4x4, Buyers' advice, Motoring News, new models, suv, toyota

Back to the beach! New Toyota RAV4 launched 25 years on in SA

  • RAV4 goes upmarket with Generation 5
  • Five versions, choice of engine and gearbox
  • Off-road ability grows with higher chassis
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA


CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Way back in 1994 Toyota’s launch of the original RAV4 – here in Cape Town on Muizenberg beach when it was still legal to drive there –  introduced a new kind of car.

I remember it well – along with the surprise among my fellow motoring writers about how cool it was.

It combined the go-anywhere performance and stance of an SUV with the compact dimensions and handling of a hatchback. I was there and still remember the enthusiastic comments of my fellow autojournos.

Now there’s a fifth generation – but where the original had startlingly different looks and dimensions and was instantly recognisable this latest iteration has morphed into the lookalikes of 2019.

2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA

Toyota SA does, however, say the vehicle brings a ”new era” of performance, capability and safety.


”With its low centre of gravity and significantly greater body rigidity,” the automaker says, ”the new RAV4’s platform directly contributes to superior handling, ride comfort, cabin space, class-leading load space  with less height and bonnet but more ground clearance.”

There’s also said to be more cabin space and comfort and ”drive-on-any-road” transmission.

2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA

Some models will have technology to prevent a collision and driver assistance in the form of ”a degree of automated driving”.


The SUV will ride on a new type of undercarriage/chassis to, Toyota says, ”give the car the core strengths of a low centre-of-gravity, reduced weight, and a strong, rigid, balanced chassis for exceptional handling and stability”.

The lowest possible centre of gravity – pretty important on some off-road trails – has been achieved by making every component lighter and lower ”everything from the engine to the passenger seats”.

Toyota claims a 57% improvement in body rigidity.

”The platform,” the automaker says, ”underpins a confident and natural driving quality. Further detailed measures contribute to its overall quality, and the development of the RAV4’s dynamic performance, fine-tuning the handling and drivability.”

2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA

The electrically powered steering assistance, Toyota says, has been improved by moving the motor from the steering column to the steering rack.

A low centre-of-gravity and very rigid shell negated any requirement for a stiffer suspension. ”Handling is agile, faithful and neutral,” Toyota explained, to give the driver confidence from accurate steering.”


The revised design brings assertive and angular features with bold bumper, grille, diode head- and tail-lights and a general build that tapers rearwards.

Toyota says the greater ground-clearance and shorter front/rear overhangs will allow access to places denied to its predecessors. Unfortunately for off-roading, the wheelbase has been increased by 30mm to 2,69m.

The cabin has ”soft-touch” surfaces – especially the facia and door panels. Electrical switches are said to be ”pleasingly tactile” – the audio and aircon controls are such.

”Brushed” aluminium trim adds highlights.

2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA

”A large open centre console between the front seats,” Toyota says, ”is in keeping with a welcoming, functional SUV interior. Special attention was paid to providing plenty of useful and easily accessible storage for the driver and front passenger.”

The current body architecture, Toyota claims, has created ”impressive cabin space, best-in-class load space and all-round comfort”.

Reducing the front and rear overhangs by a combined 35mm (-5mm front, -30mm rear) means the new model is shorter overall by five mm to 4,60m and retains its agile manoeuvrability. Overall width has grown by 10mm to 1.855m and the front and rear treads have been increased.

2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA

Improving all-round visibility was, Toyota says, ”a key consideration” so the bonnet is  15mm lower, the front pillars slimmer, the belt line lower.


the driver’s hip point and range of steering wheel adjustment have improved – seat adjustment and positioning of the pedals and armrest also improve comfort

Rear seat passengers have a wider seat deeper footwells and doors that open wider.

The boot is said to be larger: 60mm longer and has 79 litres greater volume than previous  at 580 litres: rear seat fold and the space can take Toyota says, ”a 29-inch mountain bike without either wheels removed”.

READ MORE Toyota features on Carman’s Corner

The floor can be set higher or lower depending on need and can be flipped if dirty item(s) such as a muddy bike need to be carried and the rear seat-back folds 60:40 and the whole set-up includes a powered tail hatch.

2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA

There’s a choice of two petrol engines, a two- or 2.5-litre four-cylinder units, each with variable valve-timing,

The two-litre is capable of 127kW at 6600rpm and 203Nm from 4400-4800rpm and fuel consumption is listed as 6.5 to 6.8 litres/100km.


The 2.5-litre makes 152kW at 6600rpm and 243Nm from 4000 to 5000rpm,while sucking as little as 7.3 litres/100km.

There’s choice of a six-speed continuously variable transmission or an eight-speed auto. The two-litre engine is hooked to  either a six-speed manual or auto CVT spinning either two- or all-wheel drive.


Toyota says the mechanical AWD has been improved with ”Rear Driveline Disconnect” (Toyota’s capital letters) which shifts or unites torque distribution between left or right rear wheels.

All-wheel drive mode also, the automaker adds invokes adjustment to steering assistance, braking and accelerator control, shift pattern and torque distribution ”Mud & Sand” and ”Rock & Dirt” modes can be invoked.


For the first time the RAV4 line-up will have three grades – GX, GX-R and VX. The GX and VX are already familiar; the new  GX-R ”ushers-in a new and edgier kind of RAV4”.

  • The GXhas 17” alloy wheel rims, roof rails, diode headlights, push-button start, a seven-inch display audio and info display (MID), cruise control, reversing camera and rear parking radar.
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
2019 TOYOTA RAV4: Image: Toyota SA
  • The new GX-R has an larger upper front grille with broad horizontal slats, a larger and more obvious skid plate, and chunky black over-fenders. It bridges the gap between entry GX and flagship VX by adding power-adjustable seats with leather upholstery, heating, and lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering-wheel and trim, smart entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto wipers, wireless charger and aircon. The wheel rims are 18” alloy.
  • The range-topping VX is further augmented by 19” high-gloss alloy wheel rims, auto main beam, blind spot monitor, cross-traffic alert, memory seat adjustment, power tail hatch, panoramic cameras and parking radar.

Electronic driving aids include anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-pressure distribution, stability control , hill-start assistant and trailer sway control.

The VX introduces a package called Toyota Safety Sense that includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping with steering control, and blind-spot monitor. Cruise control adjusts throttle to suit following distance with radar-measured braking assistance.


GX and VX units offer nine exterior colours, GX-R five.

GX models have black fabric upholstery, the GX-R a choice of black or brown leather, the VX black or ivory.


Three grades mean a modified model-line up. The GX offers manual or CVT with front or all-wheel drive; the GX-R only two-litre power with CVT all-wheel drive; two-litre CVT front-wheel drive and 2.5 eight-speed auto are available in the VX.

Toyota RAV4 2.0 GX MT 2WD – R416 400
Toyota RAV4 2.0 GX CVT 2WD – R427 600
Toyota RAV4 2.0 GX-R CVT AWD – R508 100
Toyota RAV4 2.0 VX CVT 2WD – R505 400
Toyota RAV4 2.5 VX 8AT AWD – R577 900


Each unit will be delivered with a six-services or 90 000km service plan (annual or every 15 000km) and a three-year or 100 000km warranty.

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