Compact SUV; Built in Japan
  • 2-door convertible
  • 2-door wagon
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,000 – $5,700*

1998 Toyota RAV4 4-door wagon

1998 Toyota RAV4 2-door convertible

1997 Toyota RAV4 2-door wagon

1998 Toyota RAV4 interior

1998 Toyota RAV4 4-door wagon

  • Maneuverability
  • Visibility
  • Noise
  • Rear-seat room

Despite the RAV4’s pluses, Honda’s CR-V is roomier, quieter, and more practical–a better compact wagon and miniSUV than Toyota’s offering.


Toyota launched a pint-sized sport-utility vehicle early in 1996. Based loosely on the sporty Celica coupe platform, the RAV4 departed from truck-based SUVs by featuring a fully independent suspension, unitized construction, and no separate low-range 4WD gearing.The RAV4 wagons came in 2- and 4-door form, with front-wheel drive or permanently engaged 4-wheel drive. Sole engine was a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, initially rated at 120 horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard, with 4-speed automatic optional (except for the 2-door 4×4). Manual-shift 4x4s came with a center differential lock, however, which could be useful for off-road operation. Antilock brakes were optional on all models. Designed especially for the U.S. market, the 4-door RAV4 rode a wheelbase 8.3 inches longer than the 2-door’s, and measured 16.1 inches longer overall. The 2-door was a hardtop wagon, with a swing-out tailgate and an optional twin tilt/removable aluminum sunroof. Dual airbags were standard.

Yearly Updates

1997 RAV4
A sliding front passenger seat went into 2-door models, and 4-doors could now get an optional moonroof.
1998 RAV4
Several new features went into the 1998 models, and the engine gained a bit of horsepower and torque. A new grille was installed, along with multireflector headlamps and bolder taillights. Audio systems were upgraded, and a revised gauge cluster included digital odometers. New options included a swing-open left-rear side window for 2-door models, and power windows for 4-doors.
1999 RAV4
Toyota dropped the 2-door hardtop wagon, issuing a 2-door convertible in its place. A folding fabric roof went over rear seats, and a solid removable sunroof covered the front seats. Antilock braking was not available for the convertible.
2000 RAV4
Sluggish sales caused Toyota to drop the 2-door semiconvertible, leaving only the 4-door wagon, now with a standard full-size spare tire. Except for redesigned cupholders, little else was new.


transverse front-engine/front- or 4-wheel drive

Only one engine has been available: a dual-overhead-cam 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, producing 120 horsepower (later, 127). Either a 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic might be installed. Automatic has not been available for the 2-door 4×4.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 120
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 125
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

The RAV4 delivers a softer, more-compliant ride as well as more-responsive steering than truck-based SUVs. Unlike the Sidekick/Tracker, which often feels ready to lean over, the RAV4 feels stable and carlike while cornering swiftly, and robust when traversing rough roads. Its permanent 4-wheel-drive system is more convenient than the on-demand systems used by the early competition. Still, you can expect some choppiness on scalloped freeways and over patchy pavement, especially with the shorter-length 2-door model.

Tire roar is always noticeable, and wind rush rises sharply as speed increases. The engine becomes quite boomy when worked hard, too.

RAV4 also lags behind most small cars in terms of performance. A manual-shift 4WD 2-door accelerated to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds, but an automatic 4-door needed about 13 seconds–and that was without a load. We’ve averaged a disappointing 20.8 mpg from an automatic 4WD 4-door in city/highway driving. The lighter-weight front-drive models should be a little thriftier, and also quicker.

Four adults fit comfortably inside a 4-door RAV, but back-seaters don’t get much leg or knee room. Rear entry/exit is a squeeze for larger folks, too. The 2-door is best enjoyed with two adults up front and two children in back, because its rear seat is even tighter than the 4-door’s. Rear access also is more difficult, despite a slide-forward feature on the right-front seat.

Cargo space is good in both body styles, considering their exterior dimensions.

Though not as commanding as in some SUVs, the driving stance allows clear views all around, in either hardtop body style. In the recent convertible, however, the over-the-shoulder view is impaired when the rear roof is in place. On the plus side, the convertible’s top fits well, though it takes a while to raise or lower.

Most people are likely to be satisfied inside, though more rearward seat travel would be nice–especially for taller folks. The carlike dashboard is simple and convenient.


Model Tested: 1998 Toyota RAV4 4-door w/auto

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 5


Value - 5

Total: 39


2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
86.6 147.6 66.7 65.0
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
35.3 15.3 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 38.6 39.5 33.9
2-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
86.6 147.6 66.7 65.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
34.7 15.3 4
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 38.6 39.5 33.9
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
94.9-98.0 163.8-165.1 66.7 65.4
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
57.9-68.3 15.3 4-5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.3 39.0 39.5-42.4 33.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 RAV4 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 5


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 112
Injury 116
Theft 110

Trouble Spots

Brake noise
Description: The rear brakes make a whining noise because the backing plate is too thin. A thicker one is available. (1996)
Cruise control
Description: Delayed upshifts into overdrive while using cruise control can be remedied by a revised control unit. (1998-2000)
Manual transmission
Description: Revised synchronizers aid in shifting into fifth gear in the manual transmission. (1997-2001)
Audio system
Description: The CDs get stuck and may not eject from the Fujitsu-Ten CD player. (1997)
Audio system
Description: Static can be heard on the AM band when other electrical items such as wipers or turn signals are used due to a bad ground for the antenna. (1996)
Rear wipers
Description: Toyota RAV4
The rear washer may not clean adequately due to a problem with the nozzle for which there is an improved part available. (2000)

Recall History

Description: Audiovox Securikey+ Security Systems can malfunction causing electrical failure; can cause engine to run poorly and stall, and electrical components can intermittently fail.
Description: If the vehicle is repeatedly parked by shifting into “P” without applying the parking brake, the lock rod could break rendering the parking-lock system inoperative.
Description: The front disc-brake rotor can develop stress fractures if the lug nuts are too tight. If the disc rotor breaks, braking action on that wheel will be lost, increasing the risk of a crash.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.