The 2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited looks much bigger from the outside than its predecessor. It’s rounded out and is quite spacious when you jump inside. Running boards give the Limited a low-looking ride height and that lower feeling carries over to the driver’s seat. This 2013 Rav4 feels more akin to driving a wagon than an outright crossover.

So how does this 2013 RAV4 stack up to its predecessor and more importantly to the crossover segment competition nipping at Toyota’s ankles?

Stats

[accordion] [item title=”Base Price”]$28,410[/item] [item title=”Price as Tested”]$31,964[/item] [item title=”EPA Rating MPG”]22 / 29 Combined 25[/item] [item title=”As Tested MPG”]23[/item] [item title=”Horsepower / Lb-Ft”]176 @ 6000 rpm / 172 @ 4100 rpm[/item] [item title=”Powertrain”]2.5L 16-Valve 4-Cylinder Engine paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission[/item] [/accordion]

The Competition

Retail PriceCity/Hwy MPGHP / Lb-FtInterior cu-ft
2013 Toyota RAV4 Limited$29,27022/29176/172100.7
2013 Chevrolet Equinox LTZ$33,59520/29182/17299.7
2013 Ford Escape SEL$30,81522/30173/18498.1
2013 Honda CR-V Ex-L$29,62522/30185/163101.5
2013 Hyundai Tucson Auto$27,95020/27170/163101.9
2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited$30,990NA184/171104.4
2013 KIA Sportage SX$29,25020/25260/269100.0
2013 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring$29,39025/31155/150102.3
2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport LE$25,72024/29148/14597.5
2013 Nissan Rogue SV$24,89522/27170/17597.5
2013 Subaru Crosstrek Limited$25,29025/33148/14597.5

 

Before we jump into the review it is worth noting that this may just be the toughest segment to compete in. There are cars that are more efficient (especially with the hybrid on the way) — Subaru Crosstrek. There are fast crossovers — KIA Sportage. There’s the pretty and techy — Fort Escape. And the affordable — Nissan Rogue. How’s the RAV4 stack up?

Styling, Design, & Comfort

The 4th generation RAV4 receives some very noticeable changes to the back, gone is the swinging rear gate and mounted spare tire, in is a conventional lift-gate that opens up to a wide, flat cargo area. The cargo floor remains surprisingly low despite the fact that it now covers a spare tire. Front and rear passenger space is plentiful and with the rear seat down the rear cargo space can accommodate a surprising amount. Shorter passengers will also be thankful for the side running board steps that make ingress and egress much easier. The driver’s seat is very comfortable once adjusted, I had to drop my seat a bit to avoid hitting my right knee on the dash, but once dialed in I had no further issues. The dashboard itself is nicely styled, well appointed and laid out for easy use.

My tester had the optional $1,660 Navigation and Entune entertainment system. It integrated perfectly into the overall design of the dash and all its systems proved very easy to setup and use. Some reviewers might slam the interior materials as they weren’t plush all around. I, however, found them to be soft where soft was needed with harder plastics reserved for the upper dash and other high-wear or high-sun-exposure areas. Overall, I was very impressed with the interior of the RAV4 Limited and liked the well thought out balance between luxury and longevity.

Powertrain

Beneath the hood of the RAV4 Limited sits a 2.5-liter 176-horsepower / 172 lb-ft of torque four cylinder, in fact, it is the sole engine across the entire RAV4 model range. The segment has become all about efficiency, a bit sad as this vehicle would have been perfect for the Rocky Mountains with the 3.5-liter 269-horsepower V6 from previous year models. Toyota chose its 6-speed automatic for the small crossover versus a CVT like most of the competition, I appreciated the decision. There are Eco and Sport modes available in the vehicle and both have noticeable performance differential between them. Sport mode makes gear shift points more aggressive and gives the drivers quicker throttle response.

Overall, power is just adequate for around town errand runs and highway merging and passing. When the pavement turned up and the air became thin I often found myself wishing for a bit more oomph.

Ride

The RAV4’s running boards make the vehicle look deceptively low. There are still about 6.5 inches of ground clearance below the RAV4, regardless, don’t expect SUV handling when the road turns to dirt. The RAV4 handles much more like a wagon. Body lean is well controlled and the car maintains its stance surprisingly well in high speed twists and turns. The overall ride quality is very good. Sure there’s a bit more bump and some sounds pour up through the wheel wells, but the car keeps you very comfortable on rough roads. Steering is also surprisingly good for what boils down to a around town family mover.

Conclusion

This is obviously a tough segment to play in, we’ve been over that. There are, undoubtedly, other crossovers in the segment that do certain things better. But, the RAV4 uses its decades of experience to excel in most all areas. It does everything quite well, but nothing really sticks out. This is not a bad thing. Doing everything well makes the RAV4 Limited the most balance ride in the segment. It’s roomy, it’s comfortable. It rides like a wagon and sticks to the road confidently, yet offers the necessary clearance for occasional off-road romps. It maintains composure and comfort over rough roads, through fast turns and handles tight inner city driving like a champ.

Photos