A white 2022 Toyota RAV4 TRD is shown from the side while driving off-road.

The Toyota RAV4––Did You Know?

If you’re a Toyota driver, then you know there’s nothing better than having the reassurance of one of the best names in the business riding with you every time you get behind the wheel. Toyota has a long, exciting history of building some of the most popular cars on the market. So when Toyota introduced the RAV4, people sat up and took notice.

The RAV4 was one of the first crossover SUVs on the market. So if you’re looking to get into a new 2022 Toyota RAV4, you might be interested to know a little more about the history of this trailblazing compact crossover. Versatile, unique, and dependable, the RAV4 continues to impress drivers as a multifunctional tool that fits into their life without hesitation.

The First Crossover

The RAV4 has been on the roads for over 25 years. This compact SUV was announced back in 1989 at the Tokyo Motor Show but wasn’t introduced to the American market until 1995. Despite the delay, the RAV4 is often considered one of the first crossovers on the market. Creating a perfect blend of form and function for drivers, it was definitely a trendsetter. Drivers noticed the RAV4 immediately, and its popularity skyrocketed, quickly becoming one of Toyota’s best-selling vehicles.

What made the RAV4 so popular with drivers? Seeing as most of the SUVs on the market at the time were large, rough, and not very practical for everyday use, the RAV4 filled a need consumers were searching for––it was a wagon, sedan, and SUV all rolled into one. Drivers got the ease of handling and excellent fuel economy of a sedan, the cargo room of a wagon, and the height and power of an SUV, all in one compact package that fits easily in both town and country.

A white 2022 Toyota RAV4 TRD is shown from the rear while driving over rough terrain.

A Trend Setter

Throughout the 1990s, the RAV4 continued to blaze new trails and was named Automotive Magazine’s 1997 Automobile of the Year. Now not only were drivers taking notice of the sporty crossover, but automakers were as well. The compact SUV was clearly a trend that was not going away.

The RAV4 was basically the forerunner when the auto market began to shift in the late 1990s to make way for the small SUV that would soon become mainstream in the 2000s. Despite being the first, the RAV4 didn’t slow down. In fact, it only gained steam2, outselling Toyota’s popular Camry in 2017, becoming America’s best-selling SUV in 2019, and topping the charts as the world’s best-selling vehicle in 2021.

This wave of popularity helped Toyota become America’s top-selling automobile brand in 2021, dethroning Ford and marking the first time a foreign automaker was number one in sales for the nation. While some of this may be written off to Toyota handling the supply chain shortages more efficiently than some of the other large automakers, the fact remains that Toyota is popular, and the RAV4 is near the top of the heap when it comes to best-selling vehicles.

Go Off-Road

If drivers want to go off-road for a little adventure on the weekends but have to commute during the week, they often look for something that can do both. The RAV4 was created to balance work, play, and family, giving drivers the all-weather capabilities of a traditional SUV with lower fuel costs and easier handling. While the RAV4 doesn’t have the high ground clearance for heavy-duty off-roading, it is more than capable of handling dirt roads or a campground, especially if equipped with AWD.

Lately, Toyota has shown it’s serious when it comes to off-roading by introducing some great options for those who like a little rough and tumble when it comes to driving. Recently the automaker introduced the RAV4 TRD Off-Road, which is designed to tackle the city and the great outdoors when adventure calls. With off-road tires and mechanical upgrades, the RAV4 TRD Off-Road is tougher than any before it.

The RAV4 TRD Off-Road isn’t the only RAV4 ready for a weekend jaunt, Toyota introduced the RAV4 Hybrid Woodland Edition for 2023. This variant comes fitted with special Falken WILDPEAK AT tires, a raised roof rack for gear, and a 120V inverter to deliver power when you need it. The rugged hybrid is only a part of Toyota’s effort to reach beyond the road to help support educational programs and efforts to preserve outdoor spaces.

Lots of Room

Have you ever heard the expression bigger on the inside? Well, the RAV4 is just that. Though it has a compact silhouette on the outside, drivers will be pleased with the amount of space the RAV4 offers on the inside. Sometimes you need room for gear, equipment, project materials, or just some groceries, and the RAV4 has room for it all.

Consumers looking to avoid a large SUV while still getting some cargo space often turn to the RAV4 as an answer to their needs. Depending on the year, the RAV4 often beats out other compact SUVs like the Ford Escape or Chevy Equinox when it comes to cargo room. The 2022 RAV4 has an impressive 69.8 cu.ft. of cargo space available, even if you choose the hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrains.

The interior of a 2022 Toyota RAV4 TRD is shown from the passenger side.

An EV Before Tesla

Electric vehicles are a thing now and growing more popular each year. But where did they start? With the Prius? Or the Leaf? What about Tesla? It might be easy to forget that the RAV4 EV was a thing long before EVs became commonplace. That’s right, the RAV4 is sort of the hipster of the auto world, getting into something before it pops up on the mainstream’s radar.

Back in the late 1990s, the RAV4 was transformed into an EV to meet California’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate. At first, the RAV4 EV was only available for lease. Now keep in mind this was before the lithium-ion battery became mainstream, so the RAV4 EV was powered by a nickel-metal hydride pack that was stored in the floor, much like modern EVs.

However, the RAV4 EV offered drivers just 27 kWh of power and took around five hours to recharge. Not only that, but the at-home 6 kW charging station would set a driver back by a few grand. While Toyota claimed a full charge would take drivers as far as 120 miles, the EPA estimated it at 95 miles. That wasn’t the only issue; the first RAV4 EV was heavy and didn’t have much pep. It took about 18 seconds to hit its top speed of 78 mph.

At first the RAV4 EV was offered to businesses in 1997. Then as the market grew, Toyota opened sales up to general consumers in 2002. Around this time, unfortunately, Toyota ran into issues when Chevron bought the patent rights to the nickel-metal hydride battery and refused to allow Toyota to continue production. In 2012, the RAV4 EV was given a second life and refitted with Tesla’s lithium-ion battery, but it was again only available for two years before production ended. Despite the many shortcomings, it’s reported an estimated 500 of the original 2002 RAV4 EVs are still on California roads today.

Now You Know

There, now you know all about the RAV4’s impressive track record. This versatile RAV4 continues to ride the line between utility and comfort, giving drivers everything they could ask for and more with each new generation. Live in the city but can’t curb that wanderlust? The 2022 Toyota RAV4 has drivers covered, fitting into their lives when they need it the most.