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2001-2005 Toyota Rav4 Review

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 8:18 pm
by AE86

Toyota Rav4 Generation II

Years Produced: 2001-2005

Toyota 1AZ-FE (2001-03)
1998cc inline 4 cylinder (16v)
148 bhp @ 6,000 rpm (110 kw)
142 ft/lb @ 4,000 rpm (192 nm)

Toyota 2AZ-FE (2004-05)
2362cc inline 4 cylinder (16v)
161 bhp @ 5,700 rpm (120 kw)
162 ft/lb @ 4,000 rpm (220 nm)

5 speed manual
4 speed automatic

Curb Weight:
1,229 kg (2,711 lbs) base model manual FWD
1,314 kg (2,897 lbs) loaded automatic AWD

0-60 (100 kph)
2.0 liter FWD auto
10.4 seconds

2.4 liter AWD auto
9.3 seconds

Fuel Economy Rating (2.0 liter):
24/30 mpg (imp)
20/25 mpg US
11.7 - 9.4L / 100 km
8.4 - 10.6 km/l

(2.4 liter) 24/28.8 mpg (imp)
20/24 mpg US
11.7 - 9.8L / 100 km
8.4 - 10.2 km/l

*Bold indicates original unit of measurement the ratings were created in.

Competitors: Honda CR-V (1997-2001) and Honda CR-V (2002-2006)

If you want to buy a RAV4:


(Plenty powerful for Cambodia)

Power wise, even the 2.0 liter (smaller engine) Rav4 is plenty enough for Cambodia thanks to the fact that the Rav4 is incredibly light for an SUV (even the AWD “big engine” versions weight approx. 400 lbs less than a CRV). 0-100 happens on average in 9-10 seconds, and it’s road handling abilities mimic the Corollas it’s based on more than a tall floppy truck like SUVs of old. For this reason the RAV4 was incredibly popular amongst those who wanted the raised driving position of a truck and the benefits of a car which mainly mean a good ride, lightweight and decent fuel economy.

Off road performance:
(Not so great, but better than a car)

If you are searching for a vehicle that can take an offroad beating and climb over large obstacles, then Rav4 is very much NOT the vehicle for you. The Rav4 (along with the CR-V, Highlander and RX series) is colloquially known as a “soft roader”, which means it’s a tall car and nothing more. To illustrate the point, the featherweight FWD Rav4 weighs just 100 lbs more than the smaller engined and smaller sized Corolla.

If you want a Rav4 then, understand that the only thing that it is going to be useful for is ground clearance and a little more traction when it comes to slippery roads and this is due to two main reasons. Firstly, the AWD Rav4s were only available with a limited slip center differential in the 5 speed manual versions (most here are automatic), and secondly, the limited slip rear differential was only available in Canada for 2001 and 2002 models. If you don’t know what any of that means, it basically means that your SUV lacks even the most basic off roading essentials that any serious off roading vehicle is equipped with such as Range Rovers, Land Cruisers and Jeeps.

One major benefit over the CRV (in theory), is that the Rav4 is a full time 4WD SUV while the CRV is a 99.9% of the time front wheel drive SUV. Also (in theory) the Rav4 should be able to handle more difficult off road situations as the rear axles are designed to take at least 50% of the power and torque from the engine all of the time (being full time 4WD) while the rear of the CRV is considerably less robust as it was designed to only be used when the front wheels start slipping. While there is no set manufacturer’s figure attributed to the CRV, estimates say that no more than 15-20% of the CRVs power can be transmitted to the rear wheels at any given time.

Fuel Economy:
(8-10 km/l on average)

The Rav4 isn’t what you would call good on fuel, but for a tall petrol powered vehicle, it’s about the best you can do. Official ratings from the U.S. translate over to an estimated 8-10 km/l (24-30 mpg UK / 20-25 mpg US / 11.7 - 9.4 L / 100 km) and from a few owners spoken to, real world mileage in Cambodia seems to be only slightly lower. The Rav4 though, like almost every car here, does not run correctly on standard fuel here (85 R+M/2 octane, 91 RON) so it is advised to fill up with premium at all times.


Minor reliability:
(All the little things are nice and sturdy)

Toyota’s strong points over the years have been electrical systems (except for one issue explained below in the transmission section), and that’s a very good thing especially in Cambodia where a simple 3 wire taillamp can be a mystery more complicated than the workings of stellar space.

Regarding other minor things, the check engine light on the Rav4 does seem to be a bit more “blink happy” than Toyotas of before, however usually simple faults such as oxygen sensors (happen on every car) and misfires are straightforward and simple to diagnose and repair. A note to add though, genuine parts are a tad expensive here.

Major Reliability:
(Potentially solid, but potentially problematic as well)

Headgaskets and ECU failures are a prone to failing on both the 2.0 litre and 2.4 litre versions (all Rav4s of this generation)

**If you’re looking at a Rav4, the main thing you need to realize is that you will probably face a major and complex (for Cambodia) repair in the future. If you have the ability or know someone that has the ability, then go for it. If not, you best be looking elsewhere.**

Unfortunately, while I think personally the Rav4 is the best looking and the best of the softroaders performance wise (both on and off road), there is a very serious and lurking problem inside of their motors.

In summary, there is a fundamental flaw in the heart of the engine casting itself in almost every 2.0 and 2.4 litre Toyota made from 2001-2004. The problem itself doesn’t always cause problems and is less common than it is prevalent but if it does strike, it means head gasket failure and a hefty amount of skilled labor required to fix it (helicoil strong enough for a headbolt).

