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Toyota RAV4 interior, tech and practicality

Comfort and visibility

The RAV4 is generally a comfortable place to sit. Its sheer spaciousness means every seat position can fit a full-sized adult without them feeling cramped. The basic seats are supportive enough, although we did found ourselves sliding across the flat seat bases during enthusiastic cornering. Top-spec Excel trim has sports seats with more lateral support. It's also a bit of a shame adjustable lumbar support isn't available on Icon or Design trims.

Visibility is generally pretty good thanks to the RAV4's upright body and tall windows. Like every other car in the class, your over-the-shoulder view is a bit obstructed by the thick rollover protection built into the rear window pillar. The rear window is fairly tall but also slightly narrower than most rivals.

Despite this, parking the RAV4 isn't a chore with all models getting rear parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard – front sensors are added from Design trim upwards.

Standard equipment

There are four main trim levels – Icon, Design, Excel and Dynamic.

Icon is hardly spartan. You get 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, climate control, adaptive cruise control, and an infotainment system that, from 2020, included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You also get safety tech including automatic emergency braking and lane-keep assist.

Design adds 18-inch alloys, a powered boot lid and front parking sensors, along with built-in sat nav for the infotainment system.

Excel brings leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, along with power-adjustment for the driver. You also get ambient lighting in the cabin, plus blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring.

Dynamic is the sportiest trim level available. It gains 18-inch black alloy wheels, extra black trim on the bodywork and a contrast-colour black roof, plus heated sports seats inside.

We think Design or Excel trims make the most sense for most buyers, but keep an eye out for special edition trims like Black Edition or Adventure, which gained unique styling details.

Infotainment and audio

The RAV4's infotainment system looks and feels quite old fashioned next to more up-to-date rivals like the Kia Sportage or Volkswagen Tiguan. Its eight-inch screen is small by today's standards, which means on-screen buttons tend to get clustered closely together, making them harder to hit.

This problem isn't helped by the graphics, which look tired and washed out, and only serve to add visual clutter to an already less-than-intuitive system. Its responses fail to impress, too, with the occasional lengthy delay between the confirmatory 'beep' and any actual change in the on-screen menu you're using.

We also want to give a special wooden-spoon award to the Toyota interface designer who decided to place the screen brightness control in its own very-well-hidden submenu – rather than in the standard settings menu alongside all the other standard adjustments.

You can spec an upgraded JBL stereo over the standard-fit item, but we found the no-cost sound system to be fine for radio and podcasts.

Rear seat space

There's loads of space in the back of the RAV4 – aided by the fact the car isn't trying to squeeze a third row of seats into its frame. Even if you slide the front seats all the way back to accommodate a very tall driver, you can still fit a similarly tall adult behind them without their knees brushing the passenger in front.

Headroom is generous – or merely plentiful if you opt for the panoramic glass roof. There's also plenty of light let into the back seats thanks to the car's flat roof and tall side windows. This also translates to easy rear-seat access thanks to a wide, tall door opening.

There's nothing particularly interesting going on in the back seats. They're comfortable enough and don't suffer from the upright backrests you'll find in some family SUVs – plus the sculpted door panels have a generous cutout for your elbow, so you don't feel hemmed in once the door shuts.

Boot space

There are 580 litres of cargo space in regular RAV4 hybrid models, with plug-in-hybrid versions trading a little underfloor space to the battery pack for a total of 520 litres. 

These are already strong figures by the standards of the class but, in the real world, the RAV4 is actually more impressive still. The cargo area is admirably square and the boot opening is tall and wide with a low lip – making it easy to load awkwardly shaped items. Plus, the car's tall roof and square shape means, if you're happy to pack all the way up to the roof, you can carry even more cargo than most main rivals.

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