By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 Toyota RAV4 has come along way from the cute little two-door pop-top of 1996. Toyota's smallest SUV has left its long-time rival, the Honda CR-V, in the feature-content dust by offering seating for seven, a low-cost navigation option and an optional V6 engine. Moving upscale can have its drawbacks, however, and the current RAV4's conservative styling might be the most noticeable of those. Where the RAV4 was once aimed at young singles with active lifestyles, the new vehicle caters to young couples with active two-year olds. While there are better equipped and less expensive seven-passenger SUVs on the market (the Hyundai Santa Fe, for example), none have the RAV4's impeccable quality, reliability reputation or strong resale value.
If you want a small-to-midsize sport utility vehicle that combines car-like performance, ride, handling and fuel economy with available four-wheel drive and room for up to seven passengers, or five adults and a fair amount of cargo, the 2009 Toyota RAV4 is a good choice.
If your needs include heavy duty hauling or towing or serious off-road rambling, you may want to look elsewhere. There are many fine competitors in this class, including some that may offer a combination of attributes, price and value that are better suited to your tastes and needs.
The 2009 RAV4 gets a mild exterior freshening, a new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and active headrests. New options for the Sport and Limited trims include a lower-cost navigation system and a rear backup monitor. The Limited model also receives the Smart Key entry system as standard equipment. Gear hunting is greatly reduced this year with the addition of a new uphill/downhill shift control system.
Driving Impressions Toyota engineers have achieved their objective of car-like driving dynamics in a practical SUV package. High-strength steel increases the body's rigidity for improved ride, handling, steering and (if necessary) crash...energy management, weighs less and reduces noise, vibration and harshness. Improved sealing and insulation keeps most engine noise out of the cabin, except for some (un-Toyota-like) engine harshness at wide-open throttle, even with the V6. Elimination of outer moldings around the windshield and door glass helps reduce aerodynamic drag and wind noise. While the 179-horsepower four-cylinder is more than adequate with light loads and at lower elevations, the 269-horsepower V6 offers acceleration, pulling and passing power at or near the top of this class and is recommended for heavier loads and higher altitudes.
Star Safety System
This comprehensive system integrates five active electronic safety features – enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Brake Assist – to help avoid accidents, and one passive safety feature (multi-stage front airbags) to cushion occupants should a crash occur.
Hill Start and Downhill Assist Control
Toyota's second-generation Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) automatically prevents the vehicle from rolling backward for two to three seconds when starting from a stop on an uphill slope. Downhill Assist Control (DAC), when activated by the driver, keeps the vehicle's speed to a crawl on steep descents. Both are standard on all V6 models and four-cylinder RAV4s with the optional third-row seat.
The 2009 RAV4 offers slightly less rear seat head room and legroom than the Honda CR-V, but the 60/40 reclining middle-row seats adjust fore and aft and fold flat with levers on their sides or (on two-row models) a one-touch lever in the cargo hold. The available third-row seat folds flat into the same space in the rear where standard RAV4s have hidden under-floor storage. Base RAV4s get durable fabric-covered seats, while higher-level cloth dresses Limited and Sport models, the latter in dark charcoal. The center cluster, door trim and steering wheel spokes are brushed metallic-look plastic. Lighted front cupholders, a console cell phone holder, an extra storage compartment above the glove box and a deep rear storage bin are notable features.Exterior
The 2009 RAV4 is more substantial and less "cute" than the original, with contemporary but conventional good looks. Only the triangular rear C-pillar and vertically-wrapped taillamps are somewhat unusual, reminding us (in profile) of the very unconventional Nissan Murano. The new split-grille trapezoidal opening now flows into the front bumper, with the available fog light housing sculpted into the lower side fascia. The spare tire, mounted to the right of center on the rear door – which, unfortunately and inconveniently, swings open from the driver's side (curb side in Japan) – has a color-keyed cover with a full hard shell on Limited models. Customers who opt for the new Sport Appearance Package (4WD V6 models only) lose the rear spare and gain a set of four run-flat tires.
All three trim levels have an automatic transmission, electronic stability and traction control, front side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, rear privacy glass, power mirrors, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, three 12-volt outlets, 10 cupholders, cruise control and AM/FM/CD six-speaker audio with MP3/WMA and a mini-plug jack. The Limited adds 17-inch tires on six-spoke alloy wheels (in place of the 16-inch steel wheels of the base model), fog lights, heated outside mirrors, six-disc CD changer, Smart Key entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls, eight-way (plus lumbar) power driver's seat, cargo area net and tonneau cover, engine immobilizer system and a chrome grille. The Sport trim gets much of this plus 18-inch performance tires and wheels, sport suspension, blackout headlamp trim and fender flares.
Options for the base model include the six-disc CD changer, daytime running lights, black painted roof rails and cross bars, 17-inch wheels and tires, third-row seat, cargo area net and tonneau cover and (with the V6 only) a tow package that increases towing capacity to 3,500 pounds. Available options on the Sport include a power moonroof with sunshade and a JBL six-disc CD changer with nine speakers and steering wheel audio controls. The Limited offers optional leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with rear-seat audio. Both the Sport and Limited can also be equipped with a rear backup monitor and GPS navigation.
Toyota provides a choice of a 179-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), or a potent VVT-i V6. The former is one of the most powerful fours in this segment, while the latter, pumping out a claimed best-in-class 269 horsepower, is good for zero to 60 miles per hour bursts in slightly under seven seconds. The four-cylinder engine drives through an all-new four-speed automatic transmission and the V6 is fitted with a five-speed automatic.
2.5-liter in-line 4
179 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
172 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (2WD), 21/27 (4WD)
269 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
246 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (2WD), 19/26 (4WD)
By grace on Monday, August 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 147,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "spacious for a family of 4"
Cons: "automatic locks went out quick"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I over paid for this car, the automatic locks went out in the first 3 years...the back door has no handle and must be opened by the automatic locks that are no longer working.It has had quite a bit of recalls. Other than that the car is reliable and comfortable"
By txbirdfarmer on Friday, August 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Love features, fun to drive, roomy, well made"
Cons: "small bkup camera image, no usb, no stereo mute"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Love love love my 2009 RAV4 Ltd in Blizzard Pearl. Bought it new off the showroom floor. Probably paid a little much, but I don't care (my husband does, but it's not his)! Is loaded. Drives well has great features and I LIKE the rear door that opens to the side. I am a woman, and only 5'1", so side open rear door is a super plus. Rear door does open to the right (curb in America), but doesn't bother me. The ltd's touch-open unlock door feature is great. Equipped with fog lights. Decent size glove compartment, also lockable - no light in it. Additional smaller storage compartment on dash above glove compartment. Storage under center armrest. Good size, 2 compartments: large, deep one with additional standard cigarette-type charger outlet, smaller compartment directly under arm rest for pens, change, etc. Lots of drink holders - great features. All doors have one, 2 in center console, 2 in drop-down center of backseat. Love touch-dial/button AC/Heat controls. Dual A/C controls. A/C fast to cool & is really cold, even in extreme Texas heat. Heat equally responsive. Dropdown sunglass holder holds standard size sunglasses, but not oversized or wraparound sport models. Auto on makeup mirror lights, both sides activated upon sliding open mirror cover. If visor is left down & makeup mirrors are left open, lights go out automatically when car is shut off to avoid draining battery. Auto Sunroof -- love it. Upgraded JVC stereo & 7 speaker system is great. Multiple CD, but I don't use. Satellite radio compatible. Has 120V electrical plug behind center console & I believe also one in cargo compartment as well. Bluetooth also. Steering wheel equipped with stereo, bluetooth controls. Good leg room in front and back seats. Rear seats are independently adjustable - forward/backward & a slight adjustment in recline (an important feature - I've made long trips in an SUV without this feature & it is horrible on a bad back). Both rear seats fold flat increasing the rear's already roomy storage/carry capacity. There is even room on floor between rear & front seats for items when the rear seats are folded down. I have hauled a very large bird cage, suitcases, and bags and bags of stuff on a trip with no problem. I have leather seats - love them. With the leather package comes electric driver seat controls include adj lumbar, recline, height, seat tilt. Heated seats. Blind spots are virtually non-existant when driving & with backup camera (appears in left side of rear-view mirror). Many people complain about the rear tire mounted on the back. I like it there. Mounted on the back allows for an extra storage compartment (actually 2) under the rear cargo floor. Additionally, if you are hit from behind (or back into something) you do not do damage to the rear door like if there were no tire mounted there! It happened to me - no door damage, replaced the rear tire cover only! Body integrity is great. I did have another make of car at one time that would dent if you looked at it wrong! Would change very little. Recommended changes/additions: * Larger backup camera image -- with/without navigation package * Audible Warning system when vehicle gets too close to objects -- rear & rear sides (Jeep has this feature). * Glove compartment light * Mute button for stereo on steering wheel * USB port * Ipod/MP3 player/phone interface. I love this vehicle and would buy another in a heartbeat! NOTE: I recently drove a loaner 2014/2015 RAV4 from the dealership. It was nice, but I liked mine better! The only feature I liked more was the large backup camera screen in the dash! I HATED the rear cargo door that opened upward! It was heavy, hard to reach (I'm only 5'1") and really hard to pull down. They will not be selling these new RAV4s to short, handicapped, elderly or people with health issues."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Joe on Sunday, August 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good price for $$"
Cons: "Does not have a navigation system built in"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Exterior paint - metallic blue - maintains its luster after 5 years. Interior is comfortable. Cargo is ample. Handles well in short and long rides. Has never failed us."
7 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By clyde on Monday, July 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Engine seems reliable"
Cons: "Rest of car problematic"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Had to change O2 sensor at 38,000 miles ($300)and water pump at 45000 ($430) Toyota wouldn't back their product. Both prices lower than they would have been if I had the work done at a dealership. Some people were charged $1400 to change water pump at a dealership. Was told at dealership I needed new struts and shocks while they were doing a recall. I was told they were shot. Took it to my mechanic and he said they both have 30,000 miles left on them, go figure!"
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By MK1 on Sunday, July 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very dependable, low maintainace, not bad on gas"
Cons: "None, would buy again-extremely happy with veh."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Excellent condition, very well taken care of, all service work completed at dealer. mileage records available. extremely clean, warranty to 100,000, Interior fabric protected,auto winter start, great starter, crystal fusion front glass protection, Very very clean!"
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By katrena on Wednesday, July 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 110,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "great ride"
Cons: "engine /oil problem NO NOT RECOMMEND"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I loved this car when I purchased it last October..No complaints UNTIL I had to put oil in it between changes.. 3x ! Toyota knows about this problem. if you have a 4cyl. Toyota, Check your oil..!!! Going to HONDA..!!!"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful