You can’t say the word “cute-ute” without instantly thinking of the very first Toyota RAV4. Sorry, did I say “cute-ute?” I meant to say compact SUV or compact crossover but the fact of the matter remains that the RAV4 invented this segment. Even if they change the name again to something like “Tiny Bubble Four Wheel Drive Love Rovers.” Actually, that may actually be a real car name in Japan but I’d have to check on that.
The 2010 Toyota RAV4 has been on sale in its current guise since 2005 which makes it a pretty old design in “compact SUV years.” Pretty much all of the competition has had some sort of major redesign or didn’t even exist before that date. So can this old dog still hunt with the pack? Or should it be taken out behind the woodshed like poor Old Yeller?
If you don’t know what happened to poor Old Yeller might I recommend you turn off your computer and read a book for once? Just remember to come back once you are done and read this review. It’s worth the wait much like the ending of Old Yeller. Except this review won’t end quite as tragically, I promise.
(Note: The only change made to 2011 RAV4 models is the addition of a brake override system that was put in place as a result of the unintended acceleration scandal that, oddly enough, never involved the RAV4. It’s a nice gesture, nonetheless.)
The 2010 Toyota RAV4 maintains all of the classic design cues that made the original a hit just amplified a few times in size. Actually, the RAV4 is nearly as big as the first generation Highlander but somehow it doesn’t look that large.
The 2010 RAV4’s exterior design may have lost a bit of the cute whimsy of the original but it retains the traditional spare tire mounted on the rear door. Some may not like that very unique design aspect but I think it gives the RAV4 a decidedly rugged edge that the competition lacks.
Another RAV4 founding feature that has stayed the same over the years is the cargo door design which is hinged to the right when you open it. Most compact SUVs have cargo doors that are hinged at the top and while that design is better in compact parking spots, you don’t have to worry about bumping your head on the door if you are tall.
For those males out there who still think of the RAV4 as a girl’s SUV, feel free to buy that full size pick-up truck you don’t need and be sure to add a ridiculous lift kit so we know how insecure you really are. The 2010 Toyota RAV4’s design is chunky, neat and has no gender. I promise.
If you are forced to buy a RAV4 then you can always pick the 17-inch “stylized” alloy wheels that featured on my test model and claim they are macho. Not cheap looking and plain, just macho.
Interior Design and Utility
Although this interior design has been around for a long while it has aged remarkably well. All of the knobs for the air conditioning and controls for the stereo fall close to hand. The dials in front of you are easy to read and the seating position is nicely elevated so you can feel invincible looking over traffic. You know, at the other SUV drivers in traffic.
The Aux-input jack is perfectly placed right by the driver’s thigh to ease the use of your iPod. A USB port would be even better but the location of this Aux-input jack is the best I have seen in any vehicle of any price. There is even a little cubby behind it where you can store your iPod when it’s in use.
The rear seat slides forward and back so legroom is ample even for those well above six feet tall. Cargo volume behind the second row is very impressive and rivals many mid-size SUVs at 37.2 cubic feet. Fold down that second row and hauling capacity shoots to 73 cubic feet. You really don’t need any more room. Seriously, you don’t.
Pricing, Features and Economy
The 2010 Toyota RAV4 starts at $21,500 very nicely equipped and my tester stickered out at a surprisingly reasonable $23,754 including destination. For that price you get air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and mirrors, a back-up camera integrated into the rear view mirror, tinted glass, floor/cargo mats, roof rails, an AM/FM/CD 6-speaker audio system, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels and all the essentials.
On my wish list would be Bluetooth (which is optional), a USB port and steering wheel mounted audio system controls (which are now a part of my test model’s Extra Value Package for model year 2011). Another thing the RAV4 could use is another gear as it still makes do with a 4-speed automatic (How 1999!).
Although the transmission works smoothly, another gear would no doubt quiet the engine on the freeway and would help improve the current EPA fuel economy rating of 22 city/28 highway. During my time with the RAV4 I averaged 22.6 miles per gallon which was okay only because it runs on much more affordable regular unleaded gasoline.
