Early Toyota Rav4 Prototype

The History of the Toyota Rav4

Generation 1

1994.  A time when rappers in tunnels wearing shiny suits instructed us dutifully to purchase SUV's like the Cadillac Escalade and the Chevy Tahoe, Toyota in it's infinite 90's Wisdom developed a breakthrough vehicle with a handful of notable industry firsts as what seemed like a pre-Prius answer to those who recognized the sins of pouring fuel out "for your homies" was not only bad for the environment, but bound to eventually change.  

The mini-SUV was the very first commercially available Crossover SUV to hit the market.  as what may seem like a snub to the gas guzzling larger SUV's of the era, the Toyota Rav4 was a hot seller that dribbled fuel to its 3S-FE 2.0 inline Four Cylinder Engine.  Available in both Front Wheel and All Wheel Drive versions, Manual and Automatic transmissions were available in the the highly capable Rav4.  The engine only put out 121HP Max. in the USA versions, whereas some Japanese models got the 3S-GE BEAMS engine (transverse model) grey top, putting out about 174HP.

with body options in 5 door, 3 door, 3 door hard and soft top versions, the Rav4 had Global market appeal, as such, Right Hand and Left Hand Drive models were manufactured.  In the case of the 5th and 3rd door between the Standard and Cabrio models is the gated rear door, which opens sideways, and features a spare tire mount.

Factory roof racks were a popular item, with integrated proprietary mounting hardware, and a key-lock design.

the Rav4 underwent a facelift in 1998, Glass headlights became standard, and the most notable upgrades being the introduction of the slotted grille, doing away with the honeycomb design on the 94-97 models.

Toyota did away with the fender marker/turn signal lights as well, as changed the shape of the front bumper, as well as the integrated marker lights grew in size and shape.

The interior of the Rav4 also got new door Panels, and cloth seat designs changed as well. Albeit a RHD, here is a revision 1, 1994-1997 interior door panel. (also note the lack of passenger airbag)

The cleaner lines of a 1998 SXA11 Rav4 interior door panel

In 1999 It seemed you could have a Rav4 with the lower plastic cladding and door handles matching the body paint color, or in a silver or gold finish, instead of just the bare plastic.

There was also a Silver, Gold, or bare plastic bumper and cladding option available, with door handles matching the body paint as standard after 1999.