The original Toyota RAV4 really was deemed the hot hatch of high-riders, but as so often happens its competitors soon caught up and in some cases surpassed its abilities. And so the same thing happened with the third and current generation car, which is now wandering behind talented rivals such as the Skoda Yeti and even the Nissan Qashqai when it comes to driving dynamics.

But it is remarkably entertaining to drive, especially when you consider its 1600kg weight. There’s little roll as you turn into a bend and despite the compliant straight-line ride the damping remains composed round the bends. It will understeer at the limit though, sometimes earlier than you’d expect it to, and the artificial-feeling steering doesn’t always inspire confidence. 

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Four-wheel-drive system can be locked to distribute power 55/45 front-to-rear up to 25mph

In normal conditions the AWD system sends power to the front wheels only, but any change in the situation can see it transfer up to 45 percent of the drive to the rear wheels. Combined with the VSC+ stability control and the electric power steering this makes up what Toyota calls Actibve Drive – giving a co-ordinated steering, drive and braking response to emergency situations. With the right rubber on the rims the RAV4 is actually quite talented off-road too. Short overhangs and a decent ride height are complimented by the Active Drive’s Hillstart assist and on the automatic models Downhill Assist too, though unlike the first generation the bumpers are all body-colour and will be expensive to repair if damaged while mud-plugging.

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