Selling over 400,000 units in the U.S. in this year so far, Toyota’s immensely popular RAV4 is new for 2019 and comes with a modified tough-looking exterior, powerful but frugal hybrid powertrain option, and smartphone capability for the first time. Just how nicely rated is it? In Japan this week, the perennial RAV4 just caught that country’s most prestigious car gong, the Japan Car of the Year award.
Commemorating its 40th year, the Japan Car of the Year organization got together at the Tokyo International Exchange Center in Tokyo Bay to pick the best cars of 2019. Some 60 jurors, representatives from 40 of the nation’s most influential automotive publications and dozens of OEM executives got together to witness the vote-counting and prize-giving ceremony for 2019’s Japan Car of the Year.
Pre-ceremony hype had centered on an anticipated rivalry between the Toyota RAV4 and the Mazda3 with the BMW 3-Series observed as the top contender for Japan’s Import Car of the Year gong. That face-off did not happen as the RAV4 polled strongly from that start and with a convincing final number of 436 votes, it then won the 2019 Japan Car of the Year. It was the first time Toyota had snatched the popular award since the Prius picked up the trophy in 2010.
The Mazda3 came in second, gaining 328 votes whereas the BMW 3-Series completed with 290 votes giving it the Import Car trophy. The Toyota Corolla ranked 4th with 118, the Jaguar I-Pace ranked 5th with 109 and in 6th place, and the Jeep Wrangler, the Fiat Chrysler’s biggest selling model in Japan, scored 56 votes.
In the special awards categories, the Jeep Wrangler selected the Emotional Award for its robust on- and off-road abilities, the Nissan Skyline won the Innovation Award for its world-first ProPilot 2.0 “hands-off” semi-autonomous driving system, and the Small Mobility trophy was on by Mitsubishi eK Cross and Nissan Dayz.