’s popular compact crossover
was redesigned for model-year 2013 with new styling inside and out but no great advances in performance. The 2014 RAV4 returns little changed, retaining a 176-horsepower four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission as its sole powertrain. Highlights include a spacious cabin of quality materials, with XLE and top-line Limited models getting French-stitched seats and dashboard padding. Cargo room is generous and AWD fuel economy is at least midpack at 25 mpg city/highway combined. Downsides run to lethargic throttle response, a too-stiff ride, and uninspired handling. Toyota
’s reputation for reliability and strong residuals add to the value message, though, and you can score the base-model LE with AWD for a painless $25,810. It looks rather plain, with black instead of body-colored exterior details and plastic wheel covers. But LEs do come with a backup camera, cruise control, Bluetooth, and a 6.1-inch dashboard screen touchscreen to control audio and view climate settings. Add the upgraded Entune Display Audio, a tonneau cover and roof rails and your still at just $26,665. Perhaps the even smarter Cheap buy is the midline XLE AWD. For $27,201 is has alloy wheels, fog lamps, color-keyed heated mirrors with turn-signal indicators, power moonroof, a chrome-accented grille, roof rails, dual-zone automatic climate control, upgraded seats and interior trim, and a better stereo. The LE isn’t available with a navigation system but the XLE is. The option retains the rather puny 6.1-inch screen but includes a nice JBL audio setup, for a reasonable $585.