The Toyota RAV4 was a forerunner in the compact crossover segment, combining the comfort and ease of driving of a family car without the thirst and crudity of an off-roader. Introduced into the UK in 1994, the 2-litre permanent four-wheel drive 3 door estate offered nippy performance with modest maintenance costs, which happened to be assembled by a company known for their build quality and mechanical durability. It was followed by a host of imitators, and it's fair to say the Toyota RAV4 kickstarter a whole new genre and has gone some way into shaping the modern car sector.
This late 1994 car has been garaged all of its life, and when it did venture out, it was generally used for low-stress jobs covering a few hundred miles a year at most. This has resulted in a car that has only covered 8,631 careful miles over its 26 years, but also comes with the added confidence of full-service history, recent underbody rust treatment, a cambelt and service on top of what has to be considered one of the best unrestored MK1 RAV4’s in the UK.
Registered new at Denzil Evans Toyota in Pembrey, the car was specified with an optional spare wheel cover, front polythene small bull bars, wheel arch extensions, rear lamps protectors, side-bars and a rear step on top of its standard GX twin-sunroof specification. A removable tow bar was added to the list of features when the car was a year old. The original owner did not test its off-road ability, but to be perfectly honest didn’t exactly push its on-road travel talents neither; he reportedly used the car as nothing more than a shopping vessel. The owner was registered as disabled, which goes somewhat to answer why it has been so well preserved. The car had been garaged since new as well. The 3 ownership changes on the V5 may also suggest that the car was also passed over to family members, including his nephew who would occasionally drive it around the block to ensure all the oily bits were still connecting. The current owner is a self-confessed car fanatic, and during the lockdown like many others, couldn’t resist the urges of the internet and took a punt on this exceptional example. Having ‘accidentally’ found himself a fleet of cars in a short amount of time without anywhere to store them, he has decided that after servicing and rustproofing the car, to pass on the RAV4.
The car comes with most of its MOT’s stretching back over 20 years, and has seemingly passed every test without a single advisory. Furthermore, the car has covered some remarkably low recorded yearly distances but the lack of use is counterbalanced by its full-service history. Given its low mileage, it is surprising to see it has seen as many as 5 Toyota dealer stamps in the book, with the last Toyota service seen at 6,026 miles in 2006. For the current owner's peace of mind as 15 years had elapsed since the last service, he took the wise precaution of servicing the car, as well as replacing the cam belt, tensioner and water pump earlier this year which has been carried out by a specialist. It also comes with an impressive batch of Toyota invoices, mostly for MOT, servicing charges, a car alarm and a battery but not surprisingly nothing needed for mechanical issues. For good measure, the current owner has also taken the car to be treated with an anti-rust prevention treatment at the cost of £500, which will potentially ensure that the car survives another 25 years - given how well it's done for the first quarter of a century without rustproofing, the car should be good for the next 25.
The interior is simply remarkable, it would be no exaggeration to suggest that it is almost as new inside. There are no immediate issues to distract you as you marvel at the tough durable plastics and ever-so-90’s fabric design. We could conclude that the interior needs no further analysis as there is no significant evidence of wear, use or abuse inside. A scan through the interior components confirm that the seats are in excellent shape, the carpets and mats are clean with no wear. The dashboard might have the smallest of imperfections but certainly not enough to be considered as damage. All switches, controls and dials look factory fresh. The steering wheel and gearstick are impeccable, with the centre console, headlining and door cards all returning a top grade for condition. Both sunroofs are leak-free and fully operational. The back of the car is a similar story, the rear seats are not even likely to have ever seen a posterior planted on the fabric. The boot compartment is virtually unmarked. The previous owner has made a reasonable attempt to create a homemade parcel shelf to presumably protect boot contents from prying eyes - obviously not of a Toyota standard, but a nice item that reflects the car's past and a little sign of the love that was given to it. The car comes with an unfitted tow bar and tool kits, the latter is new and is not likely to have been ever used. In summary, top grades for interior presentation, a genuine threat to observe.
The panel work is in excellent condition, with no issues noted with any of the panel gaps, all fitting flush and retaining the high build quality as to be expected of a Toyota. The metalwork shows no significant signs of damage, with no dents or imperfection on the panels. All doors opened and closed with ease, hinges and door handles all up to the task. The car appears to be free from body surface corrosion, with no blemishes or bubbling noted on the quarter panels, sills, inner wings or doors. The car is dominated by the plastic mouldings which form the basis of the car's design identity. Considering the low mileage and care taken with the car it would be safe to assume that corrosion has yet to attack the metal under the plastic arches. The plastic panels themselves are in remarkably good condition and have not faded as poorly as similarly aged examples. There are a handful of minor scrapes noted on the lower edge of the front near-side arch and a light scrape on the off-side front arch. These constitute the only significant blemishes on the exterior.
The metallic sequoia green paint is in excellent condition, with no major issues regarding cosmetic damage. The car has a handful of tiny blemishes, with the odd chip and ultra-light scuff but remarkable free from the ageing process and displays very little evidence of day to day wear. The finish retains a good lustre with a good shine throughout with no evidence of paint runs, respray, matting or issues with the laminate. The steel wheels are in excellent condition, with no road wear or signs of kerning let alone damage from a green lane. The car is shod with Greentrek Dunlop tyres, which are all in good condition with plenty of legal thread and no cracks, but considering the relatively untouched nature of the car, they may be older than 20 years old. It would be safe to assume the spare may never have touched the road before. The glass is in excellent condition, with no cracks, scratches or damage to the laminate. The external trim is good with nothing flagged up as unsightly. All light lenses are in good condition.
Not surprisingly the mechanical durability is said to be faultless, a typical trait associated with the virtues of being a Toyota. Having seen a recent service and offering an MOT script that has never been darkened by an advisory sheet, the RAV4 really has no immediate issues that suggest anything untoward. The car starts on the button, with the engine running perfectly on tick over. No issues with the car reaching temperature and the exhaust as expected, is faultless. The engine is said not to suffer from any overheating issues and there was no evidence of unwanted internal engine noises. On the move, the car drives literally as new. Having the benefit of a recent service hopefully banishes any suggestion that a lack of use may cause running issues, on the short drive it behaved impeccably, the dampers suppressing the road well, absolutely no evidence of mechanical noise from the steering or suspension. The civil and cosseted road manners with safe handling offer a few clues why these were so popular. The gear change and clutch are as good as new, with no bearing issues or stiffness. The demister was tested during the drive, as the inclement weather and the enthusiastic conversation in the car made the glass steam up somewhat. Electrically everything is tip-top.
The RAV4 is ideal for the Toyota collector, or perhaps a dealer who might want a conversation piece in their showroom. Maybe it's a novelty classic to take to a show, to illustrate Toyota’s excellent ability to build a car and to marvel at the fact that it has only covered an average of 330 miles for each of its 26 years. Yes, its ‘90s curio may have a limited appeal, but it serves as a reminder that the RAV4 was also a perfectly executed concept of a genre that was a novelty in 1994 but is now part of modern car design. For that very reason, the RAV4 should be recognised as an iconic piece of design, and this example might well be the best original unrestored example you’ll ever come across.
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