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2011 Toyota Rav4 (Bill Petro/Toyota)
2011 Toyota Rav4 (Bill Petro/Toyota)

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Should I buy a car now or wait for a 2012 model? Add to ...

Dear Cato and Vaughan: I'm a fan. I was wondering if you could provide some information about a redesign of the Toyota RAV4 for the 2012 model; when do you think the 2012 model would be available in Canada? I'm thinking of buying one and would consider waiting if it was being redesigned and available later this year (September?). Would you recommend waiting for the new model or buying the existing one? - Shachindra in Toronto

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Cato: Shachindra, your letter reminded me of the dogfight going on in tall station wagons. The RAV4, of course, is a tall station wagon. So are the Honda CR-V and the Hyundai Santa Fe. And the Dodge Journey and the Ford Escape. There, I've just named five of the top 10 best-selling light trucks in Canada.

Vaughan: Cato, you need to get your terminology correct and as usual I am here to correct you. These are compact crossovers, all five of them.

I do not understand why this classification of vehicle is so popular, but it is. Good, old station wagons and hatchbacks do exactly the same job, but they sell for less money. Shachindra, consider the Volkswagen Golf station wagon.

Cato: Vaughan, why is it so difficult for you to understand what motivates all the other car buyers in the world except you? I know you like cars; I've seen you get the bit in your teeth when we've tested something fast and interesting on the race track.

Why is it so impossible for you to understand why buyers like Shachindra will never buy a station wagon? Station wagons are so done. This is all about emotion. But then you don't have any emotions…

Vaughan: I like to think logic plays a role when someone is spending $25,000, $30,000, $35,000 or more on an utterly practical vehicle.

Cato: Logic almost never plays the main role in the choices people make for a new vehicle. Emotion is the first driver, then perhaps logic and for most Canadians, finances dictate the limits of what's possible in terms of satisfying wants and needs. Get it: emotion, then logic, then finances.

Vaughan: You sound like a marketing textbook. But, as always, I bow to your magnificent wisdom and clear insights. You are a genius, Cato.

Cato: As I've been telling you for too many years. Let's speak to Shachindra's question. And the answer is, Toyota is scheduled to redesign the RAV4 for the 2012 model year. A new 2.5-litre four-cylinder was introduced as part of the 2009 freshening; now the rest of the package will be made all-new.

Vaughan: You're assuming all is on schedule even though Toyota, Honda and Nissan - the biggest Japanese auto makers - have been hit hard by the fallout from the earthquake and tsunami crisis in Japan?

Cato: Good point. None of the Japanese auto makers has been willing to address how this disaster might affect future product plans. We know production of many models has been slowed and that helps to explain why sales of the big Japanese car companies are down this year.

Vaughan: I would be surprised to see Toyota delay the RAV4 remake. This vehicle is far too important for that. The RAV of today is already getting a little long in the tooth. Toyota has no time to waste in delaying the new version.

Cato: My understanding is that Toyota will not just update the styling, but might also dump the V-6 in the RAV. It's possible the V-6 will be replaced by a hybrid four to improve fuel economy.

Vaughan: We also know that Toyota and Tesla Motors are working on an electric version of the RAV4; it might debut in 2012.

Cato: But an EV RAV will be nothing more than a niche model. The point we need to make with Shachindra is that a new RAV is coming. That means Toyota is pushing the current one with pricing and discounts. A loaded V-6 Limited RAV4 lists for $34,640 and Toyota Canada is offering 0.0 per cent financing for three years. That's a good deal.

2011 Hyundai Santa Fe

Vaughan: Hyundai appears to have an even better one on the Santa Fe. The V-6 Limited may be priced higher at $35,799, but Hyundai Canada is offering a $4,000 factory-to-dealer rebate that can be combined with certain financing options.

Cato: And then there's Honda. The CR-V EX-L, another loaded crossover wagon, lists for $33,490, but is being boosted by a $1,500 factory-to-dealer sales sweetener. This Honda has a fairly unimpressive four-cylinder engine, though, and power-wise it does not stack up well against the more powerful engines in the RAV and the Santa Fe.

Vaughan: Let me bring this back to a logical conclusion. All three of these vehicles are due for a major overhaul before the end of the year.

Cato: So you're suggesting whatever deals are good now might be even better later on?

Vaughan: Every now and then you follow my logic, Cato. It's almost gratifying.

2011 Honda CR-V

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Honda CR-V EX-L

2011 Hyundai Santa Fe V-6 Limited

2011 Toyota RAV4 V-6 Limited

Wheelbase (mm)

2620

2700

2660

Length (mm)

4555

4676

4620

Width (mm)

1820

1890

1855

Height (mm)

1680

1725

1745

Engine

2.4-litre four-cylinder

3.5-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

180/161 lb-ft

276/248 lb-ft

269/246 lb-ft

Drive system

full-time four-wheel drive

full-time four-wheel drive

full-time four-wheel drive

Transmission

Five-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

five-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1614

1868

1672

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

10.1 city/7.5 highway

10.6 city/7.7 highway

11.1 city/7.7 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$33,490

$35,799

$34,640

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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