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August 12, 2013

Cargazing: Toyota RAV4 gets more efficient, better looking

If you're looking for a compact crossover these days, you've got plenty of options: the sporty kind, the luxury kind, the truck-like kind and the just plain funky kind.

But what I'm checking out this week is the traditional kind. It's the 2013 Toyota RAV4, and it's the kind of middle-of-the-road crossover that's made this type of car so popular in recent years.

The RAV4 gets an all-new design for 2013 that makes it better than before.

One big improvement is fuel efficiency. It's rated for 31 miles per gallon on the highway and 24 in the city, which is almost 10 percent better than what it got last year.

Toyota made a lot of little changes to improve the gas mileage, such as aerodynamic trays underneath the car to shape the air flow and a six-speed automatic transmission instead of the old four-speed in the last generation.

Another cool thing is the driving feel. Toyota has tuned the RAV4 to have a kind of middle-ground ride. It's softer and smoother riding than a lot of "sporty" crossovers on the market, but the suspension is also just firm enough to give you a decent feel of the road.

Power comes from a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 176 horsepower. It's a good fit in the RAV4, with a quick response and enough power for accelerating and passing on the highway. But you can't get a V6 in this car anymore, which is a bit disappointing to people like me who enjoy that extra power.

One thing I do like about the new RAV4 is the styling, both inside and out.

The body looks more sleek and rounded now, and a two-tone color scheme in the cabin really shows off Toyota's interior design. The materials and switches have more of a premium feel than the old RAV4.

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