Toyota RAV4: Chronicling the Changes

The Toyota RAV4 is a compact, two-row sport utility vehicle with room for five. Introduced in 1997, the RAV4 has undertaken extensive overhauls and regular revision since. This crossover is one of our top recommended models in its segment when shopping for used or new. As such, we track the changes each year and offer the following synopsis since the RAV4 was introduced.


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Chronicling the Changes

2023 – Details are pending per this model’s Fall 2023 release.

2022 – An available 9-inch touchscreen display replaces the previously offered 8-inch unit. Light exterior and interior changes cover most trims. An SE Hybrid model rolls out as Toyota marks the 25th anniversary of the RAV4 in America.

2021 – Not significant changes accompany the 2021 RAV4.

2020 – Android Auto smartphone integration joins Apple CarPlay. A TRD Off-road grade rolls out.

2019 – The fifth generation Toyota RAV4 rolls out. This model receives a fresh look with sharper angles and more SUV persona. A new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 203 horsepower and improved efficiency powers every standard model. The updated technologies include an improved interface. On the safety front, the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 bundle of driver-assist tech is standard.

Third-Generation Toyota RAV4


The third-generation Toyota RAV4
The third-generation Toyota RAV4

2018 – An Adventure grade arrives. The SE grade gains a lift with its ride height increased to 6.5 inches from 6.1 inches.

2017 — Last year’s Toyota Safety Sense package now comes standard and adds adaptive cruise control to the long list of driver-assist features.

2016 — For 2016, the Toyota RAV4 received a refreshed, with an update to its front fascia along with other cosmetic changes inside and out. A newly available Toyota Safety Sense package brings in a forward collision warning system, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and intervention, and automatic high-beam headlight control. A RAV4 Hybrid variant rolls out.

2015 — Toyota introduces an optional power liftgate.

2014 — No major changes accompany the 2014 RAV4.

2013 — The fourth-generation RAV4 rolls out. The new model drops the previously available V6 engine and now pairs a six-speed automatic transmission to the remaining 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Toyota discontinued the previously available third-row option. For the first time, the RAV4 comes with a standard liftgate, with the spare tire moved from the rear door to underneath the cargo compartment.

Second-Generation Nissan Rogue


The fourth-generation Toyota RAV4
The fourth-generation Toyota RAV4

2012 — For 2012, the RAV4 receives a newly available touchscreen audio interface along with a suite of internet-connected technologies under the Entune umbrella.

2011 — No major changes accompany the 2011 RAV4.

2010 — No major changes accompany the 2010 RAV4.

2009 — A new grille, updated front and rear bumpers, and a more powerful four-cylinder engine are among the top changes for the 2009 RAV4.

2008 — No major changes accompany the 2008 RAV4.

2007 — An available JBL audio package includes Bluetooth connectivity.

2006 — The third-generation Toyota RAV4 debuts, a larger model with an available third-row seat. A second engine choice, a 3.5-liter V6, comes paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. Trim offerings include Base, Sport, and Limited grades.

Third-Generation Toyota RAV4


The third-generation Toyota RAV4
The third-generation Toyota RAV4

2005 — No major changes accompany the 2005 RAV4.

2004 — The 2004 RAV4 receives a significant refresh with new styling inside as well as on the front and rear ends. Stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes are now standard. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine replaces the previous engine and comes paired with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.

2003 — A new sport package with a distinct grille, hood scoop, and other special markings debuts.

2002 — No major changes accompany the 2002 RAV4.

2001 — The second-generation RAV4 rolls out, larger than the outgoing model. The 2001 RAV4 continues with its four-door body style. The powertrain choices are also carried over.

Second-Generation Toyota RAV4


The second-generation Toyota RAV4
The second-generation Toyota RAV4

2000 — The most notable change for the RAV4 line is the two-door hardtop and convertible models are no more.

1999 — Light changes, including a now full-size spare steel wheel with a cover mark the 1999 RAV4.

1998 — Minor exterior changes accompany the 1998 RAV4, including changes to the exterior and interior. A convertible two-door version debuts.

1997 — One year removed from its introduction, the 1997 RAV4 offers light changes on this two- and four-door model. All models come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.

First-Generation Toyota RAV4


The first-generation Toyota RAV4
The first-generation Toyota RAV4

Toyota RAV4 Considerations

Toyota effectively launched a new segment when the RAV4 arrived in the late 1990s. Since then, the company has kept the RAV4 strong with regular overhauls and updates. It is also the only model with available hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.

When cross-shopping the RAV4, we advise exploring the entirety of compact crossovers that have competed since this SUV rolled out. Some models, such as the Dodge Journey and Saturn Vue are no more. In later years, the competition includes the Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Compass, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and CX-50, Subaru Outback, Buick Envision, Volkswagen Tiguan, Mitsubishi Outlander, and the GMC Terrain.


See Also —  Best-Selling Crossover: 2022 Toyota RAV4

Image by Kevauto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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