Sure, the RAV4 has been a popular model in Toyota’s lineup for over two decades, but would you have guessed that its sales, spanning five generations, have crossed into eight-figure territory? In February of this year the Japanese automaker reached the 10 million RAV4 sales milestone. What’s more, almost a tenth of those sales were achieved during 2019 alone: Toyota sold 965,760 examples of the RAV4 just in that 12-month period, and more than half of those came from the U.S. Compare that to its first year of sales, when the RAV4 was still a newcomer, finding 53,080 buyers worldwide.
But hitting the 10 million mark is just icing on the cake for the world’s bestselling SUV, as well being the fourth bestselling passenger vehicle overall.
The Recreational Active Vehicle 4 Wheel Drive, its full name, has been with us for just over a quarter century, since 1994, but in that time it has managed to cultivate a following that now spans five generations of the model, all while avoiding the mission creep that had sidelined other competitors, many of which aren’t around anymore. That’s not to say that the RAV4 hasn’t evolved with the times; it’s far more on-road biased than the first-gen model, which featured generous ground clearance and a more spartan interior.
The original RAV4 debuted during a boom of sorts for smallish SUVs: Those were the days when a lot of them still had two doors, a manual transmission as standard equipment and when there were half a dozen rebadged versions of the Suzuki Sidekick alone on the market. (Actually, it was almost a full dozen.)
The original RAV4 was available in two- and four-door flavors at its debut, pairing a modest footprint with economical engines and legendary Toyota reliability. The model remained popular even as the size of the average SUV on the market grew rapidly and as luxury models appeared, and as consumers began to disfavor small two-door SUVs that had been the norm in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Of course, the RAV4 still has a long way to go to catch up to the production record of the Corolla, with its more than 40 million units sold, but the RAV4 has managed to eclipse the annual sales of the Camry and Corolla.
The sixth generation of the RAV4 debuted just over a year ago, seeking to return to its rugged SUV roots with a redesign focused on utility and everyday convenience. When we first sampled the current model we found it evolving in the right direction with the latest redesign, moving away from the slightly anonymous looks of the previous-gen model, while gaining more engaging road manners.
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