It must be a day of mixed emotions for everyone at UMW Toyota Motor with leaked specifications of the all new RAV4 followed by a price announcement only to be met with a myriad of negativity in the comment section of every local motoring media’s Facebook page.

Interesting, this comes after yesterday’s announcement that the car was due to be launched on the 18th of June, when all details would be revealed. Clearly, that ship has sailed and UMW Toyota has announced that their order books are now open so let’s have a brief look as to what you’re getting before we get into a “coffee shop-style” discussion.

The fully imported RAV4 will be available in two variants – a 2.0-litre engine making 173 hp and 207 Nm, paired to a CVT gearbox while the other gets a 2.5-litre engine making 207 hp and 243 Nm paired to an 8-speed automatic. The 2.0-litre model is priced at RM196,500 while the more powerful 2.5 model is priced at RM215,700.

And really, that’s all the difference between them as for some reason, UMW Toyota Motor has opted for both to be equipped with the exact same features beyond the engine and transmission department. As for the exterior, you get 18-inch wheels, automatic LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, smart entry, LED tail lights and a powered tail gate.

Among the notable items on the inside are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, leather upholstery, an Optitron instrument cluster with a 7-inch multi-information display, powered seats for the driver, a Panoramic View Monitor and Toyota’s very own Digital Video Recorder.

Aside from the seven air bags, a tyre pressure monitoring system, hill-start assist and blind spot monitor, the RAV4 will also come with the Toyota Safety Sense driver assistance system that includes Automatic High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Lane Tracing Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

As far as features go, it’s as good as it gets. Not only does it come with the Dynamic Force engine which was absent in the Camry, much to the dismay of Toyota loyalist, and of course the ever present keyboard warriors but also a more comprehensive driver assistance system with the addition of the Lane Tracing Assist feature, similar to the one in the Lexus UX.

And the fact that it’s fully imported from Japan doesn’t make things any better in terms of pricing but we just can’t have it all if you take a step back and consider all the factors objectively and logically.

With all things considered, it’s just not possible to have a car that’s made in Japan, packed to the brim with features, and be priced similarly to a locally assembled mid-range 2.0 High (or GLS as it’s known before) Mazda CX-5 that’s price around RM150k – undoubtedly the most commonly seen SUV in Malaysia – it’s just not possible unless car companies decide to be philanthropists.

Based solely on the prominence of the RM150k CX-5 on our roads, it’s clear that most – the middle class demographic that every SUV-producing brand is after – are getting an SUV solely for its size, presence and higher seating position. They’re after the essence the of an SUV and nothing more.

The same is true with the CR-V. Shortly after it was launched, Honda announced that a large chunk of its buyers either opted for 1.5 Turbo 2WD or the 1.5 Turbo 4WD variant.

Those who buy the 2.5L Turbo CX-5 do so because they want more, to be different and can afford to be.

Just like those who fork out large chunks of cash for the 2.5 Turbo CX-5, it’s safe to assume that there are primarily two types of SUV buyers – those who earn and save enough for something sizeable to carry their family daily in relative style and substance and those who buy them as something to be used as and when it’s needed.

As such, there’s no other way to put it; the new RAV4, like the Camry, is a real test of a customer’s loyalty to the brand. At that price, it’s more of a luxury good than necessity.

There is no logic for a middle income family to fork out such a figure for solely to have an SUV at the expense of other basic luxuries, like a full stomach. It’s something that you’d just buy because it’s an SUV, by Toyota; even if it meant selling your wife and kids and working seven days a week because your logic has been overwhelmed by desire or walk away from altogether. Sales advisors do not hold customers hostage at gunpoint to make a sale either.

Whether it’s Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Honda or Mazda, let’s be real, car companies are out to make money and as much as they try to make their cars as financially appealing and accessible as possible to customers, the ones you’d want to point your finger at are those responsible for our enormous import taxes. We wouldn’t be arguing here and throwing tantrums over the pricing of an SUV by Toyota if BMWs were as affordable as they are in other countries.

“I might as well top up and buy a BMW 3 series” – Why are you even looking and complaining about SUV prices in the first place?

As for the argument of “topping up” to buy Harrier just doesn’t hold water as the primary customer base for such vehicles are middle class families (the target demograhic of car companies) where every cent counts. People who are interested and can afford the Harrier will not look at the RAV4, and for those who can’t afford either, would look to grey importers.

To compare the RAV4 with a Mercedes-Benz C200 or a BMW 320i, is even sillier. No one would buy a RAV4 over any of the German compact sedans or vice versa. You buy a 320i or C200 simply because you want it; you’re buying into the glamour and prestige that comes with both the German heavyweights. If you’re in the market for a Japanese SUV in the first place, you just wouldn’t bother with a sedan – unless the car buying culture has been as fickle as our politicians. Let’s hope not.


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Pan Eu Jin
Regularly spend countless hours online looking at cars and parts I can't afford to buy. How a car makes you feel behind the wheel should be more important than the brand it represents - unless resale value is your thing.