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Toyota expects to dominate the booming SUV segment with reinvented RAV4 range

20 Feb 2013

THE once all-conquering RAV4 has not had it easy of late, falling behind many of its competitors as a result of a once-complacent Toyota letting others be more creative and innovative.

Happily, that attitude seems to be a thing of the past, as the new 40 Series by and large attests to.

Whether the Japanese giant has done enough to make the RAV4 a leader once more is another story.

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Model release date: 1 February 2013 to 1 November 2015

Previous model

30 Series RAV4

Released: February 2006
Ended: February 2013
Family Tree: RAV4

The third-generation RAV4 was a complete departure from its accomplished and more compact predecessor, moving more into the middle of the road to increase the appeal to mainstream family car buyers.

Gone, too, was the full-time all-wheel drive system, for a part-time set-up that only kicked in when traction losses were detected. Initially only a single engine was offered – in 120kW/224Nm 2.4-litre petrol guise – driving the front wheels via a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox. In an era where rivals like the Honda CR-V went one better ratio wise, it showed complacency on Toyota’s behalf – an attitude that would later see the RAV4 usurped by better value and more dynamic rivals.

While a conventional door (and diesel power) was offered overseas, Australian-bound cars came with a spare-mounted side-hinged tailgate, decreasing parking vision in the process, while from the middle of 2007 a 201kW/333Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol was launched. Since fuel prices were about to peak at record levels – further underlining how out of step the once-pioneering RAV4 was becoming – it’s no surprise to learn V6 sales proved sluggish.

A minor facelift/upgrade arrived in late 2008, but it took until early 2010 for Toyota to finally wake up to market realities by importing a less-expensive front-wheel drive RAV4 to compete against the popular Nissan X-Trail and Korean SUVs.

However, by then, the once spirited compact SUV trailblazer remained an also-ran, despite relatively strong sales.

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