1996 Toyota RAV4 Base 2dr SUV $4,680(Miramar, FL)

Unlike most in its genre, the RAV4 makes no pretense of being a serious off-roader, as its modest 7.5-inch ground clearance suggests. Instead, Toyota calls the RAV4 a new concept SUV. It offers the high seat position, enhanced poor-surface traction, and increased cargo capacity and flexibility desired by sport/ute buyers, but with the features and feeling of a sedan. Consider it more a tall Celica All-Trac than a pint-size mud-wrestling 4Runner. Though early selections will be limited, the RAV4 will be offered in two- and four-door configurations, with the four-door featuring an 8.3-inch-longer wheelbase. The two-door offers seating for four, while the four-door provides room for a fifth small, pliant person to cram into the rear. The RAV4s seats offer impressive flexibility: The rears can be folded against the fronts to make room for, say, mountain bikes or a large dog kennel, and all four seats can be folded flat to make a rather lumpy bed. The 2.0-liter inline-four is the only engine available, and the standard transmission is a five-speed manual; an electronically controlled four-speed automatic is optional. Acceleration is modest (0-60 mph is estimated to be in the 12-second range), and in high-rpm, drop-throttle situations like redline shifts, manual-transmission-equipped versions suffered a loud, annoying driveline noise-perhaps the rear differential moving in its bushings. The five-speed gets a driver-operated locking center differential; it works without the need for human intervention on automatic-equipped RAV4s.