LISBON, Portugal – Toyotas once small RAV4 SUV has grown bigger. Toyota made its third-generation design larger to help keep the cars lead in the European medium SUV segment.
But the Japanese automaker also is moving the RAV4 more upmarket to compete in the emerging European premium SUV segment.
The new RAV 4, which goes on sale this month, is 145mm longer at 4395mm. Compared with the original 1994 three-door version, the car has moved up a full segment.
The first and second RAV4 shared Carina and Corolla platform elements, said Michihiko Sato, chief engineer of Toyota Development Center 1 in Japan.
In an interview at the RAV 4s press launch here, he added that the cars third generation is based on the new MC global platform. This can also be used for upper-medium car models such as the Avensis.
Toyotas platform definition differs from most other carmakers.
It is not so much about common hardware. It is more about shared development processes, said Alain Dujardyn, Toyota Europes manager of SUV marketing.
The new RAV4 has two versions: a standard five-seat model for Europe and most other global markets and a seven-seat model with a 165mm longer wheelbase for the US.
The RAV4 was designed in Japan. Toyotas studio there won an internal contest with Toyotas ED4 studio in Sofia Antipolis, France. The RAV4 will be built in Japan.
Toyota is confident that it will keep its SUV leadership position in Europe. But competition is increasing. Andrea Formica, European vice president of marketing and sales, expects that the European medium SUV market will grow from todays 400,000 units to 700,000 by 2010.