The RAV4 gets a mild restyling, an upgraded interior, and a number of other changes for 2009. Most notably, the base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine has been replaced by a new 2.5-liter one that's not only more powerful but also more fuel-efficient. Front and rear styling has been redone for 2009, with a new grille and bumper in front, and redesigned tail lamps. Most models also get a redesigned rear step-up bumper with black protector molding. Inside there's a new standard seat fabric. Front-seat active headrests are added to the roster of safety features, and a rear backup monitor is newly optional. Turn-signal side mirrors are now offered on the Limited, and Base and Limited models get a new alloy wheel design. A Sport Appearance Package is also new and brings a redesigned rear door without the spare tire, plus chrome accents throughout and an exclusive exterior color, Elusive Blue Metallic.
Freshened styling; roomy interior; fuel economy; safety features; 3-row seating available
The RAV4 straddles the line between compact and mid-size SUVs, but its price is more in sync with compact competitors, making it a good deal for those who want space for the family. Its fuel economy is also enviable, especially with the 4-cylinder engine. Yet with the optional V6 it's very quick--faster than some sport sedans. And with the new Sport Appearance Package, shoppers who don't like the style set by the external spare tire finally have an option.