I have owned multiple RAV4s; and my family has purchased 6 Toyota cars/SUVS in the past nine years. Our feeling is that the management is profiting by diluting the quality of the brand. The 2012 RAV4 is a relatively competent vehicle, in that it handles all kinds of weather with little drama. It also has large and flexible capacities to move people and goods and very good visibility. The platform has not evolved over a decade of changing oil prices and it remains highly inefficient at 23 miles per gallon in combined driving over 36000 miles for the 4 cylinder model. The 4 speed transmission belongs in the stone age. The brand dilution is most notable in some of the interior materials and the quality of the electronic interfaces. The seat materials in the base and sport models are poor. The seats have relatively good padding but they will stain if water is poured on them inadvertently. Either the company did not test the materials or is profiting from the sale of Scotchguard. The arm rests on the doors are akin to sand paper in the summer; make sure when you test drive this car you do not have on heavy coats as this flaw will become apparent in the warmer months. Most of the interior is lower quality harder plastics, which scratch with ease. The stereo options are uninspired. In our case we experienced electrical problems just after the warranty expired and the dealership had little sympathy. As mediocre as the ownership experience was for this car, it appears the newer models are even less desirable. I look for Toyota to refocus on solid engineering platforms and the highest quality customer experience and to eschew their search for marketing gimmickry and the bottom line that keeps their cars in a constant state of recalls.
We wanted a smaller SUV with a V-6, maximum room for the class, and a moderate price for the class, and this fit the bill perfectly. We compared others, and none had the combination of our four main wants. We also considered the Lexus RX350 and the Volvo XC60 but didn't see $15-$20K worth of quality differences ("prestige" in a vehicle was not one of our needs).
Transmission, Brakes, power port location, and rear door
written on 06-13-2014
I too think the transmission feels wrong. It seems to slip and jerk more than any car I've owned before. Brakes sound as if they are dragging especially as I first drive down the driveway. The power port is inaccessible if drinks are in the drink holder. I like having a full sized tire and one which you needn't unload the storage space to access. Be sure to check the pressure in it if having low pressure readings. I dislike that you can not put longer items in to haul as I could with my old Ford that had a rear door that lifted up instead of to the side. I have yet to figure out how to put the baby anchor back in the roof compartment.
It's been a year now since I bought the 2012 RAV4 Limited. I do love my SUV. It has plenty of speed. I don't drag race but when I want to pass drivers driving below the speed limit, it will accelerate definitely and easily since it is a V6. I drive in town most of the time and I am getting 25.5 mpg. If I am driving in bigger cities, though rare, with lots of stop and go, the mpg will go down to 25.3. Very little difference. Most of the time it stays on 25.5. There are no hills in where I live and even the places that I go. There's less traffic as well. My ride is comfortable. My only complaint is the road noise. This RAV4 has some of it. I notice it especially when driving on interstates.
The V6 is as quick as my V6 Altima but without the drama.
The 4x4 and traction control means I just point and go, no tire spinning.
Mileage is so so, 16-20 in town depending on how hard you push it.
At 80 on the highway 22MPG.
At 60 26MPG.
The seats are OK, nothing great.
Noise level is OK, a little louder than my Altima.
The base stereo does everything I need, I just load up a flash drive and set it to random play.
I have had the car 4 months.