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What Car? says

5 out of 5 stars

For Reliable, drives well on the road, affordable

Against Not great off the Tarmac

Verdict A great used buy: fun, stylish and very reliable

Go for… 2.0 GX

Avoid… GS and EX

Toyota RAV4 4x4
  • 1. Search for damage underneath the car from off-road use the car wasn't designed for
  • 2. Check the four-wheel-drive system but remember there's no transfer box
  • 3. Five-door models have more space and practicality than three-door versions
  • 4. 2.0-litre petrol engine is solid and reliable
  • 5. Boot space is fair, but side-opening tailgate can be problematic sometimes
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Toyota RAV4 4x4 full review with expert trade views

The RAV4 has been described as the offspring of a Toyota Landcruiser and a Ford Fiesta XR2, and that pretty much sums it up. It drives like a hot hatch, but looks like an off-roader.

The truth, though, is that it’s much more of a hot hatch. Although it has full-time four-wheel drive, this is no Land Rover away from the Tarmac. There are no low-ratio gears, for example. On the other hand, no other 4x4 handles as well on the road. It’s crisp through the bends, with little body roll, rides pretty well and is great fun.

The three-door version is the most fun to drive, but rather cramped in the back. So, families will prefer the larger five-door model, which gives you useful extra space and practicality, but without losing too much of the enjoyment.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Sound, reliable choice despite hairdresser image. 2.0 D4D is best choice. Values hold well

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

As far as the engine goes, you haven’t really got a choice. Throughout its life, the original RAV4 came only with a 2.0-litre petrol engine, originally with 129bhp, but reduced to 126bhp towards the end of 1996.

In terms of equipment, the younger the model, the more equipment it had. It was only from late 1996 that the car had standard driver and passenger airbags, for example.

On top of that, it’s also worth avoiding the base three-door models, GS or EX. These missed out several important bits of kit that were standard on our favourite GX model, the next step up in the range.

The whole range was face-lifted at the end of 1997, but the best age to buy is from August ’98 onwards, when the GX gained standard anti-lock brakes, air con and an electric sunroof. VX was the range-topping trim, with leather upholstery.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Huge demand with prices to match; 2.0 XT4 is value on forecourt

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Compared with a conventional hatchback, such as the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, the RAV4 looks pretty expensive to buy and run. However, compared with 4x4 rivals like the Land Rover Freelander or Honda CR-V, costs are far more reasonable.

The real beauty of the car is that it very rarely needs repairs, but when things do go wrong, it can be expensive to put them right, especially compared with a standard hatch. That said, the RAV is no worse than the Honda CR-V in this respect, and labour rates at independent Toyota specialists are low, according to figures from Warranty Direct.

In terms of other running costs, the RAV looks pretty respectable. Insurance in groups 9 and 10 matches its rivals, and you can expect fuel economy of about 30mpg, which beats petrol versions of the CR-V and Freelander.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Sound, reliable choice despite hairdresser image. 2.0 D4D is best choice. Values hold well

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The great thing about the RAV4 is that its reliability is so good that all you need to look out for are its colour and equipment.

Figures from Warranty Direct show that, even though the RAV4 is now quite an old car, its reliability record is still one of the very best. True, the Honda CR-V is just as good, but both are streets ahead of the Land Rover Freelander, which suffers more problems and needs more time and money to put things right.

The only things you really should look out for when considering a RAV4 are that it has been serviced regularly and that it has not been abused off-road. Because the suspension has been designed more for on-road use than off-, it doesn’t have the same ground clearance as, say, a Freelander, so there could be some damage underneath if owners have pushed it beyond its limits on rough ground.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Huge demand with prices to match; 2.0 XT4 is value on forecourt

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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