SENSE AND STYLE
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SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
The RAV4's interior is not unlike the rest of the vehicle: in need of an update. The two-tiered layout is still present in the dash, where the stereo controls are stacked above the climate controls, and there's a secondary storage unit stacked above the lower glove box. This system works and makes for lots of storage.
The climate and stereo controls are nicely labeled and easy to read. It's refreshing not to have too many buttons that make no sense. There are two cupholders in the front row and two more housed in the backseat's center armrest.
My test car had seating for five passengers, and legroom for my family of four was a non-issue. I was really impressed by how roomy the RAV4 felt, and what made it feel even roomier were the rear seats. They slide forward and back, depending on how much legroom or cargo room you need. The RAV4 has an available 50/50-split third row ($750), which increases the seating to seven.
With the two-row RAV4, the cargo area was roomy. As I mentioned I used the RAV4 for a trip to the airport. On the return trip, I had two carry-on-sized bags and a large suitcase in the cargo area; we could have put more luggage in there without a doubt.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample
While the RAV4's swing-gate bothered me, its second-row seat belts drove me crazy. They're a mess, especially if you want to carry three people in the backseat. Here's the deal: There are three sets of seat belts; the two outboard seat belts are fine if your child isn't in any child-safety seat, but if they're in a booster seat, beware.
The seat belt buckles are in recessed divots in the seat bench and then strapped down by leather straps. The passenger-side buckle came free from its housing as the strap stretched for me to release it. The other one would not budge, and I assume this is to keep it from getting in the way when the backseat is folded. It was impossible to move the booster to a position where my kids could use the buckle. I used three different booster seats in the RAV4 and none of them worked.
If you want to fit three people in the backseat minus the booster, you can just kiss comfort goodbye. The center seat's belt comes down from the ceiling and attaches to an anchor point right in the center of the outboard passenger's seat. Then it attaches to the buckle in the center of the center seat. So, the people in the driver-side outboard seat and center seat are always going to be sitting on a seat belt, an anchor or a buckle. Toyota needs to address this in its next redesign.
Infant-safety and convertible seats fit fine in the RAV4. The two sets of lower Latch anchors are easy to get to, as are the three tether anchors.
The 2011 RAV4 has undergone crash-testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It received the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact and rear crash tests. It received the second-best score of Acceptable in the roof-strength crash test.
The RAV4 comes with the following standard safety features: four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system, traction control, active front head restraints, front-wheel drive and six airbags, including side curtains for the first and second rows.
Optional safety features include all-wheel drive and a backup camera ($475).
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