Make us your home page
Instagram
Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek

Toyota Rav4 compact SUV a practical way to move people

The Toyota RAV4 sure has grown up since its introduction in 1996. Now in its third generation, this compact SUV remains a strong player with some design tweaks for 2009. It has optional third-row seat — quite ambitious. The RAV4 plays in such a competitive class (hello, Honda CR-V), and that must be why Toyota offers a RAV4 configuration for everyone. Make that 12 configurations.

Appearance: For '09, Toyota made some tweaks to the RAV4 design. We like the less-fussy grille. The sloping roofline ends in an angular tailgate, where a full-sized spare is mounted. It gives the RAV a sporty and retro, Jeepy look. Don't like it? In some models, the rear tire carrier is optional.

Performance: The optional 269-horse V-6 is a lot of power for a small SUV. It's almost as powerful as its bigger sibling, the Toyota Highlander. But because of the RAV4's lighter weight, the acceleration has a kick that some of its competitors would envy. Plus, there's this bonus: mileage estimates of 19 (city) and 27 (highway). We found the brakes strong and responsive. One thing is for sure: You'll have no problem merging onto I-275. Peter — getting all technical — felt the steering was a bit mushy, while Lyra found it light and nimble, great for those who like effortless driving.

Interior: In the base model, you get a lot of hard plastic. And there were some missteps. For instance, the driver's seat manual adjustment is clumsy and doesn't have a tilt lever. Lyra felt shoved forward when the seat was elevated. If you can, opt for the power seat. And why are the rearview mirror controls in the center console? That's counterintuitive. That said, the seats are firm and offer a lot of support. And the vanity mirrors on both the driver and passenger sides light up when you open them. Peter liked the telescoping steering wheel, but found it a rather tight fit with his knees. The roomy back seats fold flat with a release lever. But watch out, ladies: The seat lever can be a fingernail breaker. Third-row seating is available as an option.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture , 49, city driver, 6 feet tall, married with a teenager and a middle-schooler.

AC controls: Nothing fancy, just turn the large dial. Simple and easy to use while driving.

Cargo space: With the two-row seating, the rear roominess is made for vacations.

Rear spare: Call me old-school, but I like it. The trade-off is a hatch that swings out and needs more room than a lift-back.

Lyra Solochek, 43, highway commuter, 5 feet 1, married with a 5-year-old and teenager.

V-6 power: This engine has the pep to beat that 18-wheeler barreling down on you at the on-ramp.

Hidden storage: It's under the back deck, where the spare tire would normally be; great place to store valuables.

Adjustable seats: The roomy second row slides forward and backward, with seatbacks that recline slightly to make it easier for the kids to relax.

The bottom line: With the RAV4, you know what you're getting: reliability and practicality. Peter quibbled with its utilitarian nature. For him, it made a boring daily driver. Lyra says RAV4 perfects simplicity. Our front-wheel-drive tester was a lot of car for the price.



2009 RAV4 4x2 V-6

Price: $23,535, $24,740 as tested

Powertrain: 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve SFI Dual VVT-i V-6, 5-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive.

Horsepower: 269 hp at 6200 rpm

Torque: 246 foot-pounds at 4700 rpm

Curb weight: 3,529 pounds

Dimensions in inches:

Wheelbase, 104.7

Length, 181.9

Width, 71.5

Height, 66.3

Fuel economy:

19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway

Safety features: vehicle stability/traction control, antilock brakes, front airbags, roll-sensing curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system. The RAV4 got four and five stars in government crash and rollover tests ( www.safercar.gov ).

Trim levels: 12 configurations with 4-cylinder or V-6 engines: Base, Sport and Limited.

Options worth considering: Third-row seats, navigation system, leather seats, power driver's seat.

Web site: www.toyota.com/rav4

Toyota Rav4 compact SUV a practical way to move people 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Exploratory Lab Boot Camp provides real-life technology training to students

    Science

    CLEARWATER — At this graduation ceremony featuring some of the brightest local minds in tech, it was the youngsters who stood out.

    Laszo Leedy, 17, a senior at Shorecrest Prep, presents part of his team's project for SPC's Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. Students presented their ideas at the end of the SPC Exploratory Lab Boot Camp. The program provides real-time business training to students. This year's graduation celebrated 15 students that finished the program. 
[JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  2. Appointments at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and World of Beer highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Non-profits

    Tampa Bay Watch, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the marine and wetland environments of the Tampa Bay estuary, has announced two new employees. Pamela Arbisi is the new development director. Her responsibilities include …

    Scott Bendert has joined the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay as the non-profit organization's Chief Financial Officer. [Company handout]
  3. Tampa's Homeowners Choice seeks to offer flood insurance in other states

    Banking

    Tampa-based insurance company HCI Group Inc.'s subsidiaries are trying to expand their flood insurance offerings beyond Florida. HCI has filed with regulators to offer flood coverage in Arkansas, California, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

    Tampa-based HCI Group is trying to expand its flood insurance offerings to other states. Pictured is Paresh Patel, CEO of HCI Group. | [Courtesy of HCI Group]
  4. Home of Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hits market at $3.45 million

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is back on the market for $3.45 million after a brief hiatus.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is on the market for $3.45 million. [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  5. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy

    Business

    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]