Classic CARmentary: 1999 Toyota RAV4 AWD Two-Door Softtop

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

Does anyone (besides Paul, of course) remember this car?  I drove it for a week and barely remember it.  Too bad there are so few around.  My son turns 16 in 2022, and this would be a perfect first car.

The following review was written on July 18, 1999.

The four-door Toyota RAV4, and its Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester brethren, are probably the most sensible, practical and fun vehicles you can buy. They combine car-like ride and handling with a cool SUV look and the safety benefits of all-wheel drive while offering plenty of room and excellent gas mileage. In effect, they offer something for everyone. The two-door RAV, on the other hand, is what’s known as a “lifestyle” vehicle: it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but people like it and buy it anyway.

Not that it isn’t still one of the cutest mini-SUVs on the road. The problem lies in the missing 16 valuable inches of length compared to the four door, resulting in a vehicle nearly two-inches shorter than the Chevy Metro! While the Chevy Tracker/Suzuki Vitara and Kia Sportage are also ultra-short two-door convertible SUVs, they all offer a low-range setting and can be taken places off road where the RAV4 can’t go. Like the others, the “convertible” portion of the RAV is the rear roof only; the driver and front passenger get a large removable sunroof. To lower the top, you must first un-velcro and un-zip the plastic rear-side windows and rear window, then store them. It’s a hassle.

Acceleration with the optional four-speed automatic is sluggish, even in “performance” mode. On the bright side, the ride is far better than its truck-based competition, and the tall roof creates lots of headroom. As with any SUV, especially one this short, corners need to be taken slowly.

What this vehicle is best suited for, believe it or not, is urban commuting. Parallel parking is a dream, and the (near useless) rear seat, though not removable, folds up clam-like against the front seatbacks to increase the limited cargo room. Finally, the big 16-inch tires soak up potholes and the numerous irregularities of city streets.

But 20 large, with manual windows and door locks, is a lot to pay compared with what you get, and front-wheel drive models aren’t much cheaper. Believe me, for only $700 more, you’ll be much happier with the four door. Or you can get the “real thing” – the go-anywhere Jeep Wrangler.

For more information contact 1-800-GO-TOYOTA


Type: Two-door Sport-utility Vehicle
Engine: 127-horsepower, 2.0 liter inline-4
Transmission: Four-speed Automatic
EPA Mileage: 22 city/26 highway
Tested Price: $20,423