Flash Drive: 2009 Toyota RAV4
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2006 to 2012.
By MSN Autos of MSN Autos
Seems that Toyota has an SUV for every need, but the company's original small SUV, the RAV4, may be all most buyers will actually ever need. Considerably larger than the original 1996 RAV4, the current model features a spacious interior with a roomy back seat and a surprisingly large cargo area. Rear seats can be folded down for additional space, but they are heavy and require some muscle to move. Large items are easy to load with the RAV4's large, right-hinged cargo door — that is, as long as you've got lots of space around your vehicle. In a tight parking lot, the door is almost unusable, and when parked on a busy street, access to the cargo requires loading from the street side — a possibly dangerous proposition. The RAV4 drives like a car: Handling is good and the ride is smooth. And while our V6-equipped test car had excellent power and strong acceleration, its fuel economy was somewhat disappointing. – Perry Stern
The RAV4 has increased in size, which makes it a really nice for a 4-passenger SUV — there is an optional third-row seat, but it's still not big enough to carry seven people on a regular basis. The strong, 269-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine has an aggressive throttle, making the RAV4 feel quick. The chassis has a good overall balance, even though the steering feels somewhat isolated, as you would expect. Even so, the steering is quick and the overall tradeoff between a smooth ride and control is good. Toyota does make perfect steering wheels, and the RAV4's is no exception, which adds to the sporty feel. The Limited has nice leather seats that are supportive with an upscale feel. Interior ergonomics are good, but some of the plastic pieces for the HVAC controls seem a little lower-end. I like the RAV4 more than I expected to and, frankly, more than I wanted. – Mike Meredith
The Toyota RAV4 is a top-notch performer in the compact SUV category. The car tested came equipped with a 269-horspower V6, which provides best-in-class performance for this segment. If you want sports car acceleration, you need to get this engine. Even with the V6, I achieved 24 mpg in mixed driving. The small ute confidently trekked up dirt and gravel roads with ease, and the suspension was not overly stiff. The interior is comfortable, and controls are easy to use and understand. A great option to consider is the integrated backup camera embedded in the left part of the rearview mirror. That backup camera is a lifesaver when the window visibility is obscured by groceries or luggage. The RAV4 is easy to drive and confident on- and off-road, and it delivers great fuel efficiency. If you are in the market for a compact SUV, you need to consider the RAV4 against the Honda CR-V and the Subaru Forester. – Joe Chulick
The Toyota RAV4 was the first mini-SUV offered in the United States. Now, as then, it offers some of the utility and confidence of a sport utility vehicle, but in a compact and more affordable package. Today's model comes with a surprising amount of "sport," too. The V6 engine is surprisingly peppy, and the suspension amazes by really offering sure-footed and sporty handling, instead of the boatlike wallowing I expected. Inside, the RAV4 feels almost as large as a full-size SUV, with supportive seats and plenty of room for four. By doing everything so well, the Toyota RAV4 continues to stand out as the leader in the mini-SUV category. – Paul Hagger