Toyota RAV4 2005-2012 (NZ model) used car review

The Toyota RAV4 is a small-to-medium size SUV that is at home both in the city and at the ski field.

Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards
Expert Reviewer | Auto Media Group

The Toyota RAV4 is a small-to-medium size SUV that is at home both in the city and at the ski field. A huge boot makes it a solid family car.

Exterior , 3.5 out of 5 Drive , 3.5 out of 5 Safety , 4 out of 5 Value , 4 out of 5 Interior , 4.5 out of 5

Overall score , 3.9 out of 5

The good
  • Excellent build quality and reputation for reliability
  • Reasonable performance and handling
  • Plenty of boot space
The not-so-good
  • Interior feels a little narrow, particularly noticeable in the rear seat
  • Lack of standard parking assistance

The third-generation RAV4 grew significantly in size over its predecessor, with much of the additional space going into the boot. Great luggage space made it popular with rental car companies, which also means a good supply of used vehicles is available. The New Zealand-new model differs from Japanese imported RAV4 cars - it is 20cm longer overall. It also has a different transmission and the option of a diesel engine.

Inside and out

The RAV4 has a soft and rounded look, which is combined with the signature raised ride height, large wheel arches and plastic body cladding of an SUV. The Limited features alloy wheels, fog lights and roof rails, giving it a more premium look than the standard model. The rear door carries the spare wheel, which is covered in a body-coloured plastic tub.

The dashboard has a sporty, curvaceous shape to it - as do the steering wheel and gauges. The Limited has a six-CD player stereo, with a small colour screen providing information on the system. This unit also features Bluetooth for hands-free calling. Below it are the controls for the climate control air-conditioning, which allow for different driver and passenger temperature settings.

The front seats are comfortable and firm with lots of side and lumbar support. The cabin feels narrow - both front and rear passengers could find themselves a little close together. The backbench is best for two adults or children, although leg and headroom are generous. The RAV4’s boot is deep and spacious with a low floor height that makes it easy to load.

There are even cupholders back here, a legacy of the model being available with seven seats overseas. We think four or more large cases can be packed in. Some will be annoyed by the back door, which opens to the side and carries the spare tyre. That makes it cumbersome and it can be difficult to open when there is a wall or another car close to the back of the vehicle. The rear seat splits and folds 40/30/40 to allow for larger items.

On the road

A 2.2-litre diesel engine was a rare option for the RAV4. Almost all New Zealand-new vehicles are fitted with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which produces 125kW and 224Nm. Initially available with a five-speed manual transmission, a lack of popularity saw that dropped and the four-speed automatic transmission become standard. The diesel uses a six-speed manual only. 

The petrol engine is powerful enough to be zippy around town and the vehicle will overtake fairly well on the open road. With a family and their luggage on board, the engine will begin to feel the load and performance will be affected.

All cars use an automatic all-wheel drive system, which sends all the power to the front wheels until slip is detected.

It can then divert up to 50% to the rear wheels for additional traction. A button on the dashboard allows you to lock the system to send equal power to the front and back axles. That’s great for a gravel road or access to a slick ski field. However, with its limited ground clearance, the RAV4 is not a real off-road vehicle.

Handling is reasonable and safe for this type of car. The steering is light and easy. The brakes are excellent with a positive, firm feel. Road noise is also very low.

Visibility forward from the driver's seat is good, but it’s not great to the rear where there is a large blind spot directly behind the vehicle. Reversing sensors and cameras are not standard and we suggest adding a camera.

Fitting one yourself costs from $50 or a professional will do it from $200.

The RAV4 has an average tow rating in comparison to other SUVs of this size. It can pull 750kg unbraked (a medium-size garden trailer), and 1,500kg braked (a small to medium-size trailer boat).


According to RightCar, the RAV4 carries a four-star ANCAP safety rating. The Limited has a high level of safety features including front, side, driver’s knee and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. The standard model lacks the driver’s knee and curtain airbags.

ISOFIX child seat mounts can be found in the window positions of the rear seat. The centre seat gets a full shoulder-type seat belt, which offers more protection than the lap-only type. It can be disconnected and retracted into the ceiling when not in use.


The Toyota RAV4 is considered one of the more reliable options in the small SUV market, even if it does have some issues. Its engine features a timing chain that does not need to be replaced regularly.

In very rare cases the 2.4-litre engine can begin to consume more engine oil than usual. Fixing this is expensive and involves an engine rebuild, including a new piston assembly. It is advisable to check the oil level regularly and, if consumption is high, have the engine looked at.

The rear shocks wear out faster than the front ones. Have the shocks checked if you find your RAV4 is handling poorly or moving around under brakes. A replacement will cost $200-$300 each.

Later models are known to have problems with the steering intermediate shaft. It can be identified by a knock when steering at low speeds. Fixing it will cost from $500.

Cost of ownership

Toyota recommends servicing the RAV4 every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. This will cost around $300 each time. At 90,000km, a large service is needed which includes brake and transmission fluids and costs around $800.

The New Zealand-new model RAV4 uses slightly more fuel than the Japanese version because the four-speed automatic is less efficient than a CVT. RightCar estimates that over 14,000km of driving a year, you will spend $2,690 on fuel. The 60-litre fuel tank will cost $120 to fill at $2 per litre and should take you 570km before the fuel light comes on.

A vehicle licence for the RAV4 costs $99.02 a year, with the car in the second cheapest ACC levy group.

Trade Me Insurance estimates insurance for a RAV4 valued at $15,520 will cost $50.01* per month. That’s more than $4 cheaper a month than a Honda CRV.

Buyers’ guide

The NZ-new Toyota RAV4 is available on Trade Me from $7,000 to $26,000 for later model, lower mileage cars. The Limited is only slightly more expensive than the standard model and we feel the extra is money well spent for the additional safety features it offers.


  • Wagon - Powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Features steel wheels, hill descent control, CD player stereo with Bluetooth hands-free calling, remote central locking, front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.
  • D4-D - Powered by a 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Adds climate control air-conditioning, curtain and driver’s knee airbag, six-CD player stereo and alloy wheels.
  • Limited - Powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine paired with a four-speed automatic. Adds separate temperature settings for the driver and passenger, fog lights, roof rails, leather steering wheel and shifter, and cruise control.


  • 2005 Launched in New Zealand
  • 2009 Diesel model added
  • 2011 Given minor cosmetic update
  • 2013 Replaced by a new model


Review vehicle

2011 Toyota RAV4 Limited (NZ model)


$13,000 to $26,000 for models which have travelled 70,000 to 120,000km


2.4-litre four-cylinder 125kW/224Nm (claimed)


Four-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

Safety rating

Four-star ANCAP


15,000km or 12 months

Spare wheel

Full size wheel

Fuel economy

9.6-litres per 100km (claimed)

Fuel type








Towing capacity

750kg (unbraked), 1500kg (braked)

Turning circle


This review covers the Toyota RAV4 (NZ model) for model years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Review vehicle supplied by Turners Cars.

*Our insurance estimates are based on a 35-year-old male with no accidents in the last two years, garaging the car in Mission Bay, Auckland. The car is not used for business and will cover 10,000km to 20,000km a year. We estimate with no option add-ons and $500 excess. Customise your estimate at Trade Me Insurance.

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