2001 Toyota RAV4

Redesigned for the first time since its introduction in 1997, the 2001 Toyota RAV4 has more interior room and cargo space, innovative seating arrangements, 17% more horsepower, and improved all-wheel-drive system, brakes and transmissions. Prices range from $23,260 to $32,765.

RAV4 grows up – but no V6

If you compare the 2000 Toyota RAV4 with the best-selling vehicle in the compact SUV class, the Honda CR-V, you’ll find that the RAV4 comes up short in interior room, interior design, horsepower, and refinement. Though the RAV4 was one of the first compact, car-like SUV’s on the market in 1997, and is still one of the most popular, it has been surpassed by newer, roomier SUV’s which offer more power, interior room and refinement. Toyota engineers have addressed many of these shortcomings in the redesigned 2001 RAV4, although unlike some newer SUV’s, the 2001 RAV4 doesn’t offer an optional V6 engine.

By the way, the two-door RAV4 has been discontinued for 2001 leaving only the four door model.

Way better interior

2001 RAV4 Interior - click for larger image
Click for larger image

The current RAV4’s narrow cabin and uninspired dashboard design have been replaced by a wider, roomier cabin with a more expressive dashboard and interior design and improved seating versatility and cargo-carrying capacity. The new RAV4 is 35 mm (1.4 in.) longer, 40 mm (1.6 in.) wider, 20 mm (0.8 in.) taller, and has a wheelbase that is 80 mm (3.2 in.) longer – this gives front and rear passengers considerably more headroom, legroom and hiproom and increases cargo space.

The new interior is also much sportier than the previous interior, and offers improved ergonomics. A bright faux-metallic trim can be found on the dash, around the shift lever, and on the door grips, and different shades of interior plastic and dimpled vinyl accents add variety and colour.

The driver faces three crome-coloured round gauges inset in three pods – unusually, the tachometer is in the middle and the speedometer is on the left. The upper AM/FM/CD player has large buttons and the new heating/air conditioning controls consist of large round dials. The console includes two power points and two cupholders with sliding extensions to grip any size cup. Rear passengers also have two fold-out cupholders.

The interior offers more legroom than before, and the raised front seats allow more footroom for rear passengers. Four adult passengers are comfortable, but three can be squeezed in the back seat.

Standard safety features include five three-point seatbelts, four height-adjustable head restraints, rear child seat anchors, and dual front airbags. The front seats now incorporate a feature which reduces whiplash on front occupants in low-speed rear-end collisions. Also, the headliners are now designed to reduce the severity of head impacts in a collision. Side or head airbags are not available.

Removeable rear seats

I was quite impressed with the versatility of the seating arrangements and the amount of cargo space available in such a short vehicle. The front seatbacks can now fold back to a horizontal position – this allows long objects to be carried on the passenger side. The ingenious split 50/50 rear seats slide fore and aft, recline, flip and fold forwards, and can be removed from the vehicle. Unlike most removeable seats which are often heavy, the RAV4’s rear seats are lightweight and easy to carry.

Even though the RAV4 is 315 mm (12.4 in.) shorter than a CR-V, it has almost exactly the same amount of cargo space with the rear seats removed: 67.4 cubic feet of cargo area compared to 67.1 cu. ft. for the CR-V. The secret is a rear cargo floor that is a few inches lower – this adds space and makes it easier to load items from the rear.

There are additional storage areas under the cargo floor, in the rear side walls, and cargo anchor hooks to tie down loose cargo. A privacy cover and cargo net are available as options.

The rear cargo door swings out sideways (like a regular door) towards the curb. The problem with this is that if you’re parked on the street, the rear door blocks your way to the curb – and if you’re too close to the car behind you, it’s difficult to open the door. On the plus side, the rear door is easy to open, and the rear spare tire which is mounted on the rear door swings out with the door rather than having to be moved separately.

The rear door can be locked and unlocked with a key or remote key fob, and has a door handle that’s easy to grip. The rear window has a standard defroster, wiper and washer, but it doesn’t open separately from the tailgate.

More useable power

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The RAV4’s previous 2.0 litre four cylinder engine has been replaced by an all-new engine of the same size but with 17% more horsepower, 8% more torque, and better fuel economy and emissions. This new 148 horsepower twin cam 16 valve engine incorporates Toyota’s variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-I), a system that enhances engine torque at all speeds while improving fuel consumption and emissions. The increase in horsepower was also accomplished by improving the air intake system and introducing a new two-way exhaust control valve. Durability has been improved by replacing the timing belt with a timing chain, adding direct ignition with one coil for each cylinder, and new iridium spark plugs which have a life of 192,000 kilometres.

Fuel consumption of 10.5 l/100 km (27 mpg) in the city and 8.1 l/100 km (35 mpg) on the highway is slightly better than the 2000 model.

Both manual and automatic transmissions have been improved. I didn’t try the manual transmission, but Toyota says it has shorter, quicker throws. The 4-speed automatic transmission has a new shift logic program that shifts depending on speed and load, preventing ‘gear-hunting’ and late shifting.

