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Mid-level 2013 Toyota RAV4 joins our test program

Mid-level 2013 Toyota RAV4 joins our test program

One of the more popular small SUVs, the RAV4 has been a top performer in Consumer Reports tests for years. To see how the new model compares against fresh competitors, we just purchased a typically equipped RAV4 for testing.

With the 2013 redesign, Toyota addressed some of our criticisms of the last model, including replacing the awkward side-swinging rear door (which typically held the spare tire) with a conventional swing-up hatchback. The new RAV4 also loses its optional V6 engine and third-row seat. On the plus side, it gains a standard rear-view camera and eight air bags.

The standard engine is a 176-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder. The lone transmission is now a six-speed unit, replacing the old four-speed box. This powertrain boosts EPA-rated fuel economy slightly to 22 mpg city and 29 highway, up from 21/27 for the last four-cylinder model.

We bought our mid-level AWD XLE version for $26,802; the only options we added were floor mats and wheel locks.

We have high hopes for this redesign, since the previous generation was reasonably quiet with a fairly comfortable ride and agile and secure handling.

The RAV4 is a big seller for Toyota and the company knows it has a lot riding on this small SUV. But this is tough category in which to compete, with the Honda CR-V, all-new Ford Escape, and redesigned Subaru Forester and as the models to beat.

Stay tuned as we get acquainted with the new RAV4 and pile on the pre-test break-in miles. Check out our first drive video below for our initial impressions.

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