By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
In the hotly-contested field of compact SUVs, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 reigns supreme. Its price structure and resale value are on par with the segment leader, the Honda CR-V but, unlike the CR-V, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 compact SUV offers a choice of 4-cylinder or 6-cylinder engines and the convenience of a third-row seat. And, while newer entries from Hyundai, Kia, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi and Nissan may offer sportier styling and more modern interiors, few can match the RAV4's excellent reliability and resale scores.
If you're looking for fuel efficiency, versatility and reliability in a small SUV that also offers the convenience of a third-row seat, the 2012 Toyota RAV4 SUV is the perfect fit.
If your needs for a third-row seat also include lots of storage space behind said seat, a larger Toyota Highlander or Chevy Traverse might be a better idea. Those looking for cutting-edge features and fuel economy might want to check out the new Kia Sedona or Hyundai Santa Fe.
For 2012, the Toyota RAV4 SUV gains as standard equipment a new audio head unit featuring Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and music streaming. The Limited grade offers a new navigation radio with Toyota's Entune infotainment system.
Driving Impressions In the 2012 Toyota RAV4 SUV, Toyota has managed to deliver car-like ride and handling characteristics in a vehicle with a tall ride height and ground clearance. Safety is paramount...at Toyota, so the RAV4 is wrapped in high-strength steel for increased rigidity and improved ride, handling and steering. On the road, the 2012 Toyota RAV4's interior is quieter than most, although the V6 engine does sound rather harsh at full throttle, a very un-Toyota-like characteristic. Elimination of outer moldings around the windshield and door glass helps reduce aerodynamic drag and wind noise. As for power, we found the 2.5-liter's 179 horsepower to be more than sufficient for most needs, but we can't help but love the pulling and passing power afforded by the more expensive but less fuel-efficient V6.
Star Safety System
This comprehensive system integrates five active electronic safety features – enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), traction control, antilock 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.
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 SUV is slightly larger inside than most compact SUVs, most notably in the rear seat and cargo area. The 2012 Toyota RAV4's second-row seats slide fore and aft to make more room for third-seat passengers; the 60/40-split seats can also be folded flat to increase cargo capacity. Those RAV4s without the third-row seat feature an additional storage bin beneath the wide cargo floor. This bin is used to store the third-row seat on models so equipped. The entry-level RAV4 features durable fabric on the seats and door panels, while the Sport and Limited trim levels get more premium-feeling cloth; both trims can also be outfitted with leather seating. We can't say we are big fans of the dark charcoal and primer-gray plastics inside the RAV4, nor of the cheap-looking silver paint used on the center cluster, door trim and steering-wheel spokes. We do like the 2012 Toyota RAV4's lighted cup holders, console-mounted cell-phone holder and split 2-tier glove box.
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 SUV doesn't share the same small and cute curb appeal found on so many of its rivals. The uncluttered design breaks from the conventional, with a triangle shaped C-pillar and bulging wrap-around tail lamps. Up front, a 2-piece split front grille spills over onto the RAV4's front bumper; on models so equipped, the fog light housings are carved into the lower front fascia. Around back is a large swing-out door (as opposed to a flip-up hatch) that opens inconveniently from the driver's side, which is the curb side in Japan. The large spare tire and case (color-keyed hard shell on Limited models) is mounted to the rear door, making it awkward to open when parked at an angle. The Sport Appearance Package, which includes run-flat tires, deletes the rear-door spare tire.
All three 2012 Toyota RAV4 SUV 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 6-speaker audio with MP3/WMA, Bluetooth and a mini-plug jack. The Limited adds 17-inch tires on 6-spoke alloy wheels (in place of the 16-inch steel wheels of the base model), fog lights, heated outside mirrors, Smart Key entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel with audio controls, cargo area net and tonneau cover, chrome grille and fender flares. The Sport trim gets much of this plus 18-inch performance tires and wheels, a sport suspension and black-out headlamp trim.
Options for the base model include, a rear camera with built-in rearview mirror monitor, third-row seat, cargo-area tonneau cover and a tow package that increases towing capacity to 3,500 pounds. An Upgrade Value Package with moonroof, 17-inch wheels and roof rack is also on the table. Available options on the Sport include a power moonroof with sunshade, leather seats, heated front seats, DVD navigation with Entune infotainment, Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls. Limited options include leather-trimmed and heated front seats.
The 2012 Toyota RAV4 SUV provides a choice of a 179-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), or a potent VVT-i V6. The former is one of the most powerful 4-cylinder engines in this segment, while the latter, pumping out a claimed best-in-class 269 horsepower, is good for 0-to-60-miles-per-hour bursts in slightly under seven seconds. The 4-cylinder engine drives through a recently-introduced 4-speed automatic transmission with uphill/downhill shift control to reduce gear hunting, while the V6 is fitted with a 5-speed automatic.
