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 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."
4 people out of 6 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!"
2 people out of 2 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!"
2 people out of 5 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
By Araxiel on Saturday, July 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Well-built, comfortable, fast, relaible"
Cons: "Paint sucked"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought my RAV in 2007 and although it is not driven much, it is a great car. Decent mileage for a V-6, very fast and handles like a near sports car. Fit and finish inside are top notch. I change my own oil, and it is a ten minute job at most. The only complaint is the paint and clear coat. After four years, clear coat on the roof deteriorated to the point I had it repainted. A mediocre job at best and cost me $400.00 Then, a year later the hood began to look like some blue version of Europa, the ice moon of Jupiter. Finally, I bit the bullet and had a total pro paint job that cost over $3500. I intend to keep this car and it was a good investment. Outside of that, one of the best cars I've ever owned."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Mrs. Ring on Tuesday, July 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 70,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, lots of room"
Cons: "junky metal on wheels"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Bought my Rav brand new and absolutely love it! My only complaint is the wear on the aluminum wheels."
9 people out of 14 found this review helpful