Toyota RAV4 is crowned Japan Car of the Year 2019

The Toyota RAV4 is partly responsible for creating the crossover fad that we’re still seeing today. And as such, the Japan Car of the Year organization recently declared the new Toyota RAV4 as Japan Car of the Year this 2019.

The event was held at the Tokyo International Exchange Center in Tokyo Bay. The Toyota RAV4 was chosen by a panel of 60 jurors, 40 editors from Japan’s most influential automotive publications, and dozens of OEM executives to snatch the coveted award from the Mazda 3, which came in second place.

The RAV4 is the first Toyota to win JCOTY in a decade

The last Toyota to win the JCOTY plum was the Toyota Prius from 2009 to 2010. Since then, the RAV4 is the first Toyota in a decade to receive the award. Last year, the Volvo XC40 was named Japan Car of the Year preceded by the Volvo XC60 (2017-2018), Subaru Impreza(2016-2017), Mazda MX-5 Roadster (2015-2016), and the Mazda 2/Demio/Toyota Yaris (2014 to 2015).

It was a landslide victory

Before the vote-counting and price-giving ceremonies, the new Mazda 3 was thought to be the strongest contender followed by the BMW 3-Series. However, the Toyota RAV4 garnered a total of 436 votes compared to the Mazda’s 328 votes to win the prize.

Meanwhile, the BMW 3-Series took third place with 290 total votes, which is more than enough to win the Import Car trophy. The Toyota Corolla finished in fourth place with 118 votes followed by the Jaguar I-PACE (109 votes) and Jeep Wrangler (56 votes).

And you know what, the RAV4 deserves it

We like both the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda 3. However, the previous Mazda 3 was a better car in terms of handling and driving feel. Sure, the new Mazda 3 is now quieter and more comfortable – not to mention that delectable premium cabin similar to an Audi or BMW – but it somehow lost some of the mojo of the third-gen Mazda 3, the original SkyActiv model.

However, the redesigned RAV4 is all-new and has a tougher attitude to boot. Wherein previous generations of the RAV4 were clearly designated as soft-roaders to the core, the new model borrows certain design cues from the now-defunct Toyota FJ Cruiser.

And while we’re at it, the new RAV4 also boasts the biggest cargo area in its class. You have 37.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up while more than 70 cubic feet are available by folding the seats down. Moreover, certain versions of the RAV4 are capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds.

It has a fuel-efficient 2.5-liter engine

All trim models of the 2019-2020 Toyota RAV4 are powered by a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine. Equipped with a higher compression ratio, electronic variable valve timing system, and secondary port injection with dual overhead camshafts, the engine produces a healthy 203-horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque while still capable of delivering 26/34/29 mpg.

The engine is bolted to an eight-speed automatic with standard front-wheel drive except for the RAV4 Adventure and TRD Off-Road trim, which gets an all-wheel-drive system as standard.

However, all-wheel drive is optional across the range. The RAV4 LE and XLE also come with standard AWD but the Adventure and Off-Road trim receives an upgraded AWD system with torque vectoring.

2020 Toyota RAV4 Pricing and Trim Models

The base Toyota RAV4 LES starts at $25,850 and comes with LED headlights, a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker audio system, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 as standard.

The RAV4 XLE starts at $27,145 and has a push-button start with keyless entry, a power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, and standard blind-spot monitoring. The XLE Premium adds bigger wheels, raised suspension, a sunroof, and faux leather upholstery starting at $29,850.

The RAV4 Adventure trim starts at $32,955 and comes with unique wheels, roof rails, fender flares, a larger 8-inch touchscreen, and selectable drive modes.

The new Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road has a base price of $35,180 and includes off-road suspension, a power liftgate, and rugged all-terrain tires. Finally, the RAV4 Limited starts at $34,380 and comes with chrome exterior trim, heated front seats, standard navigation, and an 11-speaker JBL audio system.

Kudos to the Toyota RAV4 for winning the 2019 Japan Car of the Year award!