The Toyota RAV4 is currently one of the most well known in the competitive compact SUV segment. Introduced in North America in 1996, this crossover was specially designed for consumers desiring a vehicle that combines good visibility, large cargo space, and optional four-wheel drive of an SUV and the maneuverability and fuel efficiency of a compact car. Over the years, it has evolved into a well-rounded vehicle that suits the needs of a wide range of people. Take a look at how different aspects of the Toyota RAV4 have changed over the years.


Toyota Rav4 Lifestyle and Technical Overview

Image via Flickr by RL GNZLZ

The first-generation Toyota RAV4 looks somewhat bubbly with its rounded front end and steep windshield. However, its plastic cladding added a touch of ruggedness. When it reached its second generation in 2000, the SUV became more visually appealing as it gained a more gently sloping windshield, body-color bumpers, and a slightly curved roof. The third-generation RAV4 arrived in 2005 and underwent occasional styling updates, including revised headlights, grille, bumpers, and hood.

In 2012, Toyota launched the fourth-generation RAV4, which became an instant hit partly because of its sleek styling. The extensively redesigned crossover appears sleek and aggressive with its sharp lines, steeply raked windshield, wide headlights, and muscular shoulder lines. Some might say the fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 looks markedly different from its predecessors. It features a large trapezoidal grille, chunky unpainted fender flares, and bulky rear roof pillars for a mini-off-roader look. Overall, it's a pretty tough-looking RAV4.


When it was first introduced to the North American market, the Toyota RAV4 was equipped with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 120 horsepower. Front-wheel drive was standard, but buyers could opt for all-wheel drive. This model was a capable off-roader thanks to its locking center differential. The second-generation RAV4 got a power bump in the form of a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter engine. For the 2004 model year, this engine was dropped in favor of a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that produced 161 horsepower.

The 2006 Toyota RAV4 received a major overhaul. It was fitted with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that generated 179 horsepower and came with an optional 269-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The base engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the top-spec engine comes with a five-speed automatic transmission.

The RAV4 was significantly redesigned for the 2013 model year. The V-6 engine was discontinued, leaving a new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 179 horsepower as the sole engine option. This engine works with a six-speed automatic transmission to send power to the front wheels and optionally all wheels. For 2016, the RAV4 got its first hybrid model, which uses a different version of the Camry Hybrid's powertrain.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 gets its power from a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that serves up 203 horsepower, making it a powerful compact SUVs with a base engine. This engine pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission. 

For the 2021 model year, Toyota will be adding the plug-in hybrid Prime to the RAV4 lineup. It also boasts a class-leading electric driving range of 37 miles. When equipped with all-wheel drive, sport-tuned suspension, and the Trail mode, the RAV4 Prime is a capable and fun-to-drive RAV4.


The first generation of the Toyota RAV4 had a simple cabin that provided adequate space, flexible seats, and impressive cargo capacity. The two-door models could seat four people, while the four-door models had enough room to accommodate an additional smaller person. All seats could be folded to create more storage space. The 1998 to 2000 models had subtle interior changes such as a digital odometer, different-colored seats and door panels, and additional cup holders on some models.

In its second generation, the RAV4 featured a significantly better-equipped cabin. Certain models had an air-conditioning system; six-speaker CD stereo; height-adjustable driver's seat; and power seats, mirrors, and windows. Heated seats were also available as an option. For the 2006 model year, Toyota offered an extended version of the RAV4 in North America. The SUV had considerably more passenger space and an optional third-row seat for children. In 2008, it added new features such as a multifunction instrument cluster display, push-start button, and satellite navigation.  

The third and fourth-generation Toyota RAV4 models underwent minimal interior updates. The 2012 RAV4 had a slightly larger cabin and came standard with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. It also offered optional features such as a 6.1-inch touch-screen display, touch-screen navigation, and the Entune app suite that included Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Bing.

The current Toyota RAV4 is more comfortable and feature-packed than the earlier models. Its cabin looks and feels more upscale with the addition of many soft-touch surfaces. The SUV also provides better connectivity and entertainment with standard tech features such as a 7-inch infotainment system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Wi-Fi hotspot, and voice recognition.


Image via Flickr by Jeffrey Beall

The earliest Toyota RAV4 was fitted with basic safety features such as dual air bags, rear-window defogger, side-door impact beams, and adjustable front seat-belt anchors on four-door models. In the following years, the SUV gained many new safety upgrades, including electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system, cruise control, traction control, side air bags for front passengers, and roll-sensing side air bags in the first and second rows. A number of driver-assistance features were added to the RAV4 during its fourth generation.

The 2020 Toyota RAV4 is one of the safest compact crossovers on the market. It comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of safety features, which includes forward pre-collision alert, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beans, traffic-sign recognition, lane-departure alert, and lane-keeping assistance. Available safety features include rain-sensing windshield wipers, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, reverse automatic emergency braking, and a surround-view camera.

If you're interested in getting the 2020 Toyota RAV4, don't hesitate to schedule a test drive with Kings Toyota

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