The Toyota RAV4 has been in production since 1994 and in that time has been through three facelifts. The original RAV4 concept saw the traditionally saloon focussed Japanese manufacturer step into the 4x4 market. The RAV4 is what Toyota calls a Compact Crossover Utility Vehicle or CUV and on its release in 1994 was the first of its kind in the world. The CUV was a direct response to the proliferation of SUVs on the North American and European car markets and saw Toyota offer the discerning motorist higher visibility, extended cargo space and four wheel drive options whilst maintaining the efficiency and manoeuvrability of a compact family car. RAV4 is an acronym for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4 Wheel Drive. However, not all Toyota RAV4 cars for sale feature four wheel drive and it is optional in many countries. It is now a star in the Toyota stable, its street-wise styling and nippy hot-hatch handling have made it extremely popular and over the last few years the RAV has become many motorists first choice off road vehicle. Although other manufacturers have entered the market with versions of Toyota's concept; constant updating, restyling and facelifts have ensured that the RAV4 has kept pace with its competitors and the needs of its loyal fan base.
Bang for your buck
The most attractive Toyota RAV4 in the used car market is the 2006 facelift model which offers excellent value for money. Available in a number of configurations, even the base XT3 model features a fabulous package of equipment including: 17" alloy wheels, air conditioning, ABS/EBD and brake assist technology and MP3 based entertainment systems. Seeing the RAV4 market swing towards the family and in particular the school run in 2006 Toyota implemented ISOFIX rear seat fixings as standard which ensure the correct fitting of child car seats and reduce the risk of injury to children in the event of a collision. These safety features are further complemented by a full array of front and rear airbags including knee and curtain bags. A look further up the range reveals that Toyota are aiming at the luxury end of the market. The XT4 model offers leather interiors, hill assist controls, electric sunroof and climate control; the XT5 adds cruise control, keyless entry full colour GPS and Bluetooth and heated seats.
What you'll pay
Prices for the 2006 Toyota RAV4 start at around £10,000 for a base 2.0-litre XT3 model, though the XT4 model is not far behind adding an extra £500. The XT5 range offers extra luxury but can cost as much as £11,500. Insurance costs are reasonable, with most models graded group 11 or 12. Be careful with the T180 and SR180 models as they can leap up to group 13 insurance and set you back nearly £13,000 to purchase.
What to check
Toyota are synonymous with quality and there is little to worry about even purchasing used. Although it is not really suitable overzealous drivers may have attempted to off-road so check for suspension and exhaust issues. In addition, carry out the usual checks to bodywork and tyres. If the vehicle seems to have been mistreated, walk away there are plenty on the market.
Servicing costs aren't particularly good value, but Toyota franchised garages are highly respected by owners and are one of the appeals of being a Toyota driver. Parts are average with a clutch kit costing around £240, brake pads at £45 a set and a starter motor at £200.
How it drives
Although a 4x4 design by nature, the Toyota RAV4 is not really built for off-road action. Many RAV4 owners purchase them for Toyota's reputation as a trustworthy brand and their excellent safety pedigree. It's family friendly space, nifty handling and excellent visibility has made it an excellent school run vehicle and a car that you can trust with the most precious things in your life. However, that does not mean that the four wheel drive option is redundant. Under wet or muddy conditions which can prove dangerous, once a traction issue is detected, the RAV4 will intelligently switch in to four-wheel-drive mode to protect the driver and passengers. In models higher up the range the same technology can 'lock' the four wheel drive automatically to assist in a tricky hill start.
With the fuel economy of the petrol engine lagging behind, the diesel engine range is the most attractive. Outstripping the 2 litre petrol engines measly 32mpg average, the diesel range offers several options all of which achieve over 40mpg whilst offering cheaper road tax with lower emissions.