Namibia Adventure Safari TOYOTA RAV 2.0 VX
Toyota’s RAV4 has been around for more than 15 years. Not only did it singlehandedly create the compact SUV segment – it remains one of the key players. And that’s why Toyota’s small SUV is a true classic!
Before Casablanca became a much-loved American film classic, it was just another movie churned out by a Hollywood studio to make money. No one working on the film thought that its popularity would last for seven decades. The cast and crew were simply trying to tell a decent story that would do well at the box office.
But Casablanca wasn’t just another movie. It was special. It was the cinematic equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle.
Everything about it was great – the actors, the script, the set designs, the music, the direction – and these elements combined to tell a perfect, timeless love story. A lot of people have tried to imitate it. None has succeeded.
Toyota’s RAV4 is a lot like Casablanca. The similarity might not be obvious at first, but allow us to explain.
The RAV4, you see, is also a bit of a classic. And like Casablanca, its “classic” status wasn’t obvious at first. Some vehicles are destined for greatness the moment their designs are penned. American muscle cars and Italian supercars are good examples. Others take time to reveal their greatness.
A lot of people liked the RAV4 when it first broke cover in 1994, but no one would have called it an instant classic. To be sure, it was a very clever vehicle. It offered a commanding driving position, lots of luggage space, good looks and all-wheel-drive, if you wanted it, but it differed from other SUVs in one important way: size. The RAV4 was a compact SUV designed for people who wanted a high-riding vehicle that was perfectly at home on congested city streets.
It was quickly discovered that the market for this sort of vehicle was pretty big. The RAV sold like hotcakes – and spawned one of the most popular vehicle segments in the process.
Compact SUVs and crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) are all the rage nowadays. And we can thank Toyota’s RAV for this. It was the first of its kind. It was the vehicle that started it all. That’s why it’s a classic!
So how does the RAV4 stack up against the vehicles it inspired? Very well.
Even though the third-generation model has been around for about six years, it is still a solid contender in the compact SUV segment. Like most vehicles in its class, it doesn’t boast low-range gearing or phenomenal ground clearance (the RAV4’s is pegged at 190mm), but it can go surprisingly far off road – certainly farther than the average owner would ever push it.
It loves mud and sand. We tested it thoroughly in the Kaokoveld’s dry riverbeds and found that it wasn’t afraid of the dirt. Generating 112 kW of power and 194 Nm of torque, its petrol powerplant offers enough oomph to keep you going through deep sand. On gravel, it performs equally well. Its all-wheel-drive system, assisted by ABS, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and vehicle stability control (VSC), is incredibly surefooted.
It is only when traversing rock that the RAV’s Achilles heel is revealed. And even here it can get the job done if the driver knows what he’s doing. During our trip, we tackled a couple of rocky outcrops that would send the majority of CUV owners running in the opposite direction. Okay, we mangled the front plastic bash plate in the process, but the RAV survived the ordeal. It might have been designed for motorists in search of a high-riding city runabout, but it can go the off-road mile. It’s a classic. And it remains as popular as ever.
Sure, there are a lot of compact SUVs on the market these days, but this wasn’t always the case. There was a time when small SUVs and crossover utility vehicles didn’t exist. Motorists were forced to choose between low-riding hatches and sedans, or bulky off-roaders.
Then the RAV4 came along and changed everything. With the RAV4, Toyota introduced a new sort of vehicle – a spacious, high-riding SUV that was comfortable and nimble enough to use as a daily commuter. Soccer moms the world over rejoiced. Soccer dads pulled out their cheque books. The global vehicle market changed forever.
Trivia: Think electric vehicles are a relatively new invention? Think again. The RAV4 has been there and done that. A plug-in, all-electric version of the first-generation model was produced way back in 1997 and leased to fleets.
TOYOTA RAV4 2.0 VX
Engine: Two-litre, four-cylinder petrol with electronic fuel injection
Power: 112 kW @ 6000 r/min
Torque: 194 Nm @ 4000 r/min
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
4WD: Automatic, on-demand four-wheel drive
Ground clearance: 190mm
Price: R366 300