The Toyota RAV4 was introduced in 1994 and was offered at first as a 2 door but then a year later as a 4 door. It was a 4x4 that nodded its head to the fact that a lot of people never took their cars off road and so focused on providing greater on road driving ablities than many of its rivals. It came with just one engine originally which was a 2 litre producing 126bhp. There are now four incarnations of the RAV with the mk2 coming out in 2000.
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Its fair to say that the RAV4 was the worlds first attempt at a crossover, and very successful it was too. Before the RAV4 all 4x4's had either been rather agricultural work horses that were awful to drive on the road or they were expensive Chelsea tractors, out of the reach of most people. So when the RAV4 came out with its nippy 2litre engine giving decent performance and handling that was unashamedly tuned for the road it was definitely a trend setter, and it wasn't at all surprising that it has been an enduringly popular car with the concept now having been copied by virtually every other manufacture.
So what do you get if you buy one? Well if you go for the Mk1, which is the model we are focusing on here, then cheap, fun, reliable motoring basically. Toyota took the engine from the Camry/Carina range which was of middling power for a 2litre, being tuned for lower end torque as a way of maintaining some off road credentials. The transmission was a modified version of what you would have found under the Celica GT Four no less, so its fair to say that with the right tyres the RAV4 should make a decent fist of being a 4x4. But lets face it, not many were going to be put to the test and it was the cars on road abilities that Toyota focused on.
So what's it like to drive, in short a hell of a lot better than its closest rival, the Suzuki Vitara which really was not a car that you wanted to drive fast on the road (I still laugh when I think of the Vitara's where owners had put flared arches and fat tyres on them, about as inappropriate as it is possible to get), it's no GTi in the corners but has generally civilised road manners and is a fun car to drive. The short wheel base model is obviously going to be the quicker with performance figures of about 0-60 in 11 seconds which is amusing if not electrifying. If you do need a bit more practicality then you could go for the 5 door version but somehow it seems a bit pointless doing that as the main appeal of the RAV4 is its cutesy, fun value, so if you are looking for practicality then there are a lot more appropriate cars out there. That said, the 5 door versions are very cheap indeed so if you fancy having the high driving position then why not, we're just not sure of its value as a future classic. The 3 door on the other hand is another matter, what with its aforementioned trend setting status and fun value, not to mention Toyota reliability, there's a lot to be said for the RAV4 and prices are pretty keen right now. Of course if you want one with low mileage there is going to be a bit of premium to pay as they are very rare, if you do find one with less than 60k that some dealer isn't asking the earth for, snap it up and look after it.
For true rarity and therefore collectability, try and find one of the few cabriolets that were made. They had a very fiddly hood so proved unpopular and only sold between 1998 - 2000.
A good account of the history of the RAV4 can be read here
As for prices, well £500 will easily get you a decent example if prehaps needing a little TLC, a £1000 would get you a really good one though with higher miles 110k plus. Low mileage examples are difficult to find so we can't really put a price on them but would be worth hanging onto, so shop around, how knows what you might find.