Toyota was one of the first to market a small, car-based SUV as an alternative to larger truck-based models. Now, it is introducing a second-generation model at the same time some rivals are introducing their first.
The original RAV4 debuted for the 1997 model year, using components from the Toyota Celica and Camry passenger cars. The original came as a two-door convertible and four-door wagon, but the 2001 is a four-door only. Key rivals for the RAV4 include the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and the new Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute.
Toyota is adding a second car-based SUV next spring, the Highlander, which is similar to the Lexus RX 300. The midsize Highlander is larger than the RAV4 and will carry a higher price tag.
The 2001 RAV4 is slightly wider, taller and longer than the 1997 2000 generation. The styling is more chiseled with sharp creases instead of curving lines and has less front and rear overhang. Overall length increases by an inch to 165, about 8 inches shorter than the Ford Escape and 12 inches shorter than the Honda CR-V.
A tailgate that swings open to the right is a carryover feature from the previous model.
Toyota says the interior is roomier this year, with increases in headroom and legroom for both the front and rear seats. Seating capacity increases from four to five, and cargo volume grows to 29 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 68 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Last years maximum volume was 58 cubic feet.
To keep base prices down, several convenience features are optional instead of standard, including air conditioning; cruise control; a six-speaker sound system with a CD player; and power locks, windows and mirrors.
Under the Hood
The RAV4s engine is a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 148 horsepower, 21 hp more than the previous engine. The 2001 model retains a choice of front-wheel drive or permanent four-wheel drive, both available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Antilock brakes are optional.