The 2010 Toyota RAV4 is powered by a surprisingly zippy 2.5 liter 179 horsepower/172 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder engine that was introduced in 2009. It doesn’t turn the RAV4 into a grocery getting rocket ship but there is plenty of passing power left even at illegal Southern California freeway speeds.
The engine gets a bit more raucous at high revs than the 4 banger in the CR-V but it is still leagues ahead of the all new unit in the Hyundai Tucson. Wind, road and tire noise are nicely muted at cruising speeds but it is by no means as quiet in the RAV4 as it is in Toyota’s most serene commuter-the Toyota Prius.
While the RAV4 has more steering feel and less body roll than the marshmallowy Highlander, I am not implying that it is particularly fun to drive on a twisty road. In fact, the steering has enough feel but is very darty on the freeway meaning you keep having to make constant corrections. I can imagine this would get very tiresome on long road trips.
The 2010 Toyota RAV4 really excels, however, in the suburban environment. A tight turning circle and the hyperactive steering calibration mean that it is perfect for maneuvering grocery store parking lots. It also helps you avoid airheaded Orange County housewives in lumbering Cadillac Escalades who don’t check their mirrors. You know who you are.
The RAV4 is an SUV so I don’t expect it to be as fun to drive as a Mini Cooper or a VW GTI. The RAV4, however, does have a fairly well buttoned down suspension that is only let down by an over eager steering set-up. If Toyota fixes that one issue the RAV4 could add “excellent road trip companion” to its long list of virtues.
How Dog and Kid Friendly is It?
Although you might think that a beige interior with cloth seats might not be very dog or kid friendly, the seat fabric is dark enough to repel dirt and strong enough to feel more durable than some competitor’s leather. There are other interior colors available but beige needn’t be avoided in this family SUV.
Otherwise, the plastics inside the 2010 Toyota RAV4’s interior are not as prone to scratches as those used in some other Toyota products. Apparently they knew their target market and used materials that feel solid yet can withstand heavy impacts from objects or paws.
There are also D-buckles in the cargo area so you can secure a couple of dog crates and the car seat LATCH points in the back seat are easy to access. This is important when you are trying to secure your dog’s safety harness when they are being less than responsive to your wishes.
There are a few key areas where the 2010 Toyota RAV4 could use some improvements but given how long this version has been on sale it is surprising how well the design has held up. The RAV4 is good looking, very roomy, affordable and is highly ranked in quality and residual value surveys. It is also pretty darn quick in 4-cylinder form which might shock owners of previous generation RAV4 models.
So although the 2010 Toyota RAV4 is an old-timer in the game, it is still a very solid compact SUV buy. Sorry, compact crossover. Is it wrong to call it a “cute-ute” in 2010? Ah, whatever.
Vehicle Tested: 2010 Toyota RAV4
Base Price: $21,500
Price as Tested: $23,754 (including destination)
Options on Tester: Backup Camera integrated into Rear View Mirror–$475, Cargo Cover–$90, Floormats/Cargo Mat–$199, Extra Value Package–$690 : (includes 17-inch alloy wheels and full size spare tire, daytime running lamps, black roof rack, tinted rear windows.)
Engine: 2.5 liter 4 cylinder
Power: 179 horsepower/172 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
0-60: 10 seconds (estimated)
Drive: Front Wheel Drive
Tow Capacity: 1,500 pounds
EPA Fuel Economy: 22 city/28 highway
Fuel Economy during Test: 22.6 miles per gallon
Fuel Tank: 15.9 gallons
Vehicle runs on: Regular Unleaded
Cargo Volume (behind second row): 37.2 cubic feet
(Second row folded): 73 cubic feet
Safety Ratings (NHTSA): Driver side front-5 stars
Passenger side front-4 stars
Side Impact: front and rear seat-5 stars
Rollover Protection: 4 stars
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 mile bumper to bumper
5 years/60,000 mile powertrain
2 years/25,000 mile free maintenance plan
Vehicle Provided by: Toyota Motor Corporation
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