Improved all-wheel-drive

2001 RAV4’s offer an improved all-wheel-drive system with a new centre viscous differential which improves poor-weather traction. As front/rear torque split is now a constant 50/50, only 25% of the torque is applied to individual wheels thereby reducing the chance of wheel slippage, particularly in snow or ice. An optional rear Limited Slip Differential helps distribute torque to the rear wheel with the most traction.

As before, the RAV4’s AWD system is completely automatic – no driver input is needed.
Another new safety feature is ABS with electronic brake distribution. When braking, load is transferred forwards – EBD regulates the brake force distribution between the front and rear wheels when braking and cornering, sending the appropriate amount of braking force to the front and rear, or either side, to improve braking safety. Front disc/rear drum brakes are standard on all RAV4’s.

Driving Impressions

2001 RAV4 - click for larger image
Click for larger image

With a low step-in height and big doors, the RAV4 is easy to get in and out of, and the upright seats are comfortable and provide excellent outward visibility. The redesigned dashboard offers larger, easier-to-see heater controls and radio controls which are closer to the driver. Visibility is very good, even to the right rear side where a doughnut-shaped headrest allows the driver to ‘see through it’. Though the spare tire is mounted on the rear tailgate, it doesn’t obscure vision to the rear because it’s mounted lower than most rear spare tires.

With a 17% increase in horsepower and no appreciable weight gain, the new RAV4 offers improved acceleration from a standing start and in the 20 to 50 km/h speed range which I found useful around town. The engine is ‘buzzy’ under acceleration, but at highway speeds, there’s not much engine noise or tire noise, and minor wind noise – the engine does a comfortable 2600 rpm at 100 km/h. However, I did notice a faint ‘whirring’ noise from the all-wheel-drive drivetrain.

With its longer wheelbase, the RAV4’s ride is less choppy and more comfortable than the previous RAV4, though a little on the firm side. I really liked the responsive and quick steering despite its overboosted feel. Handling proved nimble and agile in day-to-day driving – the RAV4’s standard 16 inch tires and fully independent suspension are better than you’ll find on most small sedans.

My test car had the optional (floor-mounted) 4-speed automatic transmission – I really liked it – it changed briskly and appropriately, and even shifted down as I coasted down hills. It has an on/off overdrive button on the shift handle to hold it in gear when climbing hills.

With its relatively compact exterior size, nimble handling and responsive steering, the RAV4 is fun to drive (a compliment for an SUV), and just as easy to drive in town as on the highway. I confess, I didn’t like the RAV4’s aggressive new styling, but otherwise, this is a wonderfully versatile vehicle with Toyota’s solid reputation to back it up.

Prices and features

2001 RAV4 - Click for larger image
Click for larger image

2001 RAV4’s are offered with four available option packages, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’. Base RAV4’s, which start at $23,260 (plus freight charge of $450), include the following standard features: 5-speed manual transmission, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers, 50/50 split/folding/removable rear seats, height-adjustable driver’s seat, power door locks, tilt steering wheel, tachometer, dual airbags, intermittent front wipers, and rear window wiper/washer.

Equipped with option package ‘B’, the RAV4 is priced at $26,695. The package adds the following features to the base model: air conditioning, power windows (with auto up/down and ‘pinch’ protection), keyless entry, cruise control, power mirrors, and anti-lock brakes with EBD (electronic brake force distribution).

Priced at $29,105, RAV4’s with package ‘C’ add larger P235/60R-16 inch tires, alloy wheels, privacy glass, fog lamps, body-coloured fender flares and bumpers, heated power mirrors, roof rack, and a hard cover the spare tire which is mounted on the tailgate.

Top-of-the-line RAV4 Limited models which include package ‘D’ are priced at $32,765. Features include leather seats and synthetic leather door trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a cassette player and two additional speakers, power moonroof, engine immobilizer, limited slip rear differential, cargo cover, and rear spoiler.

All RAV4’s come with a 3 year/60,000 km warranty which includes roadside assistance, 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty, and an 8 year/130,000 km major emission control components warranty.

RAV4’s are built in Tahara, Japan.

Technical Data:

2001 Toyota RAV4
Base price $23,260
Freight $450
Price as tested $29,555
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact SUV
Layout transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 2.0 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves, VVT-I
Horsepower 148 @ 6000 rpm
Torque 142 ft-lb. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic (std. 5-speed manual)
Tires P215/70R-16
Curb weight 1305 kg (2877 lb.)
Wheelbase 2490 mm (98.0 in.)
Length 4195 mm (165.2 in.)
Width 1735 mm (68.3 in.)
Height 1680 mm (66.1 in.)
Ground clearance 170 mm (6.8 in.)
Cargo capacity behind rear seats 678 litres (23.9 cu. ft.)
  Behind front seats 1909 litres (67.4 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 10.5 l/100 km (27 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.1 l/100 km (35 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km/td
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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