TOYOTA has dumped bland styling and produced a striking sharp design for its new fifth generationRAV4 SUV.
And the changes don't stop there for the new model features a great chassis, a spacious modern cabin, hybrid power with low emissions, lots of safety kit and driver aids as well as temptingBiKfigures for business users.
TheRAV4 was introduced by Toyota back in 1994 and it created a whole new market segment which today is occupied by every major auto manufacturer.
The first four generation models sold over 8.5 million units and in 2017 it was the world's best-selling SUV. It would probably have occupied the top spot again last year had production not been halted to switch to the new model.
Over the years its sales in the UK have been fairly modest compared with some other mid-market SUVsbut the bold looks of this new model could change things.
This newRAV4 offers a lot more than just style. It features Toyota's New Global Architecture or (TNGA) platform which is 57 per cent stiffer than the one on the previous model and it lowers the car's centre of gravity while still providing another 15mm of ground clearance.
As a result you also get double-wishbone suspension for more comfort, optimised weight distribution and better steering.
The designers have also improved the all-round visibility by slimming the front pillars, enlarging the side windows, repositioning door mirrors and introducing a camera rear-view mirror which I really liked but which will not be on UK spec cars for the time being. It may be introduced later as an option but is viewed as too expensive at the moment.
Inside there is a vast improvement with a real leap forward to premium quality.
Launched with four trim levels - the cheapest Icon is only available with front-wheel-drive - standard kit is good with dual-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors and camera, automatic headlights and wipers, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Move up to the next Design level and you get the option of four-wheel-drive, navigation,keylessentry and ignition, a powered tailgate which can be operated by a wave of your foot, front parking sensors and larger 18-inch alloys.
Excel trim adds leather upholstery, heated front seats with electric adjustment on the driver's chair, heated steering wheel, ambient cabin lighting and headlight washers.
The top spec Dynamic model offersroughltythe same as the Excel but gets some extra styling touches including bolder alloys, a gloss-black roof, sports seats and projection LEDheadlighs.
All models get Toyota Safety Sense 2 as standard which provides adaptive cruise control with lane departure warning and steering assist, apre-collision system which detects pedestrians and cyclists, as well as automatic high beam headlights and road sign recognition.
In another bold move theRAV4 will only be offered in the UK with hybrid only power.
With no diesel option the singlepowertrainis a 2.5-litre petrol four-cylinder paired with an electric motor which offers 215bhp on front-wheel-drive models and 219bhp on 4x4 models because of an extra motor at the rear.
All versions come withCVTautomatic transmissions.
The power is delivered smoothly and quietly with the two-wheel-drive model taking 8.4 seconds to reach 62mph and theAWDmodel managing it in 8.1 seconds.
CO2 emissions are 102g/km and 105g/km respectively which means they will be attractive to company car drivers. Maximum speed is 112mph for both models.
I sampled both models on motorway roads and on twisting country roads north of Barcelona and was impressed by the ride quality and refinement.
The steering is direct and nicely weighted and there was little body roll for an SUV.
At motorway speeds theRAV4 is very quiet and surprisingly nimble on the twisty stuff. TheAWDalso coped with a rutted and muddy off-road section thanks to a new Trail Mode and will certainly be tough enough for most owners.
During the mixed driving I achieved over 43pmg without really trying and this will go up if you make use of the EV function when the battery is charged. Off-road theRAV4 was good for a respectable 26mpg.
The larger interior means that there is room for up to five adults to travel in comfort with impressive legroom for rear passengers. The boot offers 580 litres - 79 litres more than the previous model - and up to 1,690 litres with the rear seats folded.
The instruments and controls are all well placed and easy to read and use and the cabin quality cannot be faulted. I liked the large rubberised heating controls that made selecting the right temperature easy without having to go through various menus and the fiveUSBcharging points - three in the front and two in the back.
The only disappointment is the lack of Android Auto or AppleCarPlaywhich are standard on most rivals and at least optional on others.
Prices start from £29,635 and go up to £36,640 and all models will cost just £135 in Vehicle Excise Duty with company car owners being able to save up to £120 tax a month on Benefit In Kind tax compared to some rivals.
There is a lot to like about the handsome newRAV4 and Toyota should have no difficulty in selling the expected 9,259 units in the UK this year rising to 12,659 in 2020 with 95 per cent of them beingAWDmodels.