Toyota’s RAV4 compact crossover entered its third generation on the market for the 2006 model year. Having grown in size, two features previously not found on the RAV4 were added: a V6 engine option and a third row of seating.
The 269 HP 3.5-liter V6 was paired to a five-speed automatic while the entry level 166 HP 2.4-liter four cylinder engine came equipped with a more traditional four-speed automatic transmission. Either engine could be had with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive.
The RAV4 was offered in three basic trims, Base, Sport and Limited. Either engine was available in these trims as well as the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Top 3 Reasons to Buy
Many consumers found the previous RAV4 was a bit too small, but did not want to move up to the larger mid-size Toyota Highlander. The 2006-2012 RAV4 became the perfect size for them.
A rarity in the class, the optional V6 engine actually made the RAV4 a very quick vehicle; one of the quickest compact crossovers on the market.
Even if the third row isn’t particularly spacious, having the extra spots should you need them every now and then can be pretty handy.
Top 3 Problem Areas
A Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) was issued two years ago for the five-speed automatic found in V6 equipped RAV4s. The final drive gear assembly may exhibit a whine noise that can be repaired a local Toyota dealership.
The V6 editions of the RAV4 are prone to water pump issues. Although most issues occur with the 2006-2009 models and later versions of the RAV4 V6 had a different part number for the water pump, 2010-2012 models have had the odd water pump failure.
During low speed, tight cornering a knocking noise can be heard from the front suspension area. Although four-cylinder versions can be susceptible to this issue, it appears V6 models are affected more often.
Before You Buy
Unlike a lot of Toyota products, this generation of RAV4 has had more than its share of problems. If looking to get an earlier third generation RAV4 ensure the various recalls have been performed. As well, if looking at a V6 model, ensure it is not suffering from any of the problems listed above.
Check the condition of the brakes and tires and be sure there aren’t any warning lights illuminated in the gauge cluster.
Best Bang for Your Buck
Early versions of the third generation RAV4 have a lot of complaints logged on the NHTSA website, specifically 2006 and 2007 model years. Aside from the issues, safety was improved on the RAV4 for the 2009 model and again in 2012.
We would recommend a 2009 or later RAV4 with the four-cylinder because it has proven to be less problematic. If the V6 is a must, go for a 2008 to 2012 model, ideally in Sport trim because it offers a good mix of equipment and value.