In a more technologically advanced country the problem can be taken care by any machine shop who is willing, but over here I can’t see things going well. Your only hope to get your car running again is to purchase a second hand engine which of course unfortunately means that the “new” engine has the exact same defect as well and can strike against without warning.

As mentioned before, the problem doesn’t always surface and I have seen original 2.4 engines making it to over 150,000 miles with ease, but because these engines have such flaw at their hearts, I can’t in good consciousness recommend the Rav4 or any 2.0 liter / 2.4 liter Toyota for that matter, made from 2001-2004 and probably onwards til’ at least 2006 when the 04-05 engine casting inventory was completely sold / used. This is strictly because if the engine does give out due to the defect, you’re going to have an awfully difficult time getting your car properly repaired.

If you know a good engine builder and talented machinist, then it’s possible to get a reliable engine built for your Toyota, HOWEVER, there’s another major problem with these SUVs, and unfortunately this problem is one that affects most of the Rav4s on the road.

You may have heard of the ECM / ECU failures before, but if you haven’t, the issue is that the computer in the Rav4 is prone to failing and has the potential to cause transmission damage due to improper controlling the shift timing. It’s iffy to tell whether or not the transmissions themselves begin to fail first and then are made worse by the failed ECM, or if the ECM is the direct cause of the failure of several gearboxes, but one thing is for sure, you will very likely need to replace or get an ECM shipped out for repair in the future should you buy one. Repairing the ECM isn’t horribly expensive and can be a relatively painless process if you are prepared for it, but unsuspecting buyers will probably find themselves in a mess of failed transmissions and a bird’s nest of electrical nightmares if their vehicle is left to be hacked into by an uninformed mechanic.


Camshaft / Timing Belt: The cam belt is a required maintenance item (recommended at 60,000 miles or 100,000 km despite maintenance instructions from Toyota), not because the belt itself is weak, but because the water pump (driven by the belt), is prone to leaking around this point. These engines are constructed entirely out of aluminium and this means that they are very prone to damage if they are overheated, so take extra special care to make sure your cooling system is in good condition.

Preemptive ECU on hand:
There are several good companies around the world that can repair an ECU, but Cambodia is not a country with one of those companies in it. Therefore, it’s recommended that you buy an extra one first because if you wait until it fails, you’ll have to track another unit down (praying that it’s suited to your exact trim level and drivetrain) and hope that someone can install it for you on the fly without destroying your electrics in the process.

ECU failures are widespread on the Rav4 which has lead to many businesses offering repairs on them.

Transmission fluid (applies to most Toyotas). Toyota spec fluid is very different for cars around this age and what’s worse is that it’s completely incompatible with standard automatic transmission fluids. If you mix the two, even in small concentrations, serious problems can occur. If you get your transmission flushed, please be absolutely certain that you specify that you need Toyota spec fluid in this specification. (I will post updates when I properly obtain the information and confirm what fluid is required)

Check for headgasket failure: The internet can explain the process better than me, so for better information, Google “Toyota Camry 2.4 Stripped Head Bolt” for a better explanation of the checking process and how to tell if your car is alright. Btw, this issue affects BOTH 2.0 and 2.4 motors in the Rav4 and the Camry.


-Many Rav4s have been fantastically reliable and trouble free for their owners
-Lightweight and fuel efficient, yet maintaining decent ground clearance and reasonably strong drivetrain (vs. the CRV)

-Many Rav4s have been expensive nightmares and nothing but trouble for their owners
-Still a soft roader with limited off roading capability (if needed)


Final Verdict
It’s a crapshoot on whether or not you’ll get a good one, and for that reason I'd recommend avoiding one altogether unless you are willing to deal with the ECU and possible headgasket and transmission failures in the future.

General Information: To be updated.

If you can’t wait, Google 2001-2005 Toyota Rav4 specs

Re: 2001-2005 Toyota Rav4 Review

Posted: Tue Sep 01, 2015 3:52 am
by ken svay
I liked to drive my Rav4 and found it thirsty around town but pretty good on the highway. The suspension was my problem and having spent tine of US Rav4 forums it's obvious that the motor had real issues as did suspensions. Mine rattled and clunked despite repairs, about 10% of US Rav4s were the same.
It also had a lot of wind noise and road noise, noises everywhere in fact.
I could never understand how Camrys were so tough and Rav4s so fragile underneath. Toyota really fucked up in the early 2000s I think.
I nearly bought a Rav4 here in Australia but was scared of the cost of repairs that no doubt would have been necessary. It is a good looking car and a good size for the city, just a pity it wasn't better engineered.

Re: 2001-2005 Toyota Rav4 Review

Posted: Tue Sep 01, 2015 8:53 am
by AE86
^^Not all Camrys are tough though. I have had a considerable amount of trouble with my XV30 (in the U.S.) as it was hit with the head gasket issue, and also needed a gearbox rebuild as well. Not major jobs for me nor did it break the bank, but Toyotas usually are known for being a bit better.

Personally I think the Gen 2 Rav4 is one of the best vehicles for Cambodia for it's weight, "tough" soft roading drivetrain, and decently torquey (vs. the CRV) motor, but it's the fact that getting it repaired when the time comes and also having people budget in advance for semi major repairs really sets me back from recommending it to people.

2001-2005 Toyota Rav4 Review

Posted: Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:24 pm
by Bosco
I'm just about to buy one of these for the Mrs, nice timing for this article!