Toyota Tercel

The Toyota Tercel had a run of production that spanned three decades. The car’s longevity can be attributed to its longstanding reputation as a fuel-efficient compact that offers reliability and cheap operation and maintenance costs.

More on the Toyota Tercel
Toyota Tercel Origins

During its lengthy history, the Toyota Tercel went through a total of five generations. The compact Tercel debuted as the Corolla Tercel back in 1978. The second generation of the model began in 1983, at which time the Corolla name dropped and the model became known simply as the Tercel. The second generation lasted until 1986. In 1987, for the third generation, the Tercel received a major visual redesign and more cargo space. Fourth and fifth generation models of the Tercel stand larger than their predecessors. They feature an oval body shape and offer more comfort and a better-quality ride. Toyota discontinued the model in 1998 and replaced it with the short-lived Toyota Echo.

About the Toyota Tercel

For a reliable, no-frills compact, the Tercel comes with a high price tag. With many competing models offering drivers more bang for their buck, the Tercel’s sales declined for a number of years before Toyota shuttered the model.

Toyota Tercel Features

1998 marks the final year of the Toyota Tercel’s production. In its final year of production, the Tercel came as a two-door CE model. Additional standard features on the 1998 Tercel include a color-keyed grille, color-keyed bumpers, an AM/FM stereo with cassettes, power steering, rear-seat headrests, and a digital clock.

Other standard features include a front fascia, multi-reflector headlights, and clear lens turn signals. The car also boasts dual remote black exterior mirrors, along with black body side molding, and newly designed scratch-resistant bumpers. On the inside, the car boasts a cloth interior, an updated audio faceplate that includes an expanded stereo option list, and headrests for the rear seat.

Safety features include dual airbags, crumple zones, optional ABS, and impact-absorbent bumpers. While the interior of the 1998 Tercel offers reasonable comfort