• Image Credit: Autoblog

The Toyota RAV4 has been a longstanding favorite in the crossover segment, which has exploded in popularity in recent years. Along with vehicles like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, car shoppers have found the RAV4 to be a great choice, given its inherent versatility, solid fuel economy and easy ride.

The Toyota RAV4 has been completely redesigned, inside and out, for 2013 and there are several big changes to the car as a result.

Some of the more notable changes to the RAV4 include: A completely redesigned interior and exterior, elimination of the V6 engine option, elimination of the third row seat and a brand new all-wheel drive system.

These changes are all a part of an effort to make the RAV4 more "athletic," according to the Toyota designers and engineers. Given that Toyota has become synonymous with "bland" to auto enthusiasts and average car shoppers alike, many of the decisions that went into the design of this car were made with the goal of making the overall Toyota line a little more exciting.

All in all, the new RAV4 is supposed to employ the same basic formula of years past -- competent handling, inoffensive design, decent fuel economy and a fairly low MSRP -- with an added "fun" aspect.

So has the new RAV4 bucked the boring without sacrificing its main selling points? Read on to find out.

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How Much?
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How Much?

MSRP: $23,300 - $28,410
Invoice: $21,786 - $26,563

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Key Stats
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Key Stats

Engine: 2.5L I4

Performance: 176 hp, 172 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway

Seating: 5 passengers

Cargo Capacity: 73.4 cubic feet

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The Competition
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The Competition

There is no shortage of options in the crossover segment. RAV4 competitors include the Honda CR-V (pictured), Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5 and Volkswagen Tiguan.

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What We Like
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What We Like

Michael: There's a lot to like about the new RAV4. The best cargo space in the segment, nice seats, a well-appointed interior, improved fuel economy and a quiet ride are just a few of things that come to mind. But one feature I'd like to highlight is the power liftgate, which employs a memory system allowing the driver to customize the height to which the trunk door opens. It's one of those "why didn't I think of that" things. The system makes it so your liftgate won't hit the top of your garage and is always at a comfortable height for you, especially if you're short.

To see a video of the system in action, check out Autoblog's review here.

Autoblog: On the road, we could definitely feel the high-tech AWD drivetrain helping out when the road turned twisty, actively rotating the rear of the vehicle through the corner. Enthusiast drivers take note: we suggest you test drive the all-wheel-drive RAV4 even if you don't expect to drive in adverse weather conditions, and don't forget to select Sport mode.

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What We Don't Like
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What We Don't Like

Michael: I don't love the new design. The new grille is awkward and the rear spoiler and bulbous taillights feel out of place, not "sporty" or "athletic." I think that, in time, I may come around, but, in spite of opinions on design being completely subjective, put the RAV4 next to the new Santa Fe Sport and Escape right now and there's no question who comes in third in that beauty contest.

Autoblog: The five seats can be covered in two fabric types or a synthetic leather substitute that Toyota calls Softex. After sampling all options, we definitely prefer the cloth – we find it hard to believe anyone will be fooled by the imitation leather. Sadly, opting for Limited trim necessitates the Softex interior treatment.

Toyota wanted to "add to the RAV4's sportiness" by making a "driver-centric seating area." We're not so sure it was successful – though all the switchgear, LCD screens and driver touch points are within easy reach, there doesn't seem to be any specific sportiness to the overall look and feel of the cockpit.

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Bottom Line
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Bottom Line

Functionally, the 2013 Toyota RAV4 is completely competent, able to handle anything today's average crossover buyer is going to throw at it.

The new design is polarizing, and I would stop short of describing this vehicle as "fun" or even "inspired." The driving dynamics just aren't quite there. But the reality is that the RAV4 comes with a combination of versatility, low starting MSRP, fuel economy and legendary Toyota reliability, making it one of the better investments you can make when it comes to cars.

With so many solid options in the segment, though, the RAV4 isn't a complete no brainer. It should be on your shopping list, but so should the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and, if you really do want a fun crossover, the Mazda CX-5.

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