Today, the fifth-generation RAV4 is back in Malaysia after a 13-year hiatus with bigger offerings that are bundled with a bolder, more chiselled look.
The last RAV4 sold in Malaysia was in 2006; the third and fourth-generation RAV4 never made it to our shores from 2007.
Recently launched, the new RAV4 comes in two variants — equipped with a 2.0 and 2.5-litre engines — which are priced at RM196,436 and RM215,665 (on-the-road without insurance) respectively.
These are prices after the 50% reduction in sales tax from June 15 until Dec 31.
Both variants sit on Toyota's highly touted Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform that boasts of being modular that can accommodate front, rear and all-wheel-drive applications while being rigid.
We were treated to a first hand — albeit brief — look and feel of the 2.5-litre mid-sized SUV that aims to take on the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, Peugeot 3008, Subaru Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan.
At first glance, the side-profile of the new RAV4 is reminiscent of a Lexus', Toyota's luxury sub-brand.
But the front end says otherwise with a very wide upper grille that takes up about 80% of this SUV's width.
This leaves little room for the automatic LED headlights and fog lamps while the brand's large logo sits prominently in the centre with a front camera below it.
The front end is "flat" to the wind, unlike the rear section, which gets a play of angles that gives it a greater sense of sophistication. It's also convenient that the tailgate can open hands-free.
There's also black cladding all around its lower sections including the wheel arches to add an element of ruggedness.
Indeed the RAV4 has become "beefier" unlike the second-generation RAV4 that last showed up here.
That RAV4 had a much cuter demeanour with its large headlights, compact proportions and higher ride height, making it a hit with the younger ladies.
Although not all will agree, the new RAV4 has emerged with a good combination of maturity and sportiness that's been wrapped up in a veneer of sophistication.
The interior is inviting with the the lower half of the cabin in black including the leather-upholstered seats and a milky beige colour for the upper half of the pillars and headliner.
The effect of the two-tone setup is that occupants get a sense of spaciousness, and it helps to "brighten-up" the interior.
There's good all-round visibility and comfort levels are high with supportive leather seats that are also ventilated.
The rear bench is premium stuff with a good amount of shoulder room for three average-sized adults who will enjoy plenty of leg-room.
Rear passengers get access to two 2.1-amp USB charging ports to keep their smart devices amply charged and connected on long journeys. A centre armrest with integrated cup holders comes in handy in situations where there are only two persons sitting here.
However, forward visibility from the rear is hampered by the tall and wide headrests on the front seats.
The centre console keeps things simple with all the controls clearly marked and highly legible. A wireless charger forward of the gear lever is a thoughtful gesture.
The more complex stuff are concentrated on the nicely girthed steering wheel with paddle shifters which provides access to the audio system, voice control and some advance driver aids systems such as adaptive cruise control.
On the move, the RAV4 has a responsive throttle and a nicely boosted steering feel when puttering about slowly.
There's enough grunt from the naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre engine, which produces 207PS and 247Nm. The stubby gear knob shifts crisply, and the eight-speed automatic transmission is a smooth and quick all-rounder.
In Eco mode, performance is toned down to conserve fuel while Sport mode urges the engine to go hyper with a simple nudge.
Normal mode provides a blend of both modes and is fine for everyday driving.
The RAV4 reveals more when shoved around.
Tight corners will have its rear end following intently and the front end is eager to stick to the driver's inputs while the steering wheel gives a nicely weighted sporty feel.
What was more evident was how well the RAV4 handled uneven roads and potholes with the suspension system soaking up much of the judders before they reach the occupants.
Overall, the RAV4 2.5 is a competent SUV. Looks aside, it provides plenty of bells and whistles in a spacious package.
We think the RAV4 is appropriately priced for what it is. You pay for what you get in the latest Toyota model.
Toyota RAV4 2.0
Engine: 1,987cc 16V DOHC with VVT-iE and VVT-i
Maximum power: 173PS at 6,600rpm
Maximum torque: 207Nm at 4,800rpm
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission, front-wheel drive
Price: RM196.436 (OTR without insurance)
Toyota RAV4 2.5
Engine: 2,487cc 16V DOHC with VVT-iE and VVT-i
Maximum power: 207PS at 6,600rpm
Maximum torque: 247Nm at 5,000rpm
Transmission: Direct Shift 8-speed automatic with sequential shift, front-wheel-drive
Price: RM215,665 (OTR without insurance)
Brakes: Ventilated (front) and solid (rear) discs
Steering: Electric power steering
Wheels and tyres: 18-inch alloys with 225/60 series tyres and 17-inch steel wheel with 165/60 tyre (spare)
Fuel tank: 55-litres,
Features (2.0 and 2.5): seven airbags, anti-lock braking system, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, traction control with trailer sway control, hill-start assist, emergency stop signal, blind-spot monitoring system, Toyota Safety Sense - pre-collision system, lane departure alert with steering assist and lane tracing assist, adaptive cruise control (all speeds) and automatic high beam, front and rear parking sensors, automatic levelling LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, front and rear fog lamps, automatic wipers, roof rails, power-adjustable external mirrors with integrated turn signals, powered tailgate with hands-free operation, keyless entry with push-start button, Drive modes (Eco, Normal and Sport), semi-digital 7.0-inch Optitron colour TFT multi-information display dual-zone automatic climate controls, front seat ventilation (driver and front passenger), tri-spoke multi-function leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, auto up/down with anti-pinch function powered windows, electric parking brake with automatic hold, six-speaker sound system with 7.0-inch full-colour touchscreen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity and DVD player, eight-way powered driver's seat with lumbar support and memory function, manually adjustable front passenger seat, 60:40 rear folding seat, electrochromic mirror, wireless charger, USB charging ports, 360-degree camera view, front and rear digital video recorder, tonneau cover, dual-level adjustable floor with reversible cargo floor board for 580-litre boot and rear Isofix anchor points.