The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is Almost as Big as the Original Highlander
The redesigned 2019 Toyota RAV4 doesn’t just look big. It is big. What once was a cute-ute is now nearly the same dimensions of the original Toyota Highlander, which was categorized as a midsize SUV when it launched in the 2001 model year.
Although the new RAV’s wheelbase is still an inch shy, and its overall length a few inches less, it is wider and taller than the original Highlander. And those latter dimensions often have as much to do with holding passengers and their stuff comfortably as the longitudinal measurements.
Dimensions (in inches)
2019 Toyota RAV4
2001 Toyota Highlander
How is this possible? Because Toyota jumped platforms with the new RAV4. The outgoing version was on Toyota’s global compact platform that was shared with the Corolla sedan. But the 2019 RAV4 moves onto the TNGA-midsize platform that also hosts the Camry and Prius.
But dimensions often don’t tell the whole story. “Packaging” those dimensions is actually the important test. Some automakers are masters at it—to wit, the Honda Fit subcompact hatchback, which somehow can fit a mountain bike or grown-ass men in the back seat area of what should be a penalty box.
The new RAV4 also is strong accomplishment in this regard. My personal experiment is to position the driver’s seat in the location that would be comfortable for me, at 6-foot-1. Then, I hop in the back seat and see if I would be comfortable sitting behind myself. I call it the “double-date” test, and many vehicles fail it—you would be surprised at the number of vehicles’ back seats I cannot even enter, let alone squish myself into. It’s an important metric for anyone who frequently carpools or takes multiple passengers.
In this aspect, the 2019 RAV4 passes handily. While seated in back, I can make a fist, then turn my hand so my thumb is leading and my pinkie is resting against my knee, and still not touch the driver’s seat. I don’t have to splay my legs. I don’t have to sit bolt upright or slouch with my knees in my chin. I can just hang out. It’s great.
What’s more, it seems the RAV4 is making an honest effort to try to fit three humans in the second row, by widening it by a precious half-inch. So doing, it is wider than the original Highlander by more than an inch.
In the industry, when a car grows between generations, it’s called “segment creep.” It’s nothing new, but it still is a surprise when a vehicle we thought was a small car graduates to a new class.