The current generation of the RAV4, introduced last year, looks quite a bit different all around, but the differences are most pronounced around the back.
That's where you might notice that the tailgate-mounted spare tire—a RAV4 staple in the past—is missing. It's under the cargo floor in 2014 models, which to us completes the RAV4's metamorphosis from activity vehicle to family workhorse. It's far more of a tall hatchback than it used to be, with the profile and stance much more in line with the current norm for the Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Mazda CX-5.
Around back—and all around, really—the set of cues that that the RAV4 inherits borrows ruthlessly from Toyota's best-looking crossover, the Venza. The RAV4 has a real underbite in front, and the nose has the same sharp corners and taut fender lines. The shoulder lines look muscular, thanks to the expected upkick in the rear. Meanwhile, pointy taillamps sit high like the ones on a Scion xD. Altogether it adds up to a vehicle that communicates its mission but is by no means voluptuous.
If we had to nitpick, we'd focus in on the RAV4's tailgate: the taillamps are pointy and shelf out, all in the name of meeting safety regulations. There's some discord in the cockpit too--not in the clash of lines and surfaces, but in the plastics that form them. It's rare we like cheaper plastic better, but too many kinds of trim turn us away from the Limited and its synthetic leather.
Elsewhere inside, it looks like Toyota looked for some inspiration from its 1980s products when laying out the current RAV4's interior. Top models even sport two-tone, stitched and padded upholstery across the midline, in what looks like the most tasteful cabin in the segment in photos; unfortunately there's a reality check involves, as up close these materials reveal themselves as painfully low-grade.