The 2019 Toyota RAV4 marks the fifth generation of this popular compact utility, adopting a sturdy appearance that contrasts with the restrained style of the previous model. It made its debut yesterday at the New York Motor Show.

With a look that screams mini-4Runner, the new RAV4 reflects the elements of the FT-AC concept vehicle Toyota unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November.

The bold appearance is nevertheless misleading, as the RAV4 remains a compact crossover by every definition.

Indeed, the new RAV4 is 5 mm shorter in height and 10 mm longer. In addition, its wheelbase is just 30 mm longer, while ground clearance gains about 10 millimetres.

The automaker, however, attributes 57 per cent more stiffness to the new TNGA (for Toyota New Global Architecture) platform the RAV4 shares with the Toyota CH-R and Lexus UX.

Like the model it replaces, the new RAV4 has four-wheel independent suspension, with a multi-link system at the rear. On the other hand, its Limited trim now has 19-inch wheels instead of 18s, a first for this utility.

In terms of powertrain, the 2.5-liter four cylinder gasoline engine is back. The Japanese manufacturer now mates it to an eight-speed automatic transmission, up from last year’s six-speed.

HeapMedia358301

The returning hybrid powertrain (gas/electric) once again has a continuously variable automatic transmission. There is also the RAV4 XSE hybrid, which, with a sport suspension, will become the sportiest model of the range. It will be set apart by its two-tone paintwork, but Toyota has not revealed the technical specs of the two powertrains.

In addition, the RAV4 range will again include a Trail trim (known as Adventure in the United States). This variant, which made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2017, will be distinguished by its unique grille, fog lights and wheels.

There are three different AWD options available, the RAV4 Trail and Limited variants sharing a new torque vectoring system. Designed to transmit up to half of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, and even to one of those two wheels if necessary, it is also equipped with a rear-axle disengagement device to conserve fuel in normal driving.

Hybrid RAV4s will use an improved version of the AWD-i system (for All-Wheel Drive with Intelligence), which will drive the rear wheels electrically with 30 per cent more torque.

For the cheaper AWD RAV4s, Toyota will use a responsive system without the dynamic torque distribution system.

HeapMedia358318

Toyota says the redesigned interior provides more shoulder and leg room in the rear seat. In addition, the latter still folds 60/40 and slides fore and aft to accommodate more cargo space (a specification that Toyota has not yet revealed).

All 2019 RAV4 models have a 7.0- or 8.0-inch touchscreen audio system, depending on the model, featuring the Apple CarPlay Entune 3.0 system. In addition, the backup camera now displays the images it captures on a full-width screen integrated into the rearview mirror.

The manufacturer has also provided some driver assistance features as standard equipment, including, among others, a precollision system for detecting pedestrians, adaptive cruise control and a sway detection system.

RAV4 is of great importance to Toyota in the Canadian automotive market. In 2017, it was the best-selling compact utility in the country, ahead of the Honda CR-V by just 451 vehicles (50,894 vs. 50,443).

It was also the best-selling Toyota product, again with a small advantage of 562, which relegated the Corolla to second place. Finally, the RAV4 ranked sixth in the national sales ranking of all models combined.

Assembled at the Toyota plant in Cambridge, Ontario, the 2019 RAV4 will be on sale in Canada by the end of 2018. For the first time for Toyota (but not Lexus), the hybrid variant will be also assembled in Ontario: these Toyota RAV4 hybrids will land at dealerships in early 2019.

HeapMedia358331

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is less different than you think. Its shape has changed radically, to the point of making it easy to forget the current model, but its dimensions remain essentially the same.

On the powertrain side, two new features are worthy of note: the new eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive with torque vectoring, systems that should have a favourable impact on this vehicle’s drive.

The RAV4 retains the versatile and practical side of its cabin. In short, the words are similar but the envelope is fancier. This is definitely a winning formula for an already popular model.