Toyota RAV4 is known to be a compact crossover SUV produced from Toyota since 1994. It was the first compact crossover SUV that was launched for the first time in 1994 in both Japanese and European markets and two years later in North American market in 1996. The purpose of designing RAV4 was to offer the customers a vehicle having typical SUV features like 4-wheel drive, spacious cargo room, higher visibility etc without compromising the maneuverability, handling and fuel economy of a smaller car. The name RAV4 refers to “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive”. However, not all the RAV4 offered are 4-wheel drive. 4-wheel drive versions are offered only in limited number of countries. Seeing the success of RAV4, Ford and Subaru offered their own Ford Escape and Subaru Forester.
The RAV4 from Toyota is the only compact SUV offered in some countries, while in others it is offered as the crossover equivalent of the FJ Cruiser. When second generation model appeared in 2006, the company started offering both short- and long-wheelbase versions of the RAV4. Short-wheelbase versions are sold in Japan and Europe, while long-wheelbase versions are marketed in North America and Australia. The longer version of RAV4 is marketed as the Toyota Vanguard in Japan.
First Generation (XA10, 1994–2000)
The first generation RAV4 shared its platform with Toyota Corolla. It was available in both 2- and 4-door variants. The US version of RAV4 received a 2.0-L straight-4 engine generating 120 hp (89 kW) and offered in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive. You were offered with two options for transmission, i.e. 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission to choose from. The 1998 model came with minor front and rear changes and also offered a soft-top, 2-door version. The engine power was also increased from 120hp to 127 hp. The hard-top variant was discontinued in American market in 1999.
Second Generation (XA20, 2000–2005)
In mid-2000, the second generation RAV4 was introduced in two major models including the base Edge and the top level Cruise. Both were offered as 3- and 5-door versions. The second generation RAV4 offered with as brand-new 2.0-L 4-cylinder engine featuring VVT (variable valve timing), offering an improved power and torque, as well as fuel consumption. All the models were all-wheel drive. ABS brakes were made option on base models while air conditioning was made optional for all the models.
A range of trim levels offered for second generation RAV4 including, NV, NRG, GX and VX. Except for NV being 2-wheel drive, all the rest were 4-wheel drive versions. The models were offered with a 2.0-L I4 engine and a D-4D diesel engine. Other features offered include: anti-lock braking system, electronic stability control, air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, a six-speaker CD stereo and power windows, mirrors and seats.
Third Generation (XA30, 2005–present)
The third generation model of RAV4 was completely revised for the 2006 model year. It was first revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005. In this vehicle Electric Power Steering (EPS) system was introduced.
It is offered both in short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase versions. The short-wheelbase version is offered in Japan and Europe while the long-wheelbase version is marketed in Australia and North America. The larger version of RAV4 is sold in Japan as Toyota Vanguard since 2007.