Chapter and versatile

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Quite literally in a class of its own, the RAV4 is approximately a cross between a hot hatchback and a tractor…

How to make yourself the centre of attention, lesson number one.

Go to your local Toyota dealer…

Usually, to catch the eye of the Cavalier-using masses on the M40, you need to be doing something fairly spectacular. Spinning on your roof in the centre lane, for instance. The Toyota RAV4, however, is possessed of extraordinary visual magnetism. Even several months after its launch, people would accelerate and overtake, take another look, and then back off once more, curiosity apparently sated.

The RAV4 is refreshingly different. It does not look like any of the other Jeep-style ‘leisure’ vehicles which never go much further off-road than the front drive. And nor does it perform like any of them. Naturally, its aerodynamics dictate that this is no autobahn stormer, but its accelerative capabilities are on a par with many performance hatchbacks. It will reach 60 mph from rest in less than 10s; it has a three-figure top speed and will cruise comfortably in the mid 90s; its steering is as sharp as a scalpel blade, and almost as precise; it has permanent four-wheel drive and can also climb mountains, when the mood takes you.

In short, it knocks spots off most of the opposition.

The RAV4 has been around for longer than most people realise. It was first displayed as a Tokyo Motor Show concept car back in 1989, and resurfaced in revised form – four years later. It is powered by the familiar, free-revving, two-litre, 16-valve, four-cylinder 3S-FE, which generates 129 bhp at 5600 rpm and 129 lb ft of torque 1000 revs earlier.

It is not as practical as it is versatile. There is not much storage space behind the rear seats, nor is there any means of shielding your cargo from prying ne’er-do-wells.

Standard equipment on the better-equipped GX model (at £14,240, around £1250 more than the basic version) includes twin airbags, twin electric sunroofs, remote central locking, immobiliser/alarm and electric windows and mirrors. CD players and air conditioning are available as options, as are bull-bars, fancy alloy wheels and other decorative paraphernalia.

But the RAV4 simply doesn’t need dressing up.

It may well be bought as a fashion accessory, but it happens to be a seriously good mode of transport, with fewer compromises than anything else quite like it.

Come to think of it, there really isn’t anything else quite like it.

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