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Published on January 22nd, 2012 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Toyota’s 2-Door RAV4 from 1996 makes for a great used buy

Even after 16 years, the design is still fresh in its own distinctive way. Though it may look like a sport-utility, it’s really more car than an off-roader. The suspension is independent, coil spring with rear trailing arms. This endows it with a ride quality that is surprising, given its diminutive size. The four-door version of the RAV4 sits on a 94.9-inch wheelbase, which makes it among the tidiest vehicles on the road. Its two-door brother we are looking at today, however, has a mere 86.6 inches between axles. Overall length of the two door is 145.9 inches. Making it really compact but liveable. 
The name RAV4 is supposed to mean Recreational Active Vehicle 4-wheel drive. The RAV4 shines as an all-wheel-drive machine for the urban tarmac. The only driver interaction the drivetrain ever demands is the locking center differential, invoked only in the most parlous circumstances by merely pushing a switch on the dash. 
All 2-door RAV4s have the same engine, a 2-liter, 16-valve number that supplies 120 hp and 125 foot-pounds of torque. The weight to power ratio returns a time to 60 of about 11 seconds. That doesn’t sound particularly snappy, but is reasonable for a 4×4 and it does not disappoint on the highway as well. Maintenance is a breeze and parts are never a problem either used or new. The engine’s note is however unappealing just like most other base Toyota’s, and there’s a lot of it. Both intake and exhaust noises have an irritating raspy, boomy quality that invades the cabin at both high revs and high road speeds. With the windows down it disappears.
The RAV4 comes with a four-speed automatic that provides decent acceleration. I like the smooth flow of power an automatic gives in an all-wheel-drive machine. I have never come across a manual version for sale here in Malaysia. The interior of most RAV4’s is a wash of drab grey plastic which is pretty boring after the snappy exterior. Ergonomics overall were quite good, except for the sunshade which I feel is too small for the large windscreen. You will understand this when driving towards the sun at about 8-9am in the morning.
Dual airbags are provided across the line, and antilock brakes are available. The RAV4 has big discs front, drums rear so stopping in an emergency is never a problem as long as your brakes are in good condition. The RAV4 arrives from Japan with various specification level however the most common features are climate control air conditioning, alloy wheels, cruise control, power windows, locks and mirrors and a very desirable twin sunroof package, available only on the two-door. This gives it an almost convertible appeal. Prices have taken a dip in recent months as the RAV4 is ready to greet its 16th birthday. Once 16 years old loan values will drop and interest rates will get much higher thus reducing its appeal in the used car lot. A 16 year old unit will fetch just about RM30,000 or below. Look for a detailed service record, off road abuse underneath the car, scratched interior, worn drivers seat and drivers pedals. Finding one should not a problem as many owners are trading up to newer better cars with attractive loans. Take your time and you will enjoy your purchase.

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