A best-seller, but not necessarily the best. There’s nothing particularly interesting about sighting a Toyota RAV4 these days. It’s cemented its place atop the American best-seller lists, while overseas travelers will also routinely encounter this five-seater crossover. That ubiquity means its rakishly handsome design pretty much goes unnoticed nowadays. It’s still fun, though, channeling the equally boxy Volvo XC40 while adding a frowning face and a few wedges along its side profile. Large hexagonal wheel arches aren’t particularly enticing, but the overall aesthetic successfully combines off-roader heft with car-like proportions.

It's worth noting that this generation of RAV4 has been around for a while. Competitors have improved on its SUV recipe, most notably its Venza sibling. Honda’s CRV is more comfortable, the Mazda CX-5 is more stylish, and the Nissan Rogue has more generous equipment levels.

Adequate performance, but nothing special. One example of where the RAV4 has fallen behind the pace is its…pace. While Hybrid and Prime models offer strong acceleration, conventional gas-powered models make do with a 203 hp engine mated to an eight-speed auto box. Performance is decent, if rather noisy at times, but it will do nothing to quicken the pulse of a keen driver. Ride quality is more impressive, while SE and XSE models improve on the RAV’s anodyne handling with greater sharpness.

AWD is available on most models as a $1,400 upgrade, while three versions of the RAV (Limited, Adventure and TRD Off-Road) can split their power between individual rear wheels if AWD has been specified. It’s a neat feature that could just get you out of a sticky situation. TRD models additionally receive a few selectable driving modes, which could also make a difference in slippery or muddy conditions. Their fuel economy is the worst in the range at just 28 MPG combined, though even FWD models only manage 30. By way of comparison, hybrids increase that figure by a third.

2022 Toyota RAV4 interior

Decent accommodation, with some caveats. The RAV4’s funky styling imposes one or two space-related compromises internally. For taller drivers and regular front-seat passengers, ensure the steeply sloping windshield won’t catch your head on entry and exit. Things don’t improve much once you’re inside – there’s limited headroom, and the optional sunroof further reduces what space is available. If you’re making do with base LE trim, the driver’s seat has manual adjustment and no lumbar support, while cloth trim is a disappointing alternative to the synthetic leather typically found in rival marques.

Positives? There’s decent legroom in the rear, while the trunk offers 37 cubic feet of space. This increases to 69 cubes when the second-row seats fall forward, which they do with no electric assistance (or elegance). The seats are comfortable, the instrumentation is crystal clear, and the chunky dash buttons have a sense of durability entirely in keeping with Toyota’s legendary reputation for reliability. Don’t worry about the mediocre three-year warranty – have you ever seen a Toyota at the side of the road with its hood open?

Decent standard equipment. We’ve already clarified that LX models aren’t well-equipped. Ignore them, and look one rung up the trim ladder at XLE, which enjoy alloy wheels and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. XLE Premium introduces automatic climate control and synthetic leather, while Adventure and TRD Off-Road models have additional drivetrain functionality and different external detailing. A new eight-inch infotainment system makes its debut this year, and if you’ve ever dreamed of owning a car with bronze wheels, the new Woodland Edition trim has you covered.

Happily, whichever RAV4 you buy, safety is a given. Standard features include adaptive cruise and active lane control, auto high beams and emergency braking. The crash test agencies have given the RAV top marks, with one or two concerns about the LE’s underwhelming LED reflector headlights.

Final thoughts. There are cars you buy with your heart, and cars you buy with your head. The RAV4 is very much in the latter category. It’s not the newest SUV on the block, and nor is it the most talented. Rivals have supplanted it in various regards, and although it isn’t miles off the pace in any single area, it doesn’t set the pace in any respect, either. That’s literally true since the gas engine is somewhat lethargic and its fuel economy isn’t great.

What you’re getting here is a thoroughly capable compact SUV. Ubiquity has inured us all to its handsome lines, while the cabin is practical and well-designed in equal measure. Bombproof build quality and reliability will also appeal to those planning to keep their next car for several years. By the time you reach mid-range models, the specifications are entirely satisfactory, even if RAVs lack the head-up displays and ventilated seats increasingly found in competitor models. If your primary requirement for your next car is a safe, comfortable and dependable family SUV, look no further.

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