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While on holidau in Cyprus recently we decided that we definately needed a hire car as we wanted to explore the island at our own pace and did not want to be trapped in a resort depedant on organised trips to get about, we also knew that we would be driving in the mountains so wanted someting with a bit of power that could handle poor roads, oh and a soft top would be ideal so we could soak up the sun and the Rav 4 on offer proved ideal. I never realised that RAV stands for ecreationally Active Vehicle and this little baby certainly helped make us active holiday makers. Driving this car was quite enjoyable, I found that it did have excellent road holding and it took bends smoothly, this was a good job because the twists and turns combined with some very scary drops in the Trudos mountains made having good road holding essential especially as some of the locals seemed to drive with reckless abandon. This driing is made all the more scary when they are behind the wheel of a bus or lorry. It handled the steep gradients admirably and the gear shifts were smooth and reliable, another important factor when driving up a steep gradient. I also found the braking to be very smooth and also very reliable as many a time either my boyfriend or myself found ourselves having to stomp on the brakes to avoid other drivers and pedestrians whose minds were elsewhere. We did not take the car off road as such although some of teh tracks we used were tough on the suspension and I have to be honest the car was not the most comfortable of rides on such surfaces, also it has quite a low road clearence so again this is a 4x4in design appearence only and not functionality. The other slight downside to this car is that it lacked any real acceleration and certainly took a while to get going which made over taking tricky, I expecetd it to be better than this because it is not a heavy car to drive however our model was a couple of years old and as such probably has been driven quite hard as a a hire car. The car is very manouverable though and easy to park. The interior was basic but comfortable and verall it certainly did a good job for the duration of our stay, never really got a handle on fuel consumption, certainly the first tank lasted us for most of the hire period. Some of the dash board looks a little cheap in the design but the dials were visible and easy to read while driving. I would not buy this car in the UK but it was ideal for what we wanted while on holiday. It has good handling and s easy to drive, while it lacks a bit of acceleration it does handle steep inclines really well and the brake system certainly works after the number of work outs we gave it.
Not too long ago, the Toyota brain trust took a close look at the SUV market and determined that not everybody liked the idea of piloting a three-ton land yacht in order to take advantage of the "U" in SUV. File drawers full of focus group questionnaires pointed toward a vehicle that combined the advantages of a sport utility — great visibility, sizable cargo capacity, go-anywhere capability — with the manageable size and drivability of a car. With that in mind, Toyota's designers looked past their bulky truck frames and gas guzzling engines and came up with a car-based SUV that merged truck-like utility with car-like maneuverability. Introduced in 1996, the RAV4 (Recreational Active Vehicle — 4-wheel drive) combined sporty good looks, a convenient size, and an economical engine into an attractive and affordable package. It was an instant hit, and as the first example of a car-based sport utility, the RAV4 enjoyed phenomenal sales that brought with it an onslaught of new competitors hoping to cash in on the newfound niche. Vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Suzuki Grand Vitara soon hit the market sporting bigger engines and more refined interiors, promptly shuffling the aging RAV4 toward the bottom of the category it had single-handedly created. Despite a dose of additional power in 1999, the RAV was getting left behind, and with more competition on the way Toyota knew a complete redesign was in order to keep its ground-breaking sport-utility at the top of its game. Already on sale as a 2001 model, the new RAV4 is now sufficiently equipped to take on all comers. It has a refined new look thanks to sharply upswept headlights and crisp lines that stretch the length of the vehicle. Squint hard enough, and Toyota's new mini-ute could even pass for a poor man's X5, sans the neck-snapping V8 of course. Bear in mind that Toyota's pint-sized sport-ute doesn't offer a powerful V6 like other m odels in its class, but it does sport an all-new, all-aluminum 2.0-liter four-cylinder with Toyota's advanced VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence) technology. It delivers 148 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 142 ft-lbs. of torque at 4,000 rpm, a significant improvement over its predecessor, but still far below the 200 horsepower offered in the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute. At the track, the RAV4 posted respectable numbers for a four-cylinder SUV, with a zero-to-60 mph time of 8.9 seconds. Around town the free-revving engine moves the little sport-ute with plenty of gusto, but the lack of low-end torque is a noticeable shortcoming. Combined city and highway mileage was 22.5 mpg, a little low for a small four-cylinder, but typical from some of our lead-footed test drivers. The five-speed manual transmission makes the best use of the engine's lofty power peaks, and the well-placed shifter made multiple gear changes a breeze. One editor thought the shifter action was a little too notchy, but most others praised the solid gearbox for its positive engagement and smooth action. The RAV4 can be ordered with either front-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive, the latter employing a center differential that splits power evenly between the front and rear axles. Granted, the RAV4 may be available with four-wheel drive, but with only 6.7 inches of ground clearance and no low-range gearing, it's obvious that serious off-road excursions are not part of its repertoire. On our limited back country test drives, we found the RAV4's small size a noticeable advantage for maneuvering around larger obstacles, but even medium-sized rocks nicked and scratched at the undercarriage, generating a less than soothing interior clatter. Where the RAV4 really shines is on the pavement, where its taut suspension, quick steering, and tight turning radius come together to produce one of the best-handling SUVs we've ever driven. Minimal body l ean and sticky street tires combined with the traction of full-time four-wheel drive provide reassuring handling in almost all situations. Occasionally the suspension transmits an inordinate amount of harshness to the interior, but overall we loved the Toyota's fun-to-drive character. The passenger cabin is another area where the redesigned RAV scores big points. The industrial look is definitely in, and the new RAV4 takes full advantage with its exposed dash screws and metallic-colored radio surrounds. Simple and straightforward climate controls are a snap to use and the radio is placed nice and high for quick access. Terrific white-faced gauges are both classy looking and easy to read. The centrally mounted tachometer reminded one editor of the cool bolt-on units typically found in late-'60s muscle cars — not likely the Toyota design team's intent, but a compliment nonetheless. Other thoughtful design elements include adjustable cupholders that can coddle coffee mugs in the morning and still swallow two loaded Big Gulps on the way home from the gym, and well-placed storage bins perfect for keeping keys, parking cards, and cell phones handy. Both driver and passenger sun visors can be extended to make them truly useful for sun protection, while dual mirrors provide useless opportunities to stare at your teeth. Toyota increased the overall length, width, and height of the RAV4 over last year's model, resulting in more space throughout the interior. There's plenty of room for four passengers, but throw in a fifth and things get a little tight. The leather-covered seats were soft but supportive, with the only complaint emanating from our editor-in-chief who yearned for longer seat cushions and slightly more legroom. Rear seat accommodations are impressive for a compact SUV, with reclining seatbacks that add to the feeling of spaciousness. Cargo room behind the seats is shallow as you might expect in an SUV of thi s size, but the low floor makes for easy loading, and with the rear seats completely removed (another innovative feature), this little mini-ute can swallow a healthy 68.3 cubic feet of cargo. Toyota rarely skimps when it comes to safety features and the RAV4 is no exception. Dual front airbags are standard along with seatbelt pre-tensioners at all seating positions. A new Whiplash Injury Lessening concept that reduces occupant injury during low-speed rear-end collisions is also incorporated into the construction of the seats for added protection. Child seat-anchor brackets that meet ISO standards are included along with tether brackets for larger child restraint seats. The one glaring omission in the RAV4's list of safety features is the lack of side-impact airbags. Considering their wide-ranging availability in a number of vehicles (Toyota's own low-buck Echo included), it's a shame that Toyota didn't incorporate this important safety element into a completely redesigned 2001 model. Other than the missing airbags and occasionally frustrating lack of torque, we found Toyota's latest RAV4 to be a fun-to-drive sport utility that would make a terrific urban runabout. The smooth-revving engine can be noisey but it is still one of the more refined four-cylinders on the market, and the precise suspension tuning transmits a confident feeling of control at all times. The full-time four-wheel drive makes it perfect for those faced with the occasional snowstorm, and the comfortable and functional interior makes it a great place to spend time behind the wheel when the weather is more cooperative. Like so many times in the past, Toyota has taken a great idea and made it even better. The new RAV4 improves upon all the things that made the original so popular, and should have no problem holding its own in the hot new mini-ute market it created just five years ago.
