The RAV4 was originally based on the Corolla platform, and was offered in both two and four-door versions. In the US, a 2.0L straight-4 producing 120hp (89kW) was offered. Both Front wheel drive and Four-wheel drive were available, and the RAV4 could be had with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. In 1998, the RAV4 was slightly restyled on the front and rear fascias, and a soft-top two-door was made available exclusively in the US market. Horsepower was increased slightly to 127. In 1999, the two-door hardtop was dropped from the American lineup, leaving the 4-door and soft-top models.
One interesting version, the RAV4 EV, was an all-electric 'zero-emission' model offered for sale in small quantities in California. These models came with a 60,000-mile (97,000km) battery warranty, and the vehicles still command high prices on the used-car market. One sold in 2006 on eBay for over US$50,000.
A significant criticism of the gasoline-powered first generation RAV4s, often called '4.1s', was that they were underpowered, and had relatively poor fuel economy via their 3SFE engines that were designed for earlier Camrys and 1987-1989 Toyota Celica GT, 1990-1993 S-R and Z-R, as well as 1994-1999 SS-I. Later generations of RAV4s, the so-called '4.2s' and '4.3s', have addressed this concern.