179 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
172 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (2WD), 21/27 (4WD)
269 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
246 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (2WD), 19/26 (4WD)
For the base 2-wheel-drive (2WD) version, the RAV4's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $22,500 for the front-drive model and right around $24,000 for the 4-wheel-drive (4WD) model. The 4-wheel-drive version with the V6 engine lists for about $26,000. The Sport trim starts around $24,000 and a fully-loaded 4-wheel-drive V6 Limited tops out at about $32,000. That price range isn't too far from such rivals as the Kia Sorento, Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander. Prices consumers are actually paying can differ substantially, so click on the RAV4's Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com to compare. Given Toyota's strong reputation, resale value should be as good as or better than any competitor's, except for the Honda CR-V, which outshines even the RAV4.
By Dave (IA) on Thursday, June 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 107,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Simple, dependable, very easy to drive"
Cons: "Alloy wheels need refinishing at 100k mi"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This compact SUV has the best bang for the buck out there. The V6 AWD was worth it. I bought mine new and it hasn't failed me in almost 7 years of driving it. Everything still works like it was new. It has all the power you could ever need for passing, it's decent on gas (avg 25 mpg), it's comfortable even at highway speeds, it seats five comfortably, the back seat has limo-like legroom, and the all-wheel-drive automatically kicks in if you ever need it in the snow. No wonder these popular RAV4s are everywhere on the roads yet none are for sale - people who buy them keep them forever. Besides regular maintenance it's only needed brakes, a water pump at 75k, and a new set of tires. All the original lightbulbs still work and the headlights are still as bright as new. Toyota air conditioners have a hard time keeping up with hot weather, but the heater is fine in the winter. I would pass this vehicle off to my kids and buy a new one except the V6 is so powerful and I want to keep driving it!"
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Carmen (NC) on Monday, June 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The next best being my convertible volvo. If you're looking for a mini suv w/ good gas mileage, this is it! And lots of back seat space!"
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Rick (OH) on Tuesday, May 14, 2013
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Company Fleet Car - My approximate mileage is 70,000
Pros: "Cheap, Good gas mileage"
Cons: "Slow, Unreliable, Cheaply Made"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My company switched to Toyota for their fleet cars. We quickly switched back to the previous brand after one year because of the mountain of complaints from the sales force. I had the RAV4. It was a piece of junk and seemed to be in constant need of repair. The car was the slowest I've ever driven, and everything about it seemed cheaply made. The breaks made horrible noises. The interior smelled of gasoline. Interior and body parts fell off during normal driving. The car would randomly shut down while driving down the road. The car blew out every electronic device I plugged into it. (ie GPS, Phone, Tablet) Toyota's response was that all of this is normal. I would definitely NOT recommend this car, and know my company would tell you the cost savings were not worth the problems."
4 people out of 22 found this review helpful
By Crunch (UT) on Monday, May 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,260overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliability, parking, gas mi., conven., handling"
Cons: "Not quite enough power for towing."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Has a tight turning radius, good visibility, comfortable on long hauls, enough power for a 4cyl. to pass well, and climbing the hills. Good enough ground clearance to clear smaller boulders and handle rough roads. Great room for carrying large cargo. Love this vehicle."
9 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By Nixie (TX) on Friday, April 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 127,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have had my RAV4 since 2007 and we love it. It has lots of nice features for a small family. The turning radius is unbelievable! Lots of cargo space if you don't get the 3rd row seat. Lots of get up and go and great gas mileage. We have just loved this car. No problems with anything except I'd get leather seats. Wish I had had leather seats while my daughter was little (easy cleanup)."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By emtee (WA) on Sunday, April 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 68,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "solid roof rack, locking 4wd, full size spare"
Cons: "Some definite quality/design issues..."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Had this car for little over 3 years and put lots of miles on it. Long time Honda owner, first venture into a Toyota and have to admit, somewhat disappointed. Have problems with the radio (press a button and it will turn off - no dealer support, after warranty after all...) and had a serious problem with a design flaw in the gas tank vapor capture system - water gets in! to the tune of $1500 or so. It is an admitted design flaw (by my dealer service person - who was top notch!) and Toyota USA helped out but it should never have been a problem. Radio? No one will touch. Will need to buy a replacement (non-Toyota) soon as problem gets worse. Overall, the CRV is probably a better drive train and more comfortable but price was better on the RAV4. In particular, a few factors swayed me to the RAV4 - full size spare, a roof rack that can hold something (my double sea kayak), and the ability to lock in 4wd. Still the RAV4 is a good car and it will do well but..."
11 people out of 12 found this review helpful