In June of 1999 we decided to buy a Toyota RAV 4, after I wrote off our last car, a 4wd Impreza, in a head on collision with a vehicle that turned across my path. This led to a desire to drive something bigger and heavier, but not excessively expensive to run. Hence the RAV. In the end, after looking at various specifications, we plumped for a 1998 Toyota RAV 4 2.0 GX with 18,000 miles on the clock, which cost just under £13,000. Finding a suitable specimen took a while though, as there are a number of things to think about and watch out for. Really we were after one with a tow bar, as we have a trailer and it’d be useful for towing boats – Scuba diving is one of my main pastimes. This proved to be a bad place to start, as a lot of RAVs look like ex farm vehicles and the towbar is a dead giveaway. In fact, we were advised by one garage to steer clear of any RAV with a towbar and get one fitted ourselves, as towing on farms means a real possibility of drive train damage, not to mention shabby interiors. These proved to be sound words and we eventually found an immaculate one, sans towbar, at Arnold Clarks in Glasgow. So what do I think of it? To start with, it’s quite fast for a larger vehicle. I've had it up to 110 mph when the roads are empty, as you can imagine this is fine in a straight line, but I wouldn’t go nearly so fast on windier roads. It’s also proved to be quite economical, averaging 28 - 30 MPG when driven sensibly. For a big vehicle the handling is really quite good, especially if you've no luggage or passengers onboard. Add in 3 other people and a boot full of diving gear though, and it handles like a saucepan full of porridge on a skateboard if you push it much over 50. We haven’t used it off-road very often, just occasionally on dirt tracks and dry hills if I’m diving anywhere remote, so I can’t really comment on its off-road capabilities. I c an say that it drives well in the snow as we’ve had a fair bit, and applying the differential lock gives you a feeling that it won’t slide at all. Remember to take it off on dry roads though, as the ride is terrible at any speed with it engaged. The lower part of the body being plastic covered proves useful on dirty/wintry roads, as it cleans easily and there’s no worry of corrosion, the high clearance also means it’s no bother hosing down the chassis. The seats are serviceable and fairly comfy, though not outstanding, with the rear ones being conveniently split and all having removable headrests. There is a reasonable amount of legroom for the rear seats, but again it’s nothing to write home about. The boot has plenty of space though, and the swinging door makes it easy to load. The cabin finish is admittedly a bit plasticky looking, which lets the model down slightly – it’s reminiscent of a Subaru, which all look tacky to me. On the plus side though is has an electric sunroof, windows and mirrors, as well as air conditioning, and the high seat position and carefully placed doorposts give excellent all round vision. Other handy features include roof rack slots, beer holders, twin airbags and central locking that’s both simple and reliable. As far as running costs go we haven’t had to shell out too much yet. The service intervals are at 9,000 miles and having added just 15,000 miles to the clock we’ve only had to pay for one service so far. That cost just over £100 at a Toyota dealer, which I found very acceptable. The only fault has been one of the ABS sensors failing recently, but this was covered by the warranty. A few weeks ago we had to get the front tyres replaced (They were new when we bought it), which cost £85 each, and that’s about it. On the subject of wheels, I’d go for a RAV with alloys next time, as the wheels are starting to look quite rust y – the only part of the vehicle that has aged much to date. There’s a lot of salt laid on the roads in winter here though, and we sometimes forget to hose them off, so I can’t really complain too much. So will there be a next time? Very probably is the answer. This one has been great to drive and very reliable, it does everything we want and as long as it proves child friendly (We’ve one impending), which it should given the high seat position and easy access, it won’t be our last RAV4.