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2001-2005 Toyota RAV4 Pre-Owned

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Justin Pritchard
Last-gen RAV4 checks out as solid and reliable, but standard checks apply
If the latest Canadian crossover and SUV sales figures are any indication, chances are that you’ll one day hit a point in your life where a fuel-efficient, flexible and all-weather ready small utility vehicle just makes sense.

2001 Toyota RAV4 (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota virtually started the sensible SUV scene with their RAV4 back in the mid nineties. Before long, it was joined quickly by Honda, GM and then virtually all other mainstream automakers the world over. Someone’s idea of a small, fuel efficient SUV turned out to be a very, very good one.

The last-generation RAV4 was on sale to Canadian shoppers from 2001 to 2005, inclusive. Earlier models got a two-litre, 148-horsepower four-cylinder that could be paired to either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission. Toyota fitted all RAV4 models with a full-time four wheel drive system that automatically split engine power between the front and rear axles for maximum grip on virtually any surface.

Shoppers after a touch more get-up-and-go can opt for a 2004 or 2005 model, which got a larger 2.4 liter engine that developed 161 horsepower to the smaller unit’s 148.

Used RAV4 shoppers can look for features like power accessories, air conditioning, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, a high-output Panasonic stereo, tinted glass and a sunroof. Fog lamps, heated leather seats and heated mirrors were available on higher-end models like the RAV4 Limited, too.

Last-generation RAV4 owners typically say they love the way their machines manoeuvre and park around town, and comment positively on good visibility, great handling, spaciousness, and an all-around feel of safety, stability and flexibility. Young families and pet owners tend to be particularly in love with their RAV4’s, and most owners enjoy confident wintertime handling after fitting appropriate winter tires. Though RAV4 is far from a weekend mud-slinger, it’s said to be agile and tall enough to tackle some mild off-roading, too.

Perhaps the most common last-generation RAV4 complaint deals with its wimpy four-cylinder engine, which owners say makes a whole lot of noise at full throttle-- and little else. Other gripes include rear-seat comfort levels, rear-seat entry and exit difficulties, and some cheap-feeling interior controls. Finally, owners note a rougher-than-expected ride on some models, as well as sub-par performance from the factory stereo system. Some aren’t fond of the RAV4’s sideways-hinged, swing-open tailgate, either.

2004-2005 Toyota RAV4 (Photo: Toyota)
Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert