The Toyota RAV4 is a crossover SUV that has long been known for its off-road capabilities and rugged look that sets it apart from other compact crossovers by automakers like Subaru and Nissan.
If you have been looking for a recreational active vehicle that has the dependability of a Corolla or Camry, the RAV4 could be a great option. Through five generations it has been wowing drivers and offering drivetrain options that are suitable for nearly every application.
Driven: Check out our reviews of the following RAV4 model years here:
2019-Present Toyota RAV4 (5th Generation)
The latest generation of the Toyota RAV4 debuted for 2019. It migrated to a modern platform shared with many new Toyota passenger cars. The length decreased slightly, but the width was increased from the previous generation.
The 2019 Toyota RAV4’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine now produced 206 horsepower, while the hybrid also increased in power to 219. The CVT now mimicked a conventional automatic transmission with eight speeds to allow for better driver control.
All-wheel-drive models gained a controller for drivers to select a road surface so it would be better programmed to keep the vehicle moving. The Adventure model returned, as well.
New technology features included Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as a wireless smartphone charger.
Standard safety features included adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, and lane departure warning.
In 2020, Toyota introduced the TRD Off-Road model, which came with a tuned suspension kit and all-terrain tires. The RAV4 was also made available with an all-wheel drive configuration where the rear axle could be disengaged to increase fuel economy.
For the 2021 model year, the RAV4 didn’t see any discernible changes, but the 2022 Toyota RAV4 featured a redesigned exterior with aggressively-styled front headlamps and a new Cavalry Blue color option.
The 2023 RAV4 features new tech such as a larger touchscreen infotainment display on the LE, XLE, XLE Premium, and Adventure trim levels. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission puts out 203 horsepower on the all-gas versions while the RAV4 hybrid and plug-in hybrid feature the same gas powertrain working in conjunction with two electric motors for a total of 219 horsepower.
2014-2018 Toyota RAV4 (4th Generation)
The RAV4 was made slightly more conventional for this 4th generation over the previous generations.
The V6 and third-row seats were gone, even though the vehicle was somewhat longer than before. A four-cylinder and continuously variable transmission combo were made standard, however, increasing fuel efficiency. The spare tire was also mounted under the cargo floor, and a liftgate was added, a formula other compact SUVs had been using for years.
Toyota gave the RAV4 a facelift in 2015 for the 2016 model year. It streamlined the exterior styling, added more sound deadening inside for greater refinement, and added several other features.
For more efficiency, a hybrid variant also joined the RAV4 lineup for the first time in 2016. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder was paired with an electric motor, and another one to power the rear wheels if the AWD option was selected.
Finally, a rugged-looking Adventure model was added for 2017, even if it wasn’t mechanically different from the standard models.
2007-2013 Toyota RAV4 (3rd Generation)
Giving customers more of what they wanted, Toyota significantly grew the RAV4 for 2007.
While a four-cylinder with slightly more power was still standard, a V6 was available for the first time, producing 268 horsepower – far more than anything else in the class. The vehicle itself grew 15 inches longer and even offered a third-row seat in some versions. Although its small size made it only usable for children, it folded into the cargo floor when not in use.
As before, FWD was standard, with available all-wheel-drive. All models now received an automatic transmission.
This generation also gained features such as side curtain airbags, available backup camera and navigation system, keyless entry, and push-button start. A Sport model also came with run-flat tires.
This generation also spawned an electric-only variant in 2012. Through an agreement with Tesla, the RAV4 EV used a 37kWh battery pack with a range of around 100 miles. Select customers in California could lease it for $599 per month for three years. About 2,500 were produced. A spare tire and third-row seat were not available on the EV.
2002-2006 Toyota RAV4 (2nd Generation)
Capitalizing on the unexpected success of the RAV4, Toyota made the second generation bigger, which was released for 2002. Now only available as a five-door, the model gained about three inches in length, but also an inch and a half in width for better passenger space and cargo room.
It still used the swing door with the spare tire mounted on the outside.
Power also increased by about 20 horsepower. A five-speed manual was standard, but most buyers went for the optional four-speed automatic.
Later in this generation’s lifecycle, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 160 horsepower was added.
New features included a height-adjustable driver’s seat, stability control, and a six-disc CD changer.
For the first time, a Sport Package was offered. It added cosmetic pieces like a faux hood scoop, silver accents, and special wheels.
1996-2001 Toyota RAV4 (1st Generation)
Toyota created a new niche when it released the RAV4 in the U.S. in 1996, merging the higher driving position and rugged style of an SUV, but the efficiency and comfort of a car.
Using the same platform as various Toyota sedans, the RAV4 featured a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 120 horsepower and featured a five-speed manual as standard or an optional four-speed automatic.
A four-seat three-door version and a longer five-seat, five-door variant were the initial body styles, but a convertible model arrived in 1998.
Unusual for an SUV at the time, the RAV4 had standard front-wheel-drive, with optional all-wheel-drive.
All RAV4s came relatively well-equipped, with power windows, power locks, and power mirrors, and many came with air conditioning and alloy wheels.
One RAV4 characteristic that stuck for many years was the rear door that swung out instead of lifted up, along with the spare tire mounted on the door. But the model proved to be a success and encouraged competition like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.
The RAV4 EV was an all-electric model that was briefly offered to government fleets in 1997, then to the public in 2003. It used a 27kWh battery pack with a top speed of 85 mph and an estimated range of 95 miles.