The RAV4 was actually one of the first car-like crossovers, yet its design has held on to those early days and appears as an odd conglomeration of what SUVs were and where they're going. With the spare tire hanging on a side-opening hatch—a little confused even when this generation was first launched for 2006—the RAV4 looks like a throwback in some ways, thoroughly modern in others.
Despite a modest redesign, a couple of years ago, which earned it a restyled grille and front bumper, improved fog light trims, and redesigned tail lights, the RAV4 kept its taller, more trucklike stance, as well as its side opening hatch and external spare--which seemed like an odd choice when this generation was launched in 2006. If you choose the right model, you can do without the external spare; a Sport Appearance Package remains available, creating a more carlike silhouette by deleting it. Just that one change, combined with some other minor changes, make the RAV4 look much more like the crossover wagon it is.
The interior layout is along the same lines as those of fresh crossover designs, with more in common with the larger Highlander, but the interior details are among the most dated of any current Toyota vehicle. It has a very upright, straightforward layout, but the uninterrupted swaths of hard plastic and chunky, almost bulbous details that bridge a line between where Toyota's cars and trucks were--or, where they were six or seven years ago.