1997 Toyota RAV4

  • 1997 Toyota RAV4 Base Hard Top Sport Utility

    Base Hard Top Sport Utility

    • MAX MPG
    • SEATS
    • ENGINE
      2.0L I4
    • MSRP
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1997 Toyota RAV4 Review

A well-rounded compact SUV.

Reviewed by Automotive on

First introduced to the U.S. market in 1996 as a crossover/compact SUV, the 1997 Toyota RAV4 attempts to combine the roominess, visibility, and four-wheel drive of a sport utility vehicle with the fuel economy and maneuverability of a smaller car. RAV means “Recreational Active Vehicle? while the “4? stands for “four-wheel drive.?

A resounding success in the low end of the market, the RAV4 fathers such compact SUVs as the Subaru Forester and Ford Escape, and the booming mini-SUV market still does well. The RAV4, the first sport utility with front drive, feels roomy and functional, and it promises Toyota reliability and durability. It makes a sensible choice for someone wanting an affordable family SUV.

The Range

Body Styles: two-door SUV
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic
Models: Toyota RAV4

What's New

The 1997 Toyota RAV4 adds new fabric, and its four-door model features a sunroof. Noise-deadening material has been added to the dashboard, reducing engine sounds inside.


The RAV4 features power brakes, 16-inch steel wheels, tinted glass, and a rear window defroster and wiper.

Optional features include four-wheel anti-lock brakes, an anti-theft alarm system, power windows, power locks and mirrors, and a trailer hitch. It has a maximum towing capacity of 1500 pounds, a height of 65.2 inches, a length of 147.2 inches, and a curb weight of 2469 pounds.


The interior dimensions offer 38.6 inches of headroom, 39.6 inches of hip room and 33.9 inches of legroom for the seating of seven passengers. The ride feels comfortable, with some cramped quarters in the back. However, the seats recline for more headroom, and it offers decent cargo space behind the seats. The 1997 Toyota RAV4 also features air-conditioning, bucket seats, driver and passenger front airbags, power steering, and a tilt steering wheel. Optional features include a center console, cruise control, a CD changer, cruise control, and an AM/FM/cassette or CD system.

Performance & Handling

The RAV4’s cornering and handling abilities prove excellent and acceleration seems fine. Some consumers complain that engine performance diminishes in higher gears. Four-wheel drive can be less powerful in ice and snow. What it doesn’t have in pep, it makes up for in style and maneuverability and its durability and reliability remain unmatched; most consumers still have their 1997 Toyota RAV4 over a decade later.


The 1997 Toyota RAV4 offers driver and passenger airbags and anti-lock brakes.

EPA Fuel Economy

Toyota RAV4: 21/26 mpg city/highway
Toyota RAV4 all-wheel drive: 19/24 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Great acceleration and handling
  • Roominess and dependability
  • Attractive compact shape

You Won't Like

  • Fuel economy
  • Sticker price

Sum Up

A well-rounded compact SUV.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Honda CR-V
  • Ford Escape

See the New 2017 RAV4.

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