ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Shoppers taking a gander at the 2013 Toyota RAV4 will find some things gained, some things lost in the popular compact crossover compared to the previous version.
Fortunately, the gains far outweigh the losses, and the new RAV4 ranks among the top vehicles in its ever-expanding segment.
In the loss column: the optional V-6 engine. While it provided best-in-class performance, it would seem not enough buyers were willing to pony up to pay the premium over the standard four-cylinder.
Also, the new model excises the third-row seat option. Perhaps most shoppers found it just too cramped in a vehicle of this relatively compact size. Whatever the reason, it’s gone.
The gain column is more substantial, starting with a new, six-speed automatic transmission replacing the old, stodgy four-speed autobox. The transplant provides quicker acceleration and improved fuel economy, but downshifts are somewhat hesitant when more oomph is requested, such as in passing situations. And on long inclines, the tranny tends to hunt for the optimal gear.
Another major gain is the replacement of the side-hinged hatch door with a roof-hinged liftgate (powered in our Limited model). That makes loading the hold easier and safer from curbside and also locates a new space-saver spare tire underneath the cargo floor.
Most obvious is the 2013 model’s newly aggressive styling. Obvious aerodynamic tweaks help create a modern, up-to-date silhouette.
The new cabin also benefits from fresh styling featuring soft-touch accents, borrowing several design cues from other current Toyota models.
An honorable mention to the front bucket seats: They’re oh-so-comfortable and perfectly supportive. The rear bench is mounted somewhat low, but it does feature adjustable backrests. Rear legroom is quite generous.
The RAV4’s suspension system delivers a pleasantly smooth and quiet highway ride, while delivering confident handling with little body lean through corners.
The steering is direct and nicely weighted, but as with many electronic systems, it’s a bit numb.
Packed with a myriad of up-to-date safety and available tech features, the new RAV4 is destined to maintain its top-tier position in the compact CUV segment.