Toyota’s ground-breaking RAV4 has reached the 10-million sales milestone globally.
After 26 years and five model generations, the SUV is selling better than ever. In 2019, it was not only the world’s best-selling SUV – it was also the fourth best-selling passenger car overall.
North America is by far its strongest market, with more than half a million annual sales (535,000 in 2019), followed by Europe (133,000) and China (127,000).
In Europe, Toyota RAV4’s sales tally has reached more than two million since 1994, while the latest, fifth generation model, introduced in early 2019, has set a new annual record of more than 130,000 units. In the UK, almost 220,000 RAV4 have been sold since launch.
This year, the new RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid will be launched, offering customers even greater potential for all-electric driving with zero emissions and zero fuel consumption.
Originally launched as the “Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive”, it founded the market for compact, urban SUVs.
Five generations of the Toyota RAV4
First generation, 1994 – 2000
RAV4 made its debut in 1994 as the world’s first urban SUV, pioneering a new market segment that was destined to become central to the automotive world. In its original form it was a three-door model with compact proportions, measuring just 3.69m long. Power came from a 127bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, mounted transversely, while the transmission provided permanent all-wheel drive, but without the low-ratio transfer box found in conventional, rugged SUVs. Other innovations that were destined to become the norm included a lightweight monocoque body and independent rear suspension. RAV4’s compact size and high driving position made it easy to manoeuvre, while its nimble handling and passenger comfort were more akin to a hatchback than an AWD vehicle. In 1996 the range was expanded to include a five-door version (measuring 4.1m long) and the option of (front) two-wheel drive. A three-door soft-top followed and, pushing innovation once again, an EV battery electric model was produced in limited numbers between 1997 and 2000.
Second generation, 2000 – 2006
Entering its second generation with the turn of the millennium, the RAV4 has developed the benefit of the experience Toyota had gained from its ground-breaking introduction. Constructed on a new platform, both three and five-door versions were slightly longer – +5.5 and +4cm respectively. Two petrol engines were offered: 121bhp 1.8-litre and 148bhp 2.0-litre units. The full-time AWD adopted a centre limited-slip differential, while customers could specify a Torsen rear differential as a factory option. In 2001, diesel power was offered in RAV4 for the first time, a 2.0-litre D-4D direct injection unit with 114bhp.
Third generation, 2006 – 2012
The RAV4 again benefited from an all-new platform for its third generation, which reached the market in 2006. The three-door body style was discontinued and the five-door grew significantly in size, reflecting changes in customer preferences and requirements. The new model measured 19cm longer overall, while a long-wheelbase version was also manufactured for sale in the USA and Russia. Engine choice was extended as well, with 2.0, 2.4, 2.5 and 3.5 (V6) petrol units, plus a new 2.2-litre diesel. The model also marked the debut of a new Toyota all-wheel drive system with an electronically controlled coupling that operated automatically, according to the vehicle’s speed, throttle operation, steering angle and G-forces. The RAV4’s handling capabilities were further developed with the first application of Downhill Assist Control and Hill-start Assist Control.
Fourth generation, 2013 – 2018
The fourth generation RAV4, introduced in 2013, saw Toyota adopt a standard wheelbase for all world markets, with the vehicle’s length growing again, by 23.5cm. The powertrain choice included 2.0 and 2.5-litre petrol and 2.0 and 2.2-litre diesel engines. More advanced AWD technology was introduced with the new intelligent Dynamic Torque Control system, and the addition of two new functions: cornering control and a sport driving mode. In 2016, the RAV4 underwent its most radical development yet, with the introduction of the first full hybrid electric version. Toyota’s first compact hybrid SUV offered total system power of 194bhp, giving seamless acceleration from 0-62mph in just 8.3 seconds, while returning class-leading fuel consumption of 57.7mpg and CO2 emissions from as low as 115 g/km.
Fifth generation, 2018 to date
The fifth generation Toyota RAV4 was revealed in 2018 and launched in Europe at the start of 2019. It was the first SUV to be built on a Toyota New Global Architecture platform, bringing fundamental benefits in terms of handling, safety and design. As an all-hybrid range in Western Europe, it adopted Toyota’s fourth generation hybrid technology, together with a new 2.5-litre Dynamic Force hybrid engine – a unit notable for its significant gains in terms of power, responsiveness and efficiency. As a result, its fuel economy and emissions are best-in-class. In 2020, the fifth generation will embrace further technical innovation with the introduction of the first RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid. This will be the most powerful RAV4 yet built, with 302bhp and rapid acceleration, but at the same time delivering exceptionally low CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.