Toyota RAV4 Sport Review

Usually, here at TireKicker, price gets discussed last...after a recitation of facts and opinions about the vehicle being reviewed. And then, it's base price, a rundown of the options, culminating in the bottom line.

Well, in the case of the Toyota RAV4 Sport, I'm going to work backwards.


That's right. Almost 31 large for a compact SUV. What can we do about that? Let's work our way up the options sheet:

$745 for delivery. Not really an option. It stays.

$359 for a VIP-RS3200 Plus security system. I'd feel like a dope if it got broken into or stolen and I'd cheaped out on $359. It's a keeper.

$750 for a towing reciever hitch. What on earth am I going to be towing in a RAV4? Lose it. Gets us down to $30,188, which is still too much money.

$199 for floor mats and a cargo mat. Yeah, I could probably do better going aftermarket, but they match and I'm not a cheapskate...I'm just trying to reasonably equip a reasonably priced RAV4. Keep 'em.

$70 for a light control system. According to the sticker, it turns your headlights on automatically. I can turn on my own headlights. Dump it. Now we're at $30,118.

$40 for daytime running lights. Hate 'em. Always have. Goodbye. Make that $30,078.

Ah, here we go: $1,550 for a Nav system. When TomToms and Garmin Nuvis are available for a couple hundred? When most new cell phones have a GPS navigation app? I don't think so. Saying no means losing XM Satellite Radio and mp3 capability, but a couple of aisles over from the portable nav units are combo XM recievers/mp3 players for less than $200. Strike this line item. New balance: $28,528 and counting.

$1,930 for the Premium Package. That's leather-trimmed seats, driver and front passenger heated seats, 8-way power adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support and height adjustment. I say no for two reasons: One, because we're trying to get the price down here and two, because if enough people order this kind of stuff on RAV4s, they'll eventually be $40,000 and as big as Highlanders "because that's what buyers say they want." New number: $26,598.

$475 for an integrated back-up camera. In a big vehicle, where lines of sight are compromised by how high up you are, these are useful. I don't think a RAV4 needs it. Down to $26,123.

Last item: $220 for a roof rack. Lousy for aerodynamics, meaning noise and gas mileage. If you're a biker or other outdoors type and seriously need one, then you probably know where to find one perfect for your purposes and maybe at a better price. Goodbye.

Where are we? $25,903. Still a smidgen pricey, but it's well-equipped, has Toyota's reputation for reliability, high crash ratings and an EPA estimated 21 city/27 highway miles per gallon.

At this price, I'd be interested. At almost $31,000? No way.

UPDATE: Drove the 4X4 version of the RAV4 recently with a base price of $26,530. Ouch. That means with nothing on it, it's now above what we whittled the front-wheel driver down to. And while this one wasn't quite as option-laden, it still rang up to $29,808 after delivery charges. Meantime, mileage drops to 19 city/26 highway.

There's growing competition in this segment...and by and large, it's less expensive. A couple of years back, you could justify the extra cost with a simple, "Hey, it's a Toyota". But right now, pennies count...to say nothing of thousands.

UPDATING THE UPDATE: Having the feeling I'd damned with faint praise, I arranged for an extended refresher in the RAV4 Sport.

Three weeks...more than a thousand miles. It never put a foot wrong, it proved itself more comfortable and versatile than its size class and price point would indicate.

As time went by, it wasn't "what's the next car?" so much as "Hey, I could live with this day in and day out for a five-year loan. Even at $29,808.

Sometimes a week and 300 miles just isn't enough to get beneath the surface. I'm glad we went back for another, longer round.