Car Chooser
Car Chooser

2008 Toyota RAV4 Cruiser owner review

  • Very dependable and cheap to maintain
  • Spacious and practical interior
  • Great value for money
  • Powertrain not impressive
  • Front seats lack support
  • Could use an extra gear

About the Toyota RAV4

Tiernan purchased this Toyota RAV4 used for $7000 (including all on-road costs) in 2021. Tiernan would buy this car again because: “Yes I would buy it again. I had just sold my BRZ and was looking something that was more practical and a highway cruiser. I wanted a car that I could learn the tools and maintain myself.

We have an active lifestyle so we were weekend adventure car that was affordable, practical and most importantly reliable. The RAV4 ticked all those boxes for us.”

How reliable has your car been? Tell us about any issues.

The car has been quite reliable.

The car came with a full logbook service history and has just had consumables replaced throughout its life.

Excessive oil consumption was a common issue due to incorrect piston ring design. A couple weeks of driving the car, I had noticed that mine had been consuming oil and I had to start regularly topping it up. While I was disappointed by this, I had thought to start maximising what I have and start doing some preventative maintenance.

When I inspected the spark plugs, I had noticed oil into them. I replaced all spark plugs and valve cover gasket. This fixed my oil consumption issue!

One morning, I had notice coolant leaking onto the ground. This was due to a leaking thermostat seal. $20 fix.

And then the big issue… the clutch needed to be replaced. It was basically gone and I knew this when purchasing the car. There was no service record of the clutch being replaced so could this be the original clutch? This was done at my local mechanic. $1000 job

A lot of work has been done as preventative maintenance such as throttle body clean, O2 sensors cleaned, coolant replaced, PCV valve cleaned, oil flushes and changes. It has been enjoyable and great learning experience.

I hope the time and effort into the maintenance would provide some reliable years ahead.

What do you think of the ownership experience with your car?

I have never owned a SUV before so I was curious about the whole hype about them. We own a Mazda 3 and I had previously owned a Subaru BRZ.

I get it.

You sit high, easy to get in out, you feel safe… but I could never daily a car like this. I find the handling terrible and it is not economical. Maybe it was lowered a bit it would be better but isn’t that just a hatchback?

Aside from that, it has held up very well for a 14 year-old car. No squeaks, no rattles, hard plastic abundant and a semi-comfortable seat. Clutch is light and the shifts feel mechanical. Steering is assisted, making parking a breeze but vague at speed.

She starts every time and I could depend on her on our adventures. This car is simple and I love it.

Are you happy with the price and features of your car?

Yes I am happy with the purchase price and the features.

I had a budget $10,000 and was looking to the get the most practical, reliable car with AWD. With today’s COVID prices and everyone else looking to buy an AWD/4WD SUV, there was was little expectation.

With luck I picked up the mid spec Cruiser in the RAV4 line. The Cruiser spec adds dusk-sensing lights, automatic climate control, tinted windows, fog lights and six airbags. The bells whistles of the 2000s. The Cruiser L above included heated leather seats.

What do you think of the performance and economy of your car?

This is the weakest point of the RAV4. The 2AZ-FE engine offers 125kW and 224Nm. Not far off from the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander.

Our first test drive it was just the wife and myself and that was sufficient. Fill this with four people, or loaded up with supplies, roof racks and your in trouble. It is a very thrashy/noisy engine, that gives little confidence on hills and overtakes.

It could do with a sixth gear as the revs sit about 3000rpm at 110km/h but I really can’t complain. The automatic version came with a four-speed transmission. If you are in the market for a RAV4, I would recommend V6 3.5L engine as it offers 200kW (200 killer wasps!? – Ed.) of power and is a bit of a sleeper being a seven-second SUV.

Fuel economy is okay with city getting 13-14L/100km from its 60L tank and urban about 10L/100km using 91 RON fuel. Toyota specs the fuel consumption combined to be 9.1L/100km.

What do you think of the technology in your car?

Gauges are nice and easy to read. There is a small screen for only ODO, trip A/B. The sporty three-spoke steering wheel has tactile buttons that control the head unit. The unit is aftermarket and provides Android and iPhone support.

Since ownership, I have installed a reverse camera, UHF radio and LED driving lights.

The dusk sensor lights work very well, in fact better than my 2018 Subaru BRZ. The dusk sensor was overly sensitive causing the dash to turn on and off between trees in the morning. The RAV4 has not had one hiccup.

Around town the car drives in front-wheel drive to improve fuel economy but being the AWD variant it has Toyota’s ‘4WD system’. There are no locking differentials but it is able to distribute torque to the rear wheels through an electronic controlled coupling.

There is a button the dash for activation and turns off above 40km/h. On our drives on unsealed roads, it has felt secure and can be activated when required.

I have seen many RAV4 drivers kit them out with lift kits and AT tyres, and there is quite the cult following online.

What do you think of the ride comfort and handling of your car?

Ride comfort okay in the RAV4. I find the seats not that comfortable on long drives, being hard and offering no lumbar support.

Around town the body roll is tiresome and you get thrown a bit as the seats offer little lateral support. The steering is electronic assisted meaning parking is very easy to do but there is little feedback

The RAV4 does have great suspension for our roads, able to soak bumps easily. You feel like you just float over everything.

The tyres I have on are the Bridgestone Highway Terrain 225/65/17. A premium OEM highway tyre, they provide plenty of sidewall for a cushioning on-road and unsealed driving.

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Show Breakdown
Technology 8
Reliability 8.5
Ride & Handling 7
Price & Features 8
Performance & Economy 6.5
Ownership Experience 8