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2013 Toyota RAV4 Comfort & Quality

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Comfort & Quality

The new RAV4 isn't significantly larger than before, but redesigned seats carve out a little more rear-seat leg room, Toyota says.

By the numbers, the new RAV4 is almost identical to the outgoing version. It's 179.9 inches long overall, and rides on a 104.7-inch wheelbase, and sits 72.6 inches wide and 65.4 inches high. Compared to the likes of the Escape and CR-V, it's very close to the Honda in footprint, while the Escape is shorter outside, and longer between the wheels.

There's great space inside the two-row RAV4 and shapely front seats on some models--but the back bench falls flat, and interior trim has some issues.
On all versions of the new RAV4, the driver seat has six-way adjustments. Above the base trim level, the RAV4 gets a more sculpted seat with better fabric--and if there were a way to put these seats in the base RAV4, we'd take it. They proved comfortable for a few hours of mixed driving, and the texture and weave looked more durable than the plainer, lighter-colored weave in the base vehicle. The driving position is agreeably carlike, but the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel doesn't extend as far as it could--it's one way of ensuring good crash performance, but as with the Avalon sedan, it leaves us reaching a bit for a good grip.

On the most expensive versions, the driver seat gets power adjustment and memory functions and lumbar adjustment; the front passengers get heated seats; and all seats are upholstered in synthetic leather. The SofTex synthetic doesn't do nearly as good a job at convincing us as the man-made stuff in a VW Passat, but the front seats still offer the right support.

In outright room and ease of entry, the RAV4's back seat is on par with the Honda CR-V. The seats recline, and fold forward with the flip of a lever--and the doors are cut tall and wide, so it's easy for taller passengers to slide in (the RAV4 sits about an inch lower than before, and seats are positioned lower inside the vehicle as well). The catch: the back seat's bottom cushions are board-flat, without much tilt, and spec out better than they feel.

Missing from all of this? The RAV4's former third-row seat. It's been dropped from this iteration, so the bigger three-row Highlander can have more room to breathe. it won't be missed much, since it was so small to begin with.

The back seat splits and folds on all versions to open up the RAV4's cargo bin from 38.4 cubic feet to 73.4 cubic feet. That cargo space is more easily accessed than before, since the new model no longer has a tailgate-mounted spare and a side-hinged rear door. It's now a conventional top-hinged door, and the spare's sunk under the cargo floor. A power liftgate is standard on the Limited, and it can be programmed for a specific opening height--up high for taller drivers, down low for the petites.

The RAV4's cabin is a mishmash of textures and grains. We counted at least seven different finishes inside the top Limited edition, including its SofTex vinyl upholstery, which has a sheen that doesn't give the impression up close that it delivers in photos. Side by side, the more durable-looking, rubberized dash trim in the base LE might be a better choice--it'll never rip, at least. That Limited cabin isn't a downfall, exactly, but its half-dozen plastic trims and textures don't pair well with the handful of empty blanks on the console for switches that don't exist.

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