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Toyota RAV4 to go front-wheel drive

Not coming: Facelifted RAV4 shown at Geneva this week won't come to Australia, but a cheaper front-drive RAV will.

Sub-$30,000 price expected to for Toyota Australia’s upcoming two-wheel drive RAV4

Toyota logo5 Mar 2010

By MARTON PETTENDY

TOYOTA Australia has confirmed a cut-price front-wheel drive version of its popular RAV4 is just around the corner, and it’s odds-on to be priced from under $30,000.

GoAuto has learned two specification grades of the front-drive RAV will soon be available in Australia, priced well under the current (all-wheel-drive-only) RAV4’s starting price of $33,790.

Based on the $4500 premium Toyota charges for the AWD Kluger over the 2WD version, Australia’s first front-drive RAV4 should be priced from around $29,290.

Toyota spokesman Mike Breen confirmed the 2WD RAV4, which has now received official federal Australian Design Rule certification, is: “Not too far away”.

Like the current RAV, the new entry-level model will be powered exclusively by a 125kW 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, mated to a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission.

However, while it will still offer a braked towing capacity of 1500kg (750kg unbraked), the removal of the RAV4’s part-time AWD system will in part be behind a weight reduction of about 100kg (from 1580 to 1480kg at base level), which should bring tangible fuel consumption and emissions reductions.

Like the AWD RAV4, twin front-side and curtain airbags will be optional on the entry-level variant and standard on upstream grades which will also gain foglights, roof-rails and 17x7.0-inch alloy wheels, instead of 17x6.5-inch steel wheels, although both wheels wear 225/65 R17 tyres.

Significantly, apart from being lighter and more economical, the front-drive RAV should also handle better because it has a substantially lower ride height that offers ground clearance of just 136mm (down from 200mm for AWD models).

8 center imageThe current (third-generation) RAV4 has been on sale in Australia since February 2006 and received a midlife makeover in October 2008, when active head restraints and electronic stability control were added to the base CV variant, a driver’s knee airbag was added to more expensive models and all grades received cosmetic updates.

A facelifted RAV4 was revealed at this week’s Geneva motor show, based on the highly specified ‘Vanguard’ version sold in Japan, but Mr Breen said Australia’s RAV4 would receive no further upgrades in its current generation.

“We had a facelift some months ago,” he said. “There’s no further facelift planned. There might be special editions and things like that, but there won’t be any facelifts of any large degree - definitely not what they showed in Geneva,” he said.

That means the Australian RAV4’s petrol engine, which essentially dates back to 2003, will soldier on until next year, when Toyota releases the fourth-generation RAV4.

As part of Toyota’s commitment to make hybrid power available across all its model lines by the early 2020s, the next RAV is expected to come with petrol-electric power, but it’s not clear whether it will be fitted with the newer 2.5-litre engine already available in the US – or if it will match its key rivals by offering the diesel engine fitted to the European RAV.

Toyota is likely to continue to offer four-cylinder and V6 engines in Australia’s next RAV, which instead of sharing the European model’s short wheelbase is based on the same long-wheelbase model sold in the US, where a seven-seat version is also on offer. Toyota has not produced a three-door body derivative of the MkIII RAV.

The addition of a 2WD version of the RAV4 follows a similar move made by Toyota with the launch of its second-generation Kluger medium SUV here in August 2007 and, more importantly, many of the RAV’s most direct rivals in the compact SUV class.

Front and all-wheel-drive versions of Hyundai’s new ix35, which recently replaced the highly popular Tucson, will soon be matched by the all-new Sportage from fellow Korean maker Kia.

The current Sportage is one of the cheapest compact SUVs at $24,990 – the same as the front-drive version of Nissan’s Dualis city-SUV, while the 2WD version of Renault’s closely related Koleos starts at $31,490.

Mazda last year released a 2WD version of its more expensive CX-7 (from $33,990), which has lifted sales considerably this year, while Holden is the latest brand to add a front-drive SUV variant in the shape of the four-cylinder, five-seat Captiva ‘5’, which is effectively a compact SUV with a starting price of $27,990.

RAV4 sales were down 10.5 per cent in Australia last year, when Subaru’s similarly AWD-only Forester overhauled it to become Australia’s top-selling compact SUV.

Sales of both the RAV and Forester remained static during the first two months of this year, but in the same period the CX-7, Dualis and Sportage registered sales surges of well over 200 per cent.

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