Toyota Rav4 XA20, the genesis of the cross-over. Today, almost all cars are slightly-raised hatchbacks which come with the image of an SUV, all wrapped in a city car, affordable bundle. But almost 20 years ago, Toyota launched the little Rav4. But does this David still have a place in our world?

Today all car manufacturers have at least 1 cross-over model in their line-up. This is because the world has did the Dew and tasted the “advantages” that this type of car provides. People who only live in the city and who don’t need the capabilities of a real SUV like a Mitsubishi Pajero or a Toyota Land Cruiser. People who don’t need a Defender and wouldn’t even have where to park it. People who buy those ads with “live an active lifestyle, go and do sports in nature!”, even if the maximum amount of sports they do is at a fitness center downtown. All they really want is to sit higher in traffic and climb the occasional kerb, and you certainly don’t need locking differentials with 50/50 power distribution for each axle for that sort of job.

Words like “approach angle” or “differential” have little to no relevance for the city dweller. However, he likes the idea of ​​an SUV but he doesn’t seem eager to pay alot of money for a proper SUV, he doesn’t want to pay the higher taxes the big engines command, he wants decent fuel consumption and he certainly doesn’t want something so big and difficult to park.

Toyota Rav4 XA20 – The Pinot Noir of the car world

The Toyota Rav4 XA20 was one of the first cross-overs that caught on with the public big time. Yes, there were other small cross-overs back then such as the Suzuki Jimny or the Nissan X-Trail, but the Toyota Rav4 XA20 was built for the city and with some off-road capabilities, not the other way around. A car for the ladies and girls who wanted a slice of the SUV cake, but who will never leave the city, much less the tarmac. Just as a lady or girl who wants a bottle of wine because it’s stronger, but doesn’t want to get drunk. So she resorts to a champagne, knowing that it is easier, more stylish and more urban than the classic wine. This is how I could characterize the Toyota Rav4 XA20. Why did I choose Pinot Noir? Because it is very likely that Pinot Noir was the oldest type of grape that became champagne.

Toyota Rav4 XA20 Engines


  • 1.8 1ZZ-FE of 125 horsepower – The entry-level engine for the entry-level version that only came with entry-level front-wheel drive. Very reliable and hardworking in the first years of life, after which it becomes addicted to oil and begins to enjoy considerable quantities. Not responsibly.
  • 2.0 1AZ-FE of 150 horsepower – Quite robust, only that over time the engine block degrades and must be replaced. It also has occasional EGR issues and an irregular idle, which explains the rarity of this engine and the popularity of the 1.8. In Europe atleast. 
  • 2.4 2AZ-FE of 160 horsepower – The same 2.0 1AZ-FE, increased to 2.4 and slightly more powerful. Much more expensive after taxes, marginally stronger and with the same issues. There is really no justification for this engine on a Toyota Rav4 XA20 in our times. But it did have it’s fandom in the USA due to it’s general reliability


2.0 1CD-FTV of 115 horsepower – Absolute legend of an engine, the 1CD engine is the predecessor of the famous D-4D that we all know and love. Built from reinforced concrete, this engine will keep on revving long after your grandchildren are dead. As a side note, you should pay attention to the timing belt which needs to be replaced regularly, and the dual mass flywheel which can get quite expensive.


Toyota Rav4 XA20 General Issues

  • It’s not necessarily a issue that develops over time because it’s pretty much a design fault, but you have to be careful that the boot doesn’t open completely and it’s really cumbersome in tight spaces.
  • VVT-I petrol engines tend to develop a drinking habit later in life, chugging down significant quantities of oil. Like an middle aged man who realized that only drinking can save him from this miserable existence, these engines can eat up to 1 liter of oil per 1000 km.
  • The manual gearboxes are of dubious quality and develop joint and seals problems, being in sync with the joints of average Toyota Rav4 XA20 owners.


Toyota Rav4 XA20 Verdict

The Toyota Rav4 XA20 was the spiritual grandfather of the crossover. The first car of compact dimensions and with some off-road abilities (limited, but still there). Yes, the Nissan Qashqai made this car segment famous, but the Toyota Rav4 created it, and the Toyota Rav4 XA20 showed us that you can have a compact SUV with low maintenance costs. It’s rude to make fun of the elderly and our ancestors, so I won’t laugh at the Toyota Rav4 XA20. Because this car represented the beginning of a new era in the automotive industry. Even if I’m not big on the concept of a cross-over, the Toyota Rav4 XA20 remains a classic car.

Which engines do I recommend? Either the 1.8 125 horsepower petrol unit or the 2.4 NA for the non-Europe market, or the good old 2.0 D-4D that refuses to give up, no matter the mileage.