IF calling something an honest car means that it does what it says on the box, no BS, no made up marketing fanfare, no wishy washy statements, then the 2020 Toyota RAV4 GX manual is, in four words, a damn honest car.
We ventured to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney in the base model of Toyota’s top selling and by far and away most popular SUV, and have to say, we were genuinely surprised by how good the RAV4 actually was.
That’s not to say we didn’t expect quality from the Japanese car maker, but rather that the car performed better than we expected, and came fully loaded with more features than one would normally find in a base model, including DAB+ digital radio.
About the only thing missing from an extensive array of infotainment goodness, that includes satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and an 8.0-inch touchscreen, is wireless phone charging. You’ll need the GXL for that.
It’s worth noting that earlier versions of the 2020 RAV4 GX came without satellite navigation and the Apple/Android duo, and that the vehicle we’re testing here was post the mid-year update to the model variant.
It comes with Toyota’s full Safety Suite too, which is a boon for a base model. That means it has lane departure warning, pre-collision safety with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, road sign assist and automatic high beam.
But it also scores trailer sway control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera with fixed lines, ABS, EBD, stability and traction control, and hill start assist.
Impressive right, especially when you’re reminded this is a base model. But the best bits of the RAV4 range are also the worst bits of the GX manual. Mostly because they’re not on this one – like the CVT auto for example.
The manual gearbox is average. It’s easy enough to change gears, but it feels sloppy and disengaged while you do it. Sure, a 6-speed stick shift gives you the ability to extract power from the 127kW 2.0-litre petrol motor, but it really feels quite awful delivering it.
For the number conscious, there’s 203Nm of torque on tap, and fuel economy is a claimed 6.8-litres/100km. We managed that multiple times in testing. That’s the honest car thing again, right.
The catch here is that while the gearbox is not so good, the handling and ride is outstanding. It’s soft and supple, and while it feels a little floaty at speed, you’re not pedalling your way down Conrod Straight at Bathurst at 300km/h are you.
Inside, there’s plenty of plastic, and it feels super cheap in certain parts, and nice in others. It’s a hard call to say whether it’s good or bad, because some bits are nice, and some are well, you know. Even the steering wheel is technically plastic.
But like its siblings, there’s storage everywhere, including multiple bottle and cup holders, a massive tray for mobile phones forward of the gear shift, and a long storage space above the glove box. This one has a non-slip surface.
There’s three USB ports up front and two in the rear, and all the doors have soft armrests. You’ll even find a drop down centre arm rest in the rear, where there’s also plenty of legroom and headroom.
Rear passengers also score air vents too. In case you haven’t worked it out yet though, the RAV4 has grown in size, and is now bigger inside than ever before (which consequently means it’s larger on the outside too).
The pay off is masses of boot space, at 580-litres, with the standard space saver wheel. There’s under floor storage for the boot area cover when it’s not in use and an optional full size spare is available (which does swallow up some of that boot space).
The colour range for the RAV4 is pretty cool too, and includes those you’d expect, like Glacier White, Silver Sky, Eclipse Black and Graphite (grey), along with Atomic Rush (deep red), Satin Blue, and our personal favourite, Eclectic Blue.
You can jump in a 2020 Toyota RAV4 GX 2WD manual, just like the one we tested, for as little as $36,388 drive away. Not bad at all. It’s truly a hard car to fault, aside from that pretty average manual transmission. You just need to remember it’s a base model.
It of course comes with Toyota’s 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, and if you stick to your annual service schedule, Toyota will even extend your engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years.
Our test vehicle was provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Toyota RAV4 GX, contact your local Toyota dealer.