Toyota RAV4 Overview: Generational Differences Explained

Toyota led the world into the compact SUV and crossover craze with the introduction of the Toyota RAV4 for the 1994 model year. The RAV4 came onto the scene just when global markets were tiring of the gas guzzling ways of large SUVs, but still wanted the extra ride height and cargo space of one. The Toyota RAV4 offered all of those benefits combined with the maneuverability of a compact saloon.

Now in its third generation in Japan and its fourth generation in other markets, the five-door version of the RAV4 is still a strong-selling and reliable crossover. As such, we thought it’s important that our clients have plenty of information about the Toyota RAV4 at their finger tips.

First Generation (XA10): 1994-2000

The XA-10 first generation of the Toyota RAV4 was launched in June of 1994. The first units were sold in Japan only. The early RAV4 was built on a unique platform that shared elements from the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Carina platforms. It was sold in three and five-door versions from the beginning. All-wheel drive is the standard in the Toyota RAV4, but buyers can opt for front-wheel drive.

A used 1998 Toyota RAV4 from online used car exporter BE FORWARD.

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Power is provided by one of two 1,998 cc petrol I4 engines. The original engine is capable of 119 bhp, giving the RAV4 a slightly underpowered feel. That powerplant was replaced by a 3S-GE petrol I4 capable of 177 bhp to overcome the lack of power displayed by the original. There are two gearboxes available.

The base units are equipped with a five-speed manual, while a four-speed automatic is equipped in other trim levels. In the beginning, the three-door version was given the Japanese model code E-SXA 10 G while the five-door versions had model code E-SXA 11 G.

Interior of a used 1994 Toyota RAV4 from online used car exporter BE FORWARD.
Above: Interior of a used 1994 Toyota RAV4

The Toyota RAV4 was named the 1997 Automobile of the Year by Automobile Magazine. 1998 brought a mild refresh to the front and rear fascias and a soft top three-door version was introduced. Toyota also experimented with a RAV4 EV between 1997 and 2003. The EV units were held for fleet lease only.

Second Generation (XA-20): 2000-2005

The XA-20 second generation of the Toyota RAV4 debuted to the public in July of 2000. The three and five-door versions are still built on the same platform as the previous generation. Lower trim levels are equipped with front-wheel drive, while the upper echelons are equipped with all-wheel drive.

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The base models are powered by a 1,794 cc petrol I4 capable of 123 bhp. As buyers move up trim levels, a 1,998 cc petrol I4 capable of 150 bhp and a 1,995 cc diesel capable of 114 bhp become available. In some markets the 1,998 cc petrol engine was replaced in 2003 with a 2,362 cc petrol I4 capable of 160 bhp at 5,600 rpm and 220 N-m of torque at 4,000 rpm. Gearbox selections still include a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic.

As part of the second generation upgrades, Toyota added anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, a six-speaker CD stereo, and power windows, mirrors and seats. If a buyer opts for the sport package a mesh grille, bonnet scoop, colour-keyed door handles, a roof rack, sport pedals, heated mirrors, gray bumpers and fender flares, and sport fabric seats are equipped. Alloy wheels, heated seats, a sunroof and keyless entry are among the options available in the top tier trim levels.

Interior of a used 2003 Toyota RAV4 from online used car exporter BE FORWARD.
Above: Interior of a used 2003 Toyota RAV4

The second generation RAV4 was given a makeover for the 2004 model year. Styling changes were made to the exterior, some equipment was improved, and the larger 2,362 cc engine mentioned above was introduced.

Third Generation (XA-30): 2005-2016

Toyota completely redesigned the RAV4 for the third generation. Beginning in 2006, the Toyota RAV4 sits on the New MC platform and uses an Electric Power Steering (EPS) system. It is also available in both short and long wheelbase. While the different wheelbases are sold in select markets only, they are both available for import. In Japan, the long wheelbase version of the Toyota RAV4 is badged as the Toyota Vanguard, albeit with a few cosmetic changes. After the 2006 model year, Toyota opted to drop the three-door version, leaving company absent from the mini SUV segment until 2009 when the Toyota Urban Cruiser, also known as the Toyota IST was introduced.

A used 2009 Toyota RAV4 from online used car exporter BE FORWARD.

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Under the bonnet, buyers will find that the third generation RAV4 has more than enough power. There are eleven powerplant options offered in the various world markets. The base engine is a 1,998 cc petrol I4 that offers 150 bhp and 195 N-m of torque. The top engine is a 3,456 cc V6 petrol monster that is capable of 270 bhp and 333 N-m of torque.

The diesel options are a 1,995 cc D-4D and a 2,241 cc D-CAT. Both are superb engines. There are six gearbox options available depending on the market where the RAV4 was originally sold. There are five and six-speed manuals, four, five, and six-speed automatics, as well as a CVT. The majority of the RAV4s sold are equipped with all-wheel drive, but there are front-wheel drive units available.

The interior of a used 2009 Toyota RAV4 from online used car exporter BE FORWARD.
Above: Interior of a used 2009 Toyota RAV4

The third generation of the Toyota RAV4 is the first to offer an available third-row seat. It is just the right size for two small children. While this option was only available in North America and Japan, used models so equipped can be exported.

Fourth Generation and Beyond

The 2009 model year brought a mild refresh of the RAV4. Most of the changes were cosmetic. The front end was updated for a modern, more aerodynamic look while the rear was slightly tweaked to match. Some options were added to the RAV4 line-up. These include: turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, backup camera with a monitor in the rear-view mirror, satellite navigation, keyless entry, push button start, and a multi-function instrument display.

A used 2016 Toyota RAV4 from online used car exporter BE FORWARD.

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The Toyota RAV4 was replaced in 2016 with the Toyota C-HR in Japan only. It is still sold in other markets as a fourth generation. A RAV4 hybrid was introduced in several markets, but not the Japanese home market.

Feel free to browse our entire Toyota RAV4 selection or; if another SUV suits your needs, you can view our entire stock of SUVs and crossovers. If you have any additional questions, feel free to send an inquiry.

2 thoughts on “Toyota RAV4 Overview: Generational Differences Explained”

  1. Comment
    Actually my second choice is Toyota Rav 4. l have been admiring this vehicle for sometime now. This is due to several factors and let me mention only three (1) The way how the vehicle was made of in terms of its outlook attract me a lot (2) Am coming from the earth road with lots of small particles of stones and due to its height then l would prefer to have it (3) My classmate bought the car when it was first introduced here in Malawi and l travel with him from Salima District to Blantyre City to watch a football match at Kamuzu Stadium when Malawi National Team was playing with Nigeria and due to its confortability, then l have been thinking of having it. So if someone ask me to choose between Nissan X-Trail and Toyota Rav 4, l personally go for Toyota Rav 4


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