The 1990s saw an explosion in the popularity of full-size crossover SUVs — luxury cars re-engineered to have all-wheel drive and tall ride height. The decade also saw a huge surge in the popularity of compact crossover SUVs. The principle was the same, but the smaller versions were targeted at those who didn’t have to pack in loads of kids or gear, couldn’t afford a full-sized SUV even if they wanted one but still liked the superior ride height and trendy character of the new four-wheel drive vehicles.
From 1994, Toyota’s RAV4 blazed a trail other manufacturers would soon follow. RAV4 stood for Recreational Active Vehicle with 4WD, though some editions actually had two-wheel drive. The RAV4 was built on the Toyota Corolla platform and came in two-door and four-door form. From 1998 a two-door convertible briefly joined the range. All had five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission teamed with a 2 litre engine that was not particularly economical. No matter, the ladies in particular loved it.
A second generation appeared in 2001. The RAV4 underwent a serious upgrade and was offered as a base or luxury model with a wide choice of trim levels. Extras like ABS, air conditioning, electric windows and cruise control were offered on certain models. There was also a sport pack that actually consisted of no more than superior trim. The second generation RAV4 again came in two-door or four-door form, whilst an uprated 2 litre petrol engine was joined by a 2 litre diesel.
There was a further evolution in 2003, with the introduction of a 2.4 litre petrol engine into some markets. This was followed by a complete redesign for 2006, when the third generation RAV4 appeared. It had new engines and was a larger four-door SUV which carried on the good sales work of its successful predecessors
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
Japan (also built in Canada)
1,998 cc or 2,362 cc Straight Four; 1,995 cc Straight Four Diesel (first and second generations)
First generation — top speed of 106 mph (170 km/h); 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 7.8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
In the 1990s a small number of RAV4 EV models were produced for sale in California — with zero-emission electric motors and long-life guaranteed batteries, they have become very collectable with the rise of interest in eco-friendly motoring.