The 2013 RAV4 is an evolution of the bland outgoing model. While it has been modernized and freshened, it is still very conservative. Toyota is conscious to try and inject more passion into their vehicles, but understand the ramifications of alienating their loyal crop of current customers. The RAV4 is most definitely designed with them in mind.
Toyota describes the new design as dynamic, sleek, and aggressive. It is, of course, none of those things. The protruding front overhang looks like a boxer with a swollen lip, and little has been done to portray emotion or modernization from the front angle. Headlights do not receive the LEDs that have become standard amongst manufacturers, although halogen headlights are now adorned. The XLE and Limited models come with fog lamps.
The fender flares are more sculpted and a character line runs above the front wheel arch down the top of the rear taillight, becoming more pronounced the closer to rear of the car you get. The roofline slopes back from the front window, with a rear spoiler extending the roofline's arc, as well as enhancing the RAV4's aerodynamic co-efficiency.
Furthering the car's aerodynamic prowess are small vortex generators, molded into the taillight cases and near the base of the A-pillars. Aero undertrays beneath the passenger cabin help smooth and control airflow. These updates improve drag from 0.334 Cd to 0.329 Cd, aiding in improved fuel economy.
The new RAV4 interior resembles the RAV4 of old, but adds more technology, better quality materials and increased comfort, putting the 2013 RAV4 nicely in line with its competitors. It isn't luxurious, but for the most part, it doesn't feel cheap.
As you step into the car, the first change you notice is the addition of a leather band running the entire length of the dash. It breaks up the monotony of plastic, allowing a more expensive feel to the cabin.
The door trim and leather band is distinguished by contrasting colors, including beige, gray, black (which simply doesn't work and looks odd) and Terra Cotta on the Limited model. Without question, if you opt for the Limited model you should choose the Terra Cotta color combination, as it looks the most sophisticated.
The seats in the RAV4 LE are fabric-trimmed, while the RAV4 XLE adds a better quality fabric, bolstering and French stitching to the sides of the sportier seats. This in itself is a good reason to choose the XLE over the LE model, not withstanding the additional options you receive for less than $1,000.
The Limited model adds SofTex to the sportier seats, adding a chunk more luxury to the cabin. SofTex is a leather substitute that is fractionally cheaper to make. While the feel may be slightly inferior to real leather, it isn't sacrificing much.
The steering wheel is telescopic and in the RAV4 Limited model it is wrapped with leather. In the LE and XLE models the wheel feels flimsy and cheap, making the Limited another worthwhile step if you can reach that far.
Driving position is comfortable and easily obtainable. The center console is well laid out and all the dials are intuitive. The 6.1-inch screen looks a little 2005, but at the same time, we appreciate that it comes as a standard feature in all models.
The gear lever on the Limited model is draped in leather, but in all models, the lower part of the center console is made of a very cheap, flimsy plastic. The sun visors are also the worst quality we have ever seen. They feel like they derived from Wal-Mart.
Poor quality plastic continues in various places throughout the cabin, and it feels like it undoes some of the sophistication added by the leather on the dash and door panels. It's like buying a Hugo Boss suit from Nordstrom, then finishing the look off with a Tommy Bahama shirt.
On a brighter note, the push button start on the Limited model is a nice touch, and the second row seating is comfortable with decent legroom (37.2 inches). This is, in fact, an inch less than the old RAV4 but the front seats have been granted an extra inch with trunk space increasing, too. The third row is no more, due to a low take rate, but if space is really what you are after, then the Toyota Highlander might be a better option.
The increased trunk space allows for excellent storage. With the rear seats up, you have two additional inches of space compared to the old model (38.4 vs. 36.4 inches). With the second row folded flat, cargo space increases by 0.4-inches, giving it a class-leading total of 73.4-inches.
In general, the 2013 RAV4 is a comfortable, pleasing place to be. We just wish they hadn't skimped on the quality of the plastic utilized, as that really neutralizes an otherwise excellent job.