Although among the best-selling brands in the country, Toyota hasn’t had a flagbearer in the lucrative mid-sized SUV segment for years. Even more surprising would be the fact that Toyota pioneered the lifestyle SUV with the RAV4 in the 90s.
Well, that lack of a SUV in Malaysia is about to change for Toyota and simultaneously change nothing as well. Why? We’ll get to that in a bit.
Toyota has sold over 10 million units of the RAV4 globally since the first generation and the current fifth-generation regularly clocks in just short of half a million units in the USA; making it the best-seller in its class there. The current RAV4 is also the 2019-2020 Japan Car of the Year. Big accolades all these.
Toyota however hasn’t brought it into Malaysia, essentially leaving Honda’s CR-V to fully flex on the segment and leave some crumbs for the Mazda CX-5 and Nissan X-Trail. Proton made a huge impact with the X70, going up against the established players but with pricing for a segment below.
Toyota however hasn’t really invested in the unibody SUV segment here, although they brought in the C-HR in 2018. Nonetheless, that was a CBU and couldn’t be priced competitively against the likes of the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3.
Well the same’s about to happen with the RAV4 now. Toyota is officially launching it in Malaysia but being a CBU model from Japan, it’s priced way above its competitors, putting it out of contention. Hence not really making an impact in the segment.
The RAV4 is a brilliant car though and if locally-assembled, would give the CR-V proper nightmares. Underpinning the RAV4 is the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that also holds up the Camry, C-HR and Corolla sold here. That platform always leads to vehicles that handle incredibly well and the RAV4 benefits the most from it, putting it on par with the CX-5’s dynamic handling.
From the exterior, the RAV4 appears larger than its peers. Your eyes don’t deceive you, it is but only marginally on the pointy ends. The real gamechanger is the wheelbase that allows for some humongous rear legroom. It appears larger than its peers’ courtesy of the squarish, boxy design that resembles a polished Toyota 4Runner. It feels good to be able to call a mid-sized SUV in Malaysia muscular and imposing.
Although there are two variants available, there’s only a single different between the two; the Dynamic Force powertrains. Everything else is identical.
At the bottom is a 2.0-litre engine with 171hp and 207Nm of torque. It’s mated to a CVT. If you need more power, there’s a 2.5-litre engine that brings 204hp and 243Nm of torque to the table. This one gets an eight-speed automatic. No turbos, direct-injection and both only drive the front wheels. If you’re wondering, the larger engine and transmission is the same found in the Lexus ES250 here but not in the Camry.
Inside the impressive cabin, Toyota emphasised the polygonal theme that litters the roomy interior. There’s a resemblance to a snowflake, a term ideal to describe the people that insist on buying the RAV4 just to be different from the crowd and not for its virtues.
Plenty of acreage is layered with soft-touch materials and real, actual stitching. That alone can make an argument for the price. Completing the interior are smart entry, push-start, dual-zone climate control with rear vents, ventilated front seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory, brake hold and a handsfree powered tailgate.
The boot space is a thing of genius as the floor board can be lowered by a couple of centimetres accommodate taller cargo. Apart from that, the board is reversible with a non-carpeted side if you need to carry dirty cargo. However, the real party piece is the built-in storage for the tonneau cover. Lastly, there’s a wireless Qi charger as well as front and rear dashcams.
The instrument cluster is an Optitron version with the speedo being a digital panel flanked by analogue tacho and fuel level gauges. Entertainment, if not from the drive, is handled by the touchscreen head-unit that’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capable. The screen also serves as the display for the 3D panoramic view.
Completing the impressive equipment list is Toyota Safety Sense that comprises Lane Departure Alert + Steering Assist + Lane Tracing Assist, active cruise control and pre-collision system. A blind-spot monitor and seven airbags round up safety features.
Now for the pricing. The RAV4 2.0-litre goes for RM203,880 and the RAV4 2.5-litre will set you back RM223,880; all on the road with a five-year unlimited mileage warranty. With the current sales tax exemption for vehicles, the pricing has been revised to RM196,436 and RM215,664 respectively.
So there you have it, Toyota has finally made a change by bringing in a mid-sized SUV although it’ll hardly make a change to the segment.