We recently took a trip down memory lane, revisiting the third generation Toyota RAV4 Limited.

It had quite a life, spanning 2005–2012, and marked a significant step up on the previous model. We investigated how it stacks up nine years later, compared to the latest model.

The 2012 RAV4 was given a longer wheelbase and a wider track than its predecessor, making it more comfortable and more practical for families packing for road trips. The 2012 model also featured roof rails and smart 17-inch alloy wheels. Its spare tyre was stowed in the side-swinging tail gate; the way the door opened could be problematic if you parked close to a wall, so it’s no surprise that the spare on today’s model is not stored that way. The 2021 model is also fitted with roof rails, features 19-inch alloy wheels and has a more conventional power-operated rear hatch.

Size-wise, the current Limited model is the same width (1,855mm) as the 2012 model, however it is actually 25mm shorter; surprising when most new vehicles seem to be getting larger.

Style-wise, the 2012 RAV4 is quite reserved by today’s standards. The grille is relatively small, with compact fog lights finished in chrome – special for its time. Overall, it has a conservative yet sporty look with its cheeky spoiler. The latest, fifth generation RAV4 looks taller and has more sophisticated styling accents, however it retains the compact spoiler.

The interior of the 2012 RAV4 is comfortable, complete with dark fabric seats. When first launched, buyers of the 2012 model could also opt for a sunroof and leather seating package for an additional $1,900. The standard seats in the model we reviewed stood up well considering the mileage the vehicle had done.

The latest Limited model has noticeable upgrades in comfort and refinement, with leather accented seating, 10-way power-adjustable seats, plus heating and ventilation for the front seats. 

The factory stereo of the 2012 model can be controlled via the steering wheel and the six-disc, six-speaker audio system also has Bluetooth for connecting to modern devices.

The latest RAV4 has a lot more going on in the infotainment space. It features an eight-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, the ability to integrate smartphones with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and audio command is available through a Voice Recognition system. There are also more ways to charge devices, with five USB ports and a wireless charging tray. 

The 2012 Limited model we reviewed, like the majority of RAV4 models sold in New Zealand, features a 2.4-litre power plant. The transmission is a simple and conventional four-speed automatic.

What is cooking under the bonnet of today’s model? The capacity has decreased to a 2.0-litre power plant and features a modern Variable Transmission.

We found the drive of the 2012 comfortable, light and nimble. At cruising speeds, the noise level was also acceptable, considering its age. But there is no denying that the latest RAV4 has come a long way in terms of cabin improvements, particularly in sound reduction. As the transmission is flexible, at motorway speeds the engine doesn’t seem to be worked hard at all which contributes to the latest model’s fuel efficiency.

In summary, the 2012 RAV4 Limited is still a great performer with plenty of grunt. However, the latest model has a lot going for it, including a vast array of enhanced active safety equipment, thanks to the standout Toyota Safety Sense suite.

The fuel consumption and emissions of the latest RAV4 also show how far Toyota has come, refining an already brilliant product. It’s no wonder the RAV4 is such a popular model today with many New Zealanders still buying this iconic vehicle, both new and used.

Reported for our Autumn 2022 issue

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