic. This new combination gets an EPA-estimated 22-mpg city, 29-mpg highway in the all-wheel-drive RAV4. Front-wheel-drive versions are said to get 24-mpg city and 31 mpg on the highway.
In what seems to be an effort to make the RAV a bit sportier, the Dynamic Torque Control AWD system will reroute power to the rear wheels depending on steering angle and yaw rates, similar to what some other brands do with their AWD systems. The system primarily drives the front wheels, however.
The new styling has seen Toyota (thankfully) switch from the side-hinged rear door to a top-hinged liftgate for the cargo area. The old side-hinged door often made it awkward to access the cargo bay in a parallel-parking situation. A power rear liftgate is available on the Limited model.
Inside the cabin of all versions, drivers will find a standard tilt-and-telescope steering wheel that incorporates audio, hands-free phone, and driver information display controls.
A 6.1-inch LCD touchscreen is standard across the line, and it includes Bluetooth and a backup camera that has overlay lines to assist in reversing. XLE and Limited models will offer Navigation and the Toyota Entune multimedia system. Limited versions will also offer a blind-spot monitoring system, which incorporates a rear cross traffic alert feature.
The base LE seating package includes manual six-way adjustments for the driver. Moving up to the XLE gets sportier seats with nicer fabric, while the Limited will feature an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat. Seats in the Limited will use SofTex synthetic leather trim.
The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, and when flat, provide a claimed “class leading” 73.3 cu.ft. of storage.
What is new or notable? Toyota jumps ahead of Honda by fitting their small SUV with a six-speed automatic, like competitors from Ford, GM, Hyundai, Kia, and Mazda. In addition, the V6 engine is no longer available, and it seems the third-row seat has also been dropped.
CR’s take: The lack of the V6 is surprising, considering that in our fuel economy tests it gave up just 1 mpg to the four-cylinder version, yet was far quicker. But getting rid of the third-row seat makes sense: it was always a snug fit, and no other small SUV offered a third row.
When will it be available? February 2013.