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June 11, 2019

Review: 2019 Toyota RAV4 4x2 Limited

To some degree, the RAV4 is representative of where Toyota is as a company. When the marque first launched in 1994, it introduced the concept of the compact crossover, a reminder of Toyota’s ingenious engineering and marketing ways. With the second-generation model, it turned a sporty leaf, a perfect metaphor for Toyota’s sporty ways at the time. By the time the third- and fourth-generation models rolled in, the RAV4 lost its way, becoming more analgesic than exciting. But when Akio Toyoda declared that Toyota must make better cars, the RAV4 responded in a very big way.

Everything starts with the way the RAV4 looks. Angular and taut, it strikes the right chord as one of the compact crossover’s best head-turners. While the design’s longevity is a topic best reserved for another day, in the here and now, it’s a head-turner. The strong and expressive design works well, particularly at the front where it has a sense of width often missing than others in its class. And while it keeps the same basic two-box design, the proportions are perfect, down to the sporty five-spoke 18-inch wheels.

Admittedly, that sense of occasion is somewhat lost in a cabin that’s modern and well-made, but not exactly a standout. It leans more towards being rugged than luxurious, and this shows in the sort of textures found inside. Don’t get it wrong, touch the dashboard and it’s surprisingly soft; the buttons and stalks, all crisp; and the leather, plush.

There are just small details that seem to put into question whether this is the interior of a P 2.188 million car. For one, there’s the infotainment system which is already a challenge to use, but with its frame-within-a-frame look feels out of place. Then, there’s the Qi wireless charger which is buggy at best. Regardless, points still go to Toyota for actually coming up with interior style that successfully echoes the exterior’s angular motif.

While the RAV4 loses its edge when it comes to its less-than-premium looking interior, it still scores high in two things that matter to a lot of buyers: ergonomics and space. Despite the stylized exterior, the visibility is pretty good from the driver’s seat. Plus, a comfy seating position is quickly realized with the tilt/telescopic steering wheel and 8-way power adjustable seat. The gauges mix both the traditional (tachometer, fuel, and temperature) and the digital (speedometer and multi-information display) to good effect, while the control scheme, with its large buttons and excellent placement are easy to master. For the four other occupants, the RAV4 is equally rewarding with its wealth of space, especially for those in the back. The cargo space is equally impressive, swallowing four full-sized luggage with ease.

Head-turning the RAV4 is, if there’s a single area where it’s made the biggest stride is in its on-road performance. Equipped with the next-generation 2.5-liter Dynamic Force engine, the 203-horsepower, 243 Nm of torque outputs satisfies even the most discerning enthusiast. There’s a strong shove even from a standstill and its rev-happy nature is a pleasant surprise for a Toyota powertrain. The positive, aurally-pleasing note serves as the icing on the cake.

Sadly, this great engine is mated to a less than stellar 8-speed automatic. The responses are actually pretty slick, but the quality of the shifts is decidedly less so. At partial throttle engagement, say in stop-and-go traffic, the shifts are hard to manage resulting in extremely strong shift shock. The lurching is somewhat mitigated by engaging the “Eco” mode on the switchable drive mode selector, but it’ll never go away completely. Still, at least this engine and transmission combination does result in solid fuel economy figures: 7.57 km/L in heavy (average speed of 16 km/h) and 13.57 km/L in light traffic (average speed of 37 km/h).

Aside from peppy straight-line performance, the RAV4’s underpinnings make it a tidy handler. The steering now has near-center immediacy absent in previous generations while still exhibiting a high level of stability that make it great for long drives. Plus, despite the lack of all-wheel drive, the chassis can now encash everything the driver throws at it, with a high sense of agility and small amounts of body roll. The brakes too are solid performers with excellent pedal modulation and bite.

It’s not all roses for the RAV4 though as its stellar on-road performance seems to have affected its riding comfort. Despite the platform feeling more solid than ever, it still has difficulty quelling both small and large ruts. In particular, undulating ruts such as badly-patched roads are its biggest kryptonite. Moreover, while the new platform quells most of the vibration and harshness, it does poorly at cutting out tire noise; it’s obtrusive at almost any speed.

Positioned amidst the Fortuner and Camry in the local lineup, Toyota could have played it safe with the all-new RAV4; after all, it’s not necessarily a volume seller for them. Yet, they didn’t. Throwing all caution to the wind, they’ve come up with a crossover that’ll fundamentally change your perception of what a Toyota is and can be. While it’s not going to be the sportiest drive, most practical, or best value in its segment, it’s the best RAV4 in a while and for that, it’s done its job.

2019 Toyota RAV4 4x2 Limited
Ownership 2019 Toyota RAV4 4x2 Limited
Year Introduced 2019
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door Crossover
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 203 @ 6,600
Nm @ rpm 243 @ 4,000-5,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 8 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 7.57 km/L @ 16 km/h,
13.51 km/L @ 37 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,600
Width (mm) 1,855
Height (mm) 1,685
Wheelbase (mm) 2,690
Curb Weight (kg) 1,533
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Bridgestone Alenza H/L33 225/60 R 18 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front and Rear, with Camera
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Trailer Sway Control
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way, with memory
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Yes, Dual Zone, with Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Before anything else, the Philippine spec RAV4 is basically a stripped down version of what is available in other countries especially comparing it to the units in US market. Sure it has a great engine the only one in its class having both port and direct fuel injection system. The fuel delivery system of the all new RAV4 is very effective in solving the carbon build up issues (particularly on the back sides of the intake valves) that is an inherent flaw of the modern gasoline engine direct fuel injection design. However, as excellent that may be, engine alone is not the only consideration that consumers will look into especially for a vehicle with a price tag in excess of Php 2 million. Features like rear cross traffic alert, front collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring & other driver assist and vehicle occupants safety systems are standard or are mostly available on competitor vehicles for a marginal price difference. These aforementioned features are something that most owner drivers and their families as passengers will appreciate more on a day to day basis. So if the all new RAV4 in the Philippines lags behind, it won't be a surprise at all.

  2. Precisely. Executives will justify the price with positioning that they're trying to project, yet losing sight of what buyers truly value along the way. It's really less of how this is priced within the vehicle spectrum but more of the value that buyers get in return.

    And why call it RAV4 when its drivetrain is only 4x2? All the more reason for buyers not to.


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