The Rav handles great. It has the perfect combination of a firm, but decent ride and sporty handling. I love the steering feel. You can actually feel the road, but light enough to steer with minimal effort at very slow speeds. It reminds me of a Honda Accord (which has an excellent steering feel). The Rav is light for its size and feel tossable and is fun to drive on curvy roads.
I love the 2.4L VVTi engine. Its smooth, fiesty and often feels like a V6. It does struggle a bit when the a/c on (as most 4cyls),and when fully loaded going going up a hill, but still maintain speed and accelerate reasonably well. At times especially at full throttle, or when its struggling it tends to get a bit buzzy, but never to the point of annoyance. But other than the few grips the 2.4 is silky, revvy and powerful adding to the Rav's entertaining ways.
The transmission usually shifts very smoothly, but for some reason it shifts into 1st when I slow down to 10 mph. This sometime come in handy if you need to get up to speed rapidly, but is sort of annoying creeping along in the parking lot, or bumper to bumper traffic because along with a touchy gas pedal makes the Rav take off faster than I would expected to, or its constantly shifting from 2nd to 1st gear. It could also use a manual mode in case I feel like shifting manually for an extra sense of sportiness.
The outside looks great, but would look better it alloy wheels (mine came with hubcaps) Its Nautical Blue with silver glittery pinstripes. (I did not have that put on) The color is awesome, but I don't know about the glittery pinstripes. I guess they look OK. I'm not crazy about the spare tire on the back door, but its extremely easy to get to when I needed it (I ran over a nail) I love the shape. It kind of have the shape of the Matrix with a BMW like headlights with classy LED tail lights and a cool rear spoiler for a sporty and sleek look.
The inside is very nice and comfortable. There is plenty room for 5 people and the back seat are cross you legs roomy. This is the the idea traveling companion. There are TONS of space to put thing, but I wish the back window opened and the front seat folded forward like the Matrix, it would have made the interior more flexible. My Rav came with wood grain which gives the interior a touch of luxury and the overall design of the interior is delightful to the eye. The rav comes with some neat features such as lighted cup holders, telescoping steering wheel, one touch levers to fold the seat flat, and the best thing, an ipod connection so I can play my ipod through the stereo. The main gripe is the cargo area's light is on the back door making it very useless. I wish my car came with a sunroof, but I'll get one installed sooner or later.
The Rav is very cheap to own and operate. Its very frugal on fuel averaging 27 mpg at speeds above 80 mph, but the city mileage is only 23. Not bad for a 3300lb 4cyl SUV. Maintenance is very cheap, and my insurance went down because of all the safety equipment it has. Speaking of safety equipment, the Rav come loaded. It has side and curtain airbags along the the front 2 airbags, 4 wheel disk ABS brakes (that stop on a half of a dime) with brake force distribution and brake assist, VSC, Traction control, and a limited slip differential. What bothers me that anti theft didn't come standard, but is available on the expensive limited model. Oh well I'm probably going to upgrade the alarm eventually anyways.
The Rav overall makes the least compromises in what I want in a vehicle. It combines sportiness with comfort, room, safety, and fun in a attractive, and useful package making this the perfect vehicle for me. I would recommend this vehicle to anyone that's in the market for a small and useful SUV that's don't guzzle up a bunch of gas and is ultra reliable.