I don't think it ever started out as a sporty and off road vehicle.
The original, first version had the highest ground clearance at 7.7" but was grossly under powered.
The 2001-05 dropped down to 6.3" (less than the 2013 at 6.5"), and was applauded by reviewers for it's car like handling yet retained off road ability. Power was increased but was still pretty weak though and it had a hard time passing and getting onto freeways with short on ramps. It was much bigger than the original.
The 2006-12 went back up to 7.5" and the I4 got big boosts in HP and they added the v6, which everyone went gaga over who reviewed it. It became more aerodynamic and comfortable and much quieter, a more civilized crossover with a lot
more cargo room.
Now we have the 2013 which is back at the V4.2 height, has about the same I4 HP as the V4.3 with better mpg and still has about the same room as before with a slightly more aerodynamic design.
Irregardless of whether you like the looks, what are the major complaints?
The loss of the V6 - This has got to be the biggest loss.. They really need to replace that with either a reliable supercharged I4 option or better yet, a supercharged diesel that has the torque.
The loss of a dedicated Sport-Sport model. I think they've tried to make up for this with selectable handling and gearing, will be interesting to see how that works out, but for me, I like having the distinction on the separate Sport-Sport model. Most people bought the base sport or the Limited, so they probably weren't pressured to keep the Sport-Sport model.
The size really hasn't changed much from the last generation, you have to go back to the 2001-05 or earlier to get the smaller size that many miss.
I really wish they would come out with a scaled down RAV4, mainly in length that would retain the handling of the Sport-Sport model and the pickup of the V6 That was why I suggested the "Short Sport" add on model in this thread (click here)
But look at the voting..
The majority of voters weren't interested, they want more room, that reflects Toys move from the v4.2 to the larger v4.3
About a third of the voters said they would be interested.