2013 Toyota RAV4

Toyota’s redesigned 2013 RAV4 SUV goes on sale early next year, following the release of redesigned or all-new affordable compact SUVs from Honda, Ford and Mazda. The new RAV4 relocates the spare tire mounted on its cargo door, retires the optional V6 engine, loses its available third row, gains a new six-speed automatic transmission and receives a few more standard features.

Toyota moved the spare tire, which was attached to the 2012 model’s rear cargo door. "The RAV4 almost literally removed a monkey off its back by doing away with the spare tire hanging off its rear,” says Edmunds.com Sr. Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “What's left is a sleeker, modern vehicle that competes much better with rivals in a small SUV segment whose market share has nearly doubled in the last ten years."

The 2013 RAV4 keeps the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that was standard on the 2012 model, but Toyota replaced the previous model's four-speed automatic transmission with a six-speed automatic. Toyota also dropped the RAV4's optional V6 engine. Though the V6 engine was powerful for its class, Jesse Toprak, senior analyst at TrueCar.com, says its absence isn’t a disadvantage for shoppers. “The four-cylinder engine is powerful enough that consumers won't miss the six-cylinder while also improving fuel economy."

Compared with the previous model, gas mileage has improved. The EPA hasn’t released official figures, but Toyota says that the base RAV4 will average 24/31 mpg city/highway. With optional all-wheel drive fuel economy is 22/29 mpg. The 2012 RAV4 averaged up to 22/28 mpg, according to the EPA.

Some of the most significant interior revisions are to the features list, number of seats and cargo area. The base RAV4 now comes with a touch-screen stereo and a rearview camera. A blind-spot monitoring system, which is new for the 2013 model year, and a navigation system can be added. The last generation offered an optional third row, giving the RAV4 seat belts for seven, but the 2013 model seats five in two rows. Toyota also nixed the outgoing model’s side-opening cargo door, and replaced it with a tailgate.

While auto writers agree the RAV4 benefits from these updates, some don’t think its changes are as exciting as the ones they’ve seen in the Mazda CX-5, which replaced the Mazda CX-7, and the Ford Escape. “Redesigns are hotly anticipated for taking surprising risks in the style department that make the competition sweat,” writes The New York Times. “Less exciting is when they are safe, like what Toyota did with the redesigned RAV4: inflating a Camry and calling it a day.”  

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