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Greatness tends to impact the things around it. Other OEMs take notice and try to recreate the magic when it comes to game-changing cars like the original Toyota RAV4. The Kia Seltos is no shlub. Not only that, the entire Kia brand has really made a new reputation for itself. Could the original Toyota RAV4 have something to do with that? 

Yellow 2023 Kia Seltos parked near some rocks
2023 Kia Seltos | Kia

When did the Toyota RAV4 come out? 

According to Toyota archives, the Toyota RAV4 debuted as a concept car in Japan in 1989. However, it took until 1996 for it to arrive as a production model in the US. the RAV4 went full gangbusters. Americans couldn’t get enough of the little Japanese crossover. 

According to MotorTrend, The RAV4 appealed to the American market because it was small, great on gas, but still offered plenty of cargo space. Although we are accustomed to the crossover now, in 1996, the segment was still very fresh. With that in mind, the RAV4 was a courageous and even edgy design for the time. Are you starting to notice some similarities?

How are the Kia Seltos and Toyota RAV 4 similar?  

The RAV4 and the Kia Seltos share the same mission of featuring practicality and proportions over horsepower and flair. Both of these small SUVs share a similar size, functionality, and surprisingly more interior room than the outside would ever indicate. 

Even though the RAV4 was a ground-breaking model because of the newness of the crossover, and the Kia Seltos can be easily lost in the sea of crossovers today, they both come from the same place. 

How good was the original Toyota RAV4?

1996 Toyota RAV4 in white
1996 Toyota RAV4 | Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Automobile magazine named the Toyota RAV Automobile of the Year. The writer called it calling it “a revolutionary approach to the burgeoning SUV market of the time.” Automobile’s editors noted that its “jaunty, off-beat appearance appealed to the masses of new car buyers; in particular younger ones.” 

MotorTrend makes its point clearly by citing that In 1996, MotorTrend wrote, “The RAV4 is tailored to 4×4 owners who rarely if ever plan to leave the tarmac. It combines all-terrain styling with the performance of a mini-GT, and it really is capable of limited off-road running.” 

Twenty-five years later, MotorTrend wrote: “Most folks will drive the Seltos on pavement most of the time, but the AWD system includes a center locking differential that can split the power equally between the front and rear axles for better traction when you’re off-asphalt.”

It’s wild how these two models are separated by 25 years and a few lifetime’s worth of technological progress, and the reviews can still be so similar. 

MotorTrend makes one more solid point; A budding Kia, at the time, also had a little SUV known as the Kia Sportage. This SUV was still a body-on-frame machine, making it pretty fundamentally different from Toyota’s little crossover. 

The fact of the matter is, the Kia Sportage and the Toyota RAV4 both grew tremendously in size from then until now. This left a perfect original RAV4-shaped hole in the market perfect for the Kia Seltos to fill.


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