Toyota RAV4 (1999)

 

Rav4 InteriorThe 1999 RAV4 is largely unchanged compared to the '98 RAV4. There are only two minor styling differences--a slight modification of the taillights and a new pattern behind the dashboard instruments. {C}{C}Rav4 tailNow, that's progress, hunh?! Actually, the vehicle is selling so well that Toyota saw little need to change anything.

One thing we wish Toyota had changed since they came out with the RAV4 in'98 is the front seats. They're kind of chintzy--with minimal support underthe thighs and knees and not much support behind the back. Plus, they'resmall seats--hardly commensurate with your standard-issue, huge Americanbutts. Then again, this is a car for young people, so big seats do not takeon the same importance they carry in, say, a Ford Crown Vic.

Driving Experience

The RAV 4 is a fun vehicle to drive. It's great around town, but it's not acar for lots of long-distance driving. At high speed in poor weather, itcan be downright scary. Ray drove the RAV4 down to Cape Cod in moderaterain and winds gusting to 20 mph. With its short wheelbase,less-than-supple suspension and large surface area to catch the wind, the RAV was all over the place. In contrast, we've had the opportunity to drivethe Subaru Forester in similar conditions, and the Forester feltconsiderably more secure due to its lower center of gravity.

Around town, though, the RAV is great. And we still remember how well itperformed in Boston's humongous April 1 snowstorm several years ago. Evenon unplowed roads with two feet of heavy snow, it handled the conditionsadmirably.

Ergonomics

Given that this is a Toyota, it almost goes without saying that theergonomics are pretty good. Controls are straightforward and easy tounderstand. It's nice to be in a car that has immediately understandablecontrols--for example, the climate-control switch is blue for cold air, redfor hot, and there are obvious diagrams for where you want the air to endup. We were able to get a comfortable temperature readily, regardless ofthe outside air temperature, and the four-speed fan seemed to be more thanadequate. What a refreshing change from the German cars, where we've alwayshad to pore over the owner's manual to figure out how to get a little airout of the dash.

Interior

There are two cup holders on the console of the RAV. While convenient toreach, they do, at times, conflict with the stick shift. An automatictransmission would not present a problem.

Road noise is pretty loud in the RAV4...but, heck, what do you expect?This is not exactly a Lexus RX300 or an Infiniti QX4.

Anyone from Toyota reading this review? If so, Ray humbly requests that youadd about three or four inches to the wheelbase, and at the same time movethe rear seat a little farther back. The cargo room is sufficient, but itwould be nice to have a little more legroom in the back seat. A littleadditional wheelbase width would make the RAV 4 more stable. Not that we'reany judges of style, but in our humble opinion it would make the RAV4 lookbetter too.

Reliability

The RAV4 has a 2.0-liter, transversely mounted four-cylinder engine. Wedrove the stick-shift version, which seemed to have adequate power andcompared favorably with competitors like the Honda CRV and the SuzukiVitara with the V6 engine. In terms of reliability, this engine should begreat. The air filter and plugs are easy to get at, and so is the oilfilter, though it requires a special wrench that grips the filter from thetop. The belts look tough to reach in the RAV, but, thanks to tensioningdevices, it's actually a pretty easy process.

Maintenance

Unfortunately, the RAV does have a small engine compartment, which is madea little worse by the addition of the ABS system, so servicing will be abit of a challenge. Overall, however, we expect the RAV to be below averagecost in servicing, and it should have a better-than-average repairrecord--mainly because it's a Toyota, and Toyota does a great jobengineering and designing their cars. You should have no problem gettingthis car to last a long time, assuming you treat it decently and make sureit gets its recommended service.

Overall comments

The RAV4 is cute and fun to drive--despite its tendency to blow around. Ifwe didn't have to drive on the highway for extended periods of time, wewould like this car a lot. Plus, with a list price of $17,183 for theall-wheel drive version, it's a good deal.

Just about everyone should like the RAV4--everyone, that is, exceptperhaps blue-haired seniors. If the sense of security of all-wheel drive isimportant to you and you want something cute and fun to drive, then breakout your wallet and head for the local Toyota dealer. It's a great,decently priced, urban-bop-around vehicle.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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