1997 Toyota RAV4

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starting MSRP

1997 Toyota RAV4

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

147.8” x 64.8”


Front-wheel drive



2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1997 Toyota RAV4 trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best SUVs for 2023

1997 Toyota RAV4 review: Our expert's take


Oftentimes, there is a particular charm to being small. When you attach four wheels to it, the facet takes on a special meaning.

Whether you can call the 1997 Toyota RAV4 sport utility vehicle “charming” is a matter of conjecture. Consumers Union calls it the “Best Small Sport-Utility Vehicle.”

The RAV4 is a mini-SUV, as defined by its 86.6 inch-wheelbase and its 147.2 inch-overall length. That’s really a small package, but what it lacks in size, the little Toyota makes up in versatility.

Currently, the RAV4 is the only sport-ute to feature four-wheel independent suspension, courtesy of the basic floor plan it shares with previous generation Toyota Celica and Camry passenger cars.

This gives the mini-SUV a car-like ride without losing its utility aspects. The design enhances the stability via a wide front and rear track that forms a broad base.

With the short front and rear overhang of the strong unibody construction, the vehicle has a high degree of maneuverability. The versatility goes up with the 4X4 four-wheel drive version.

With 4X4 hardware on board, the RAV4’s shortness lets it attack acute approach angles to ascend or descend steep inclines.

The entry-level model features front-wheel drive. It performs quite admirably, but doesn’t quite have the off-road capabilities of four-wheel drive.

The vehicle’s all-wheel drive design is similar to previous generation All-Trac Camry, Corolla and Celica models.

For added off-road traction, the RAV4 4X4 offers a standard locking center differential.

On optional automatic transmission models, the center differential locks automatically when excessive slip begins between the front and rear wheels. When the standard five-speed manual transmission is used, there is a switch that allows the driver to manually lock or unlock the center differential.

Toyota juggles the gear ratios on its two-wheel and four-wheel drive RAV4s when the vehicles use the five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. The final drive is quite a bit lower (ratio-wise) in five-speed form than as an automatic.

Driving all this mechanism is a dual overhead cam, 2.0-liter (121.8-cubic-inch/1,998 c.c.) 16-valve four-cylinder engine. The motor is rated at 120-horsepower, which is fairly basic output for this type of powerplant. Torque is 125 foot-pounds, which is sufficient to handle about 1,500 pounds of towing capacity.

It is interesting to note that there is not a major difference in fuel consumption between a two-door front-wheel drive with a five-speed and a four-door four-wheel drive with an automatic. At the top of the list is the front-drive’s 24/30 city/highway consumption versus the automatic’s 4X4 number of 22/27.

The RAV4 offers seating for up to five passengers. The driver cockpit arrangement is the standard two bucket seats in front and 50/50 split rear seats in the back. The rear seat back can be folded either forward or backward, or the entire seat folded forward. This opens up 34.7 c ubic feet of storage space in the two-door and 57.9 cubic feet in the four-door.

By removing the front headrests and reclining both front and rear seat backs, the seats can be converted into a bed.

As might be expected in a mini-vehicle, cargo space is not immense. However, it is sufficient to haul most items.

The instrumentation is standard fare in that the four-gauge system consists of a speedometer, tachometer, temperature and fuel level. There also is the trip odometer.

For a moderately priced sport-ute, the trim level and accessory equipment is pretty good. The interior features fabric seating, full carpeting, cupholders, front door panel pockets, intermittent front and rear wipers, a rear defogger and a digital clock.

Not too bad for a 4X2 two-door with a five-speed whose base price is a little more than $15,000. Going to four-wheel drive will run you an added $1,400.

If you want to go upstream, there is the 4X4 four-door with a four-speed automatic. It has a ma nufac turer’s suggested retail price of just a touch over $18,000. Add to this destination charges and options.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.3
  • Interior design 4.2
  • Performance 4.5
  • Value for the money 4.7
  • Exterior styling 4.4
  • Reliability 4.8

Most recent consumer reviews


A Forever Vehicle

I have a 5door '98 that I kept in fairly original condition with regular maintenance & part-time winter 4wd use (a '09Yaris for daily & an mr2-s for summer). Will qualify for collector plate status here (BC) come 2023 (soon!) meaning low insurance & can be covered all year round. 240k(kms) still going strong with just fluids, brakes & belts replaced. Lots of fa ebook groups for parts & friendly advice. Ill keep this & mr2-s forever for grandson to enjoy when everyone else will be on AI-autonomously boring vehicles!


Had no major problems in 250k miles

Its not the fanciest car but it's dependable. Regular oil changes and no expensive repairs. It drives well and I don't worry about breaking down on the road at all


I love my RAV4!

We bought this car in December on 2016 in Northern Arizona. I needed a car with 4 wheel drive for the snow. This one has push button 4 wheel drive. We paid $5000 for it. We have put that much maintenance into it since then. But it needed it. It only had 112,000 miles on it when we bought it!! I drive it everywhere up and down the state of Texas since we have moved back. My daughter calls it the fish bowl, because of the big windows. So it doesn't have all the bells and whistles, and it has crank windows too! I just take my portable blue tooth with me when I travel. LOL!! We bought a 2015 RAV4, but I don't want to part with my older RAV4. I have become attached to it. The KKBB says its only with $526!! But to me it's priceless.

See all 31 consumer reviews


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Toyota
New car program benefits
36 months/36,000 miles
60 months/unlimited distance
60 months/60,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
7 years/less than 85,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12, 000 miles
7 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
160- or 174-point inspections
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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