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2016 Toyota RAV4

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Base Price: $24,350
Price as Tested: $25,025

It’s not often a carmaker sends me a relatively stripped-down version of a vehicle for evaluation. Typically, whatever I get, if not loaded up with every bell and whistle available, is at least pretty heavily contented. So, I was a bit surprised when the Toyota RAV4 that arrived for a scheduled week with me was a rather plain-Jane, entry-level LE FWD with one solitary option. Well, this is different, I thought.

Just to be clear, I’m not some Philistine who must always have the top-of-the-line whatever to test drive. Nope. I was simply2016_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_09_E72BA305F4918530649922FE37415A1DE2C7BC59_low surprised. I had missed the media intro for the freshened RAV4 earlier in the year and Toyota was eager to get me into the driver’s seat of one. To be honest, sometimes I really appreciate some wheel time in a vehicle’s more basic version. Sometimes I don’t mind flying sitting in the middle seat in coach either. Well, that right there is a lie.

Actually, the LE pops right out of the box with a fairly impressive list of creature comforts. Full-power accessories, remote keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio controls, 6.1-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker audio system with USB port are all standard.

My test Toyota’s one option was the $675 Entune Audi Plus Package, including HD-radio and satellite-radio capability, traffic and weather updates, and an app for integrating smartphone navigation, among other features.

No matter the trim, nor the number of drive wheels, every RAV4 looks to a 176-horsepower 2.5-liter V6 for its thrust. My test crossover was front-wheel drive, using a six-speed automatic transmission to ferry engine output to the wheels. Ponying up an additional $1,400, gets you all-wheel drive on any grade RAV4.

2016_Toyota_RAV4_Limited_04_88CF69BBD7DC89C0C264DAD975A17136F575037F_lowRAV4 doesn’t set the fuel-economy pace within its segment, but its in the hunt at 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 26 mpg in combined driving for FWD versions. Opting for AWD drops those stats by 1 mpg across the board.

Acceleration isn’t earth shattering, but this crossover gets itself moving without much coaxing. It feels stable on the road and handles the curves without drama. Tuned more for ride comfort, the suspension is a solid compromise that still delivers plenty of control.

Crossovers – particularly smaller ones – aren’t known for being dynamic nor emotion provoking. Basically, if they are competent people movers with room for a decent amount of cargo, they can compete with the pack. RAV4 is such a crossover.

Inside, the spacious cabin is appealing and pleasing in its design. Logically arranged, all the controls and gauges are easy to locate and operate. There is nothing fancy in the styling, but there is a real sense of quality in the look and feel of the materials. Supportive, the front seats won’t leave you hunting a chiropractor after a six-or-eight-hour trip.

Folding the 60/40 split second-row seat flat with the cargo floor, boosts cargo space from 38.4 cu.ft. to an impressive 73.4 cu.ft. 2016_Toyota_RAV4_SE_18_3309B864AF5F449E293EE0E938BA5BF155099EC7_lowBoth numbers are significantly more than cargo space than the much bigger Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Moreover, with the rear hatch raised, the opening is large enough to accommodate some pretty large items.

Not including hybrid versions, as you wind your way through the four grades, base prices go as high as $31,510 for the top-of-the-heap RAV4 Limited. By the time you reach the Limited, goodies include dual-zone automatic climate control, sunroof, power liftgate, leather seating, heated outboard mirrors, push-button ignition, heated seats, adaptive cruise control, navigation system, forward-collision warning/mitigation system, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and auto high-beam headlamp control.

Stylish, roomy and reliable, this Toyota won’t get your heart racing, but will make you feel pretty good about your purchase. It’s a competent performer that may not be the segment leader, but has earned its place at the table.