Car News:  Oversteer

I Think the Original Toyota RAV4 Is Kind Of Cool Now

RELATED READING
See all Toyota RAV4 articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2016

I recently came across an original Toyota RAV4. The 1990s one. The very first-generation model with the available 2-door version and the tiny 4-cylinder engine. It was in perfect shape: a well-maintained, clean, 4-door model in the press-color blue. And I realized something: I think this RAV4 is kind of cool now.

That's right. I'm saying that I think the original RAV4 -- a front-wheel-drive, Corolla-based compact SUV with 120 horsepower -- is kind of cool. But before you tell me that I'm absolutely insane, that I'm in the wrong profession and that my sense of what's cool is so off-kilter that you're worried my next DougCar will be a 2001 Honda Accord Coupe (which, let's be honest, is also kind of cool), hear me out.

First off, some history: The original RAV4 came out for the 1996 model year to vast critical acclaim. Automobile Magazine named it Automobile of the Year. This would be a hugely important victory for the RAV4 if the magazine hadn't also given the same award 3 years earlier to the Dodge Intrepid.

Initially, the RAV4 was viewed skeptically as a Toyota interloper, crashing the party of tried-and-true, body-on-frame off-roaders such as the 4Runner and the Land Cruiser. Eventually, Toyota softened the styling and made it bigger, and sales really took off to the point that I believe every single person on my block now possesses a Toyota RAV4, including people who initially wanted a pickup truck.

But it's the first RAV4 that especially stands out to me, and one of the reasons is its styling. Just look at it! There's none of that cheeky "I'm cute!" stuff you get from the later models. This one is boxy, capable-looking and simple, just like an SUV should be. Its design runs circles around the original Honda CR-V, which came out the following year and now looks as though it actually debuted many years earlier, back when sticks were the preferred method of starting a fire.

And then there's the durability. Even though we weren't sure of the original RAV4 at first, it's surely proven itself by now. There are currently 20 listed on Autotrader with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, including a one-owner '99 model with 232,624 miles and a big dent on the front fender -- a love dent.

Plus, who doesn't love an SUV that offered an awkward 2-door version for only a few years before it went away due to laughably bad sales? And who doesn't love an SUV that came with a stick shift? And who doesn't love an SUV that got 21 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway ... 20 years ago? And who doesn't love the fact that there was an electric version? An electric version! With a 75-mile range!

Clearly, the original RAV4 was ahead of its time. And if I happen to run across the one I saw again, I might just leave a note on the windshield asking to buy it. It was, after all, Automobile of the Year.

MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
Friday Photo Contest: Who Can Spot the Ugliest Car Color?
Ask Doug: How Do You Talk About Your Luxury Car Without Sounding Like a Jerk?
If You Want to Work In the Car Industry, Try Starting at a Dealership

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
I Think the Original Toyota RAV4 Is Kind Of Cool Now - Autotrader