was a catch phrase for Toyota's RAV4 when it first graced the small sport utility
world a few seasons ago. (I remember chasing after an early test version spotted
on the road in the only possible color. Red.)
quirky combo of cute and practical is now a standard resident in many garages.
No doubt its catchy looks (cartoon whimsy, say some) has tickled more than a few
motoring fancies, hence its spot in our newest "cute ute" lineup.
the start of its second generation as an '04, brings some fixes in function, plus
design updates, with arched roofline, new head and tail lamps, fresh changes in
exterior colors and a more car-like interior. Most welcome is a larger, more powerful
2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine with 161 horses and more accelerating gusto through
low to higher speeds. Barely a memory is the unimpressive 120 horsepower, 2.0
liter engine it used at it's original launch.
new on this truck-based utility are some serious safety features. Among them,
an anti-slip stability system
designed to keep tires rolling on their intended
Rear disk brakes were added to shorten stopping distances. But the
smoother-riding independent suspension it was born with didn't need a change.
folks who like the "hands on" control and outright fun of a stick shift,
there's still a five-speed manual transmission as well as the expected four-speed
capable of serious off-road travel as well as comfy highway cruising, sneaks under
our arbitrary pricing wire with a base just under $18,500 (four-door, two-wheel-drive).
Those with loftier tastes can load it with extras, particularly with the sport
package. The goodies list includes leather seating and steering wheel, side curtain
airbags, 16-inch aluminum wheels, power moonroof, rear spoiler and that luscious
JBL Premium sound system found on upmarket Toyota models. Optional leather shift
knob and front fog lamps add punch.
you could spend some serious bucks with all those extras. But a RAV4 aficionado
might tell you even the basics are nice. After all, it's a Toyota.