Retro Cars Wiki

By combining conventional passenger-car elements with the features of a light off-road vehicle, the Toyota RAV4 (Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive) was a hot new entry into the latest SUV niche—the mini-sport/utility. The RAV4 featured 2-door and 4-door configurations, unibody construction, 4-wheel independent suspension and full-time 4-wheel drive. Production was expected to begin in early 1996, with 4wd versions available first and 2wd models to follow in a month or two.

The RAV4 was designed to appeal to younger buyers who demand versatility, utility, comfort and fun—yet, at the same time, place a premium on affordability. Stiff competition for the RAV4 came from such compact SUVs as the Geo Tracker, Kia Sportage and Suzuki Sidekick/Vitara and X-90.

Year-to-year changes[]


RAV4 is powered by a 2.0-liter 16-valve dohc 4-cylinder engine, which produces 120 hp. The base transmission is a 5-speed manual. A 4-speed automatic is optional on the 4-door model only. Manual-transmission models offer a standard locking center differential for extreme off-road adventures. A rear limited-slip differential is optional on all models.

Standard equipment on the Toyota RAV4 includes dual airbags and side-impact door beams, intermittent front and rear wipers, front fabric bucket seats (with seatback pockets on 4-door models), split fold-down and reclining rear seats, rear-window defogger, cup holders, dual side mirrors, tachometer and tripmeter. Major options include 4-wheel antilock brakes, air conditioning and twin removable sunroofs on the 2-door.


A 2-door convertible sport utility replaced the hardtop. It only sold as a 1999 model; after that, the 4-door was all by itself for 2000.

Retail prices[]

As of January 3, 1996:

  • $14,948 (1996 Toyota RAV4 2DR)
  • $15,648 (1996 Toyota RAV4 4DR)
  • $16,348 (1996 Toyota RAV4 2DR with all-wheel drive)
  • $17,048 (1996 Toyota RAV4 4DR with all-wheel drive)