The 2014 Toyota RAV4 didn't become significantly larger with last year's redesign, but smarter packaging made it more passenger-friendly.
Base versions come with a cheaper upholstery and seats that are less supportive, while XLE versions include more firmly bolstered seats and nicer fabrics that we wish were standard across the board. The synthetic leather upholstery in Limited models looks great from a few feet away, but up close it looks shiny and cheap. Seating space in the RAV4 is about on par with the CR-V—definitely more generous than the Escape.
Above the base LE 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. The driving position is agreeably carlike, but the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel doesn't extend as far as it could.
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 that's reasonably comfortable but maybe not quite as convincing as what's used in some VW vehicles.
Back seats are comparable to those of the Honda CR-V—meaning that entry and exit are easy and folding is easily done, but they're not as comfortable for adults (they're flat and hard) as those of a mid-size sedan. 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).
Yes, the RAV4 used to offer a third row, but it's been dropped from this current version, so that the Highlander can pick up that—with a third row that's 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.
On all versions, the back seat is split, and portions can be folded down, together to open up the RAV4's cargo bin from 38.4 cubic feet to 73.4 cubic feet. There aren't any severe flaws in the packaging, but the flip-fold backseat arrangement is just short of slickness.
Because the new model no longer has a rear/tailgate-mounted spare, that cargo space is much easier to get to than it was with previous RAV4 versions (the hatch is top-hinged. On Limited models, there's a standard power liftgate, and you can program a specific opening height—to accommodate a low garage ceiling, for instance.
Inside the RAV4 cabin there's a mishmash of textures and grains. The SofTex vinyl upholstery in the Limited is great on its own, but it doesn't match up in the right ways with any of the complementary trims; also factor in the button 'blanks' scattered around the dash, and it doesn't entirely convince you it's premium anyhow. Going with the simple, more durable-looking, rubberized dash trim in the base LE might be a better choice.