Let's move to Column B. For starters, we're surprised by the RAV4's ride quality. For a small, car-based 'ute with very modest off-road ambitions, its ride is really a lot stiffer than it needs to be. Another? Access to the cargo area is via a side-hinged rear door. Not only is this is a little odd these days, but the thing's hinged on the passenger side, complicating loading and unloading when you're parked along a curb. The door also carries the spare wheel and tire, benefitting interior volume but hindering rearward vision. These things don't really matter very much though.

What gives us hesitation about the RAV4 is this: Remember those Apple computer commercials where two guys are standing there talking, one of them looking young and cool and with it, the other, a frumpy parody of Bill Gates (if that's possible). The RAV4 is Bill. We want to be the other guy. There's the unmistakable smell here of overheated computer design, market surveys by the mountains, colossal consensus-making - and very few human fingerprints anywhere at all.

We like noticing a few fingerprints on the cars we drive. An innocent quirk here. A dash of personality there. That's asking a lot of a vehicle built in the hundreds of thousands and in such a ferociously price-sensitive category. No doubt about it.

When your best friends ask you which little 'ute they should buy, recommend the RAV4. Highly recommend the RAV4. But you and I? We'll be looking for one with a few more fingerprints.