The Toyota RAV4 is a sport utility vehicle (SUV) produced by the Japanese manufacturer Toyota. It was the first compact crossover SUV, making its debut in Japan and Europe in 1994, and began sales in North America in 1996. The vehicle was designed for consumers wanting a vehicle that had most of the benefits of SUVs, such as increased cargo room, higher visibility, and the option of full-time four-wheel drive, along with the maneuverability and better fuel economy of a smaller car. Its name stands for “Recreational Active Vehicle with 4-wheel drive”, although not all RAV4s have four-wheel drive, which is optional in some countries. The early success of the RAV4 paved the way for other compact SUVs such as the Ford Escape and the Subaru Forester.
In most countries, the RAV4 is the only compact SUV from Toyota. In other markets, it is the crossover counterpart of the FJ Cruiser. Since the 2006 third generation model, Toyota has offered both short- and long-wheelbase versions of the RAV4. Short-wheelbase versions are retailed in Japan and Europe, with Australia and North America receiving the long-wheelbase versions. Toyota in Japan also sells the longer version as the Toyota Vanguard.