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Remember When Toyota Made a RAV4 Convertible?

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Once, not too many years ago, you could get a Toyota RAV4 with a convertible soft top. Yes, it’s true: The Toyota RAV4, the family crossover you recently considered because it has a lot of safety features and a nice, roomy cargo area, had a convertible soft top. Shockingly, it was unpopular.

Here’s what happened: The RAV4 initially came out in 1996, and back then Toyota seriously had no idea if anyone was going to be buying a compact SUV. We take for granted now that small SUVs are wildly popular, but back then it was a total gamble. There was no Honda CR-V (it came out the following year, in 1997), there was no Ford Escape (2001), there was no Chevy Equinox (2005) or Nissan Rogue (2008).

Instead, the other small SUVs on the market were all sort of aimed at the fun-having or off-roading crowd rather than the typical suburban family, as is the case with today’s crossovers. There was the tough Jeep Cherokee, the Jeep Wrangler, the Geo Tracker, the Kia Sportage, the Suzuki Sidekick and … basically nothing else. And most of those models offered convertible versions.

And so Toyota adopted a "when in Rome" philosophy: Seeing that everyone else was doing a convertible, Toyota joined in. Actually, it’s a bit difficult to get the information, since it’s been 20 years, but it appears they first entered the market with a 2-door hardtop, then later switched to a 2-door convertible in about 1998. Not surprisingly, sales were weak, and it seems the convertible was cancelled after the 1999 model year, while the 4-door model went through 2000 before a redesign.

Interestingly, the 2-door RAV4 only died in North America: Foreign markets got a 2-door RAV4 in the next generation, which was sold from 2001 to 2006ish, although it doesn’t appear a convertible was part of the lineup. When the third-generation RAV4 debuted in 2006, the 2-door was gone globally — and now, a decade later, it’s hard to believe it ever existed at all.

But it did, and above is proof — a 2-door RAV4 convertible I recently saw with the top down and the owner enjoying the sun. Err… not quite. But the owner could enjoy the sun if they wanted. Find a Toyota RAV4 convertible for sale

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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