Road test: Toyota's tough tail-wagger Rav4 is back and it's more masculine than before

The original crossover SUV has added a new look to its old sense of fun

The original Toyota Rav4, launched across the world in the mid-1990s, was the vehicle that started the whole crossover SUV thing. Before that, the kind of reasonably priced car in which you'd have enough room to shove a family into, as well as a dog and a suitcase, was the virtually-­unheard-of-these-days estate car.

Bearing this in mind, the original Rav4s were known as cheery little motors to tear around in, and they were a funky and fun option in a decade when the motoring excesses of the past were forgotten and we were left with a design vacuum that looked worryingly as though it might never be filled. Watching any film or TV programme from that decade can be a source of dread for car fans as the all-too-frequent automotive eyesores on display are enough to induce nausea in even the hardiest person (and that's not much of an exaggeration).

The new versions of the Rav4, therefore, have a reputation to maintain. The latest range is the fifth distinct generation, so they've been around the block a few times over the years. And, if you're wondering what that "Rav" stands for, it's "Recreational Activity Vehicle". That's a mission statement if ever there was one.

The latest models, which were unveiled in Dubai in April, have a more angular, tougher appearance than their predecessors and virtually all of the competition. The look and feel of the Rav4 Adventure and its brothers and sisters appears intent on emphasising its stalwart credentials.

This is admirable as the number of SUVs on the market is expanding, and you probably wouldn't want to take those pretenders anywhere but down to the local shops.

The Rav4 Adventure has all the necessary buttons for all the necessary surfaces you're likely to encounter. It is a proper 4x4. Power-wise, it has a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine, which is smaller than some of the other models in its class but still provides a decent amount of grunt.

The kit level is better than ever, too. Every new Rav4 has a base 17.8-centimetre touchscreen infotainment system that includes a mobile hotspot and Apple CarPlay capability, but the display in the Adventure is 2.5cm larger. Other features include an eight-speaker audio system, navigation and a wireless charging pad for a smartphone. There are also several driver assists not featured in earlier models. It's all most un-truck-like.

Should you buy one? Absolutely, if you're looking for a macho bit of kit you can use in a variety of environments

Car buyers after a compact SUV are not in short supply. That’s why every mainstream manufacturer on the planet is jockeying for a prominent slot in this lucrative market. The question is how you stand out from the crowd.

The Adventure is a liquid fuel vehicle, but it has a hybrid sibling (a first for the brand and uncommon in its class) that has garnered much of the media attention given to the fifth generation so far.

Does the Adventure stand out from the crowd in the glare of the eco model launched alongside it? Well, it's not as luxurious or as polished as some of the more expensive vehicles in its class, but you could probably have a couple of Rav4s for one of its pricier counterparts. The point is, the Adventure is as entertaining to drive.

Should you buy one? Absolutely, if you're looking for a macho bit of kit you can use in a variety of environments and that doesn't destroy your bank balance. Let's face it, that doesn't happen too often. The Adventure feels like a rather more secure version of the first Rav4 incarnations, but don't let that extra comfort fool you – it retains a lot of that early sense of fun. That doesn't happen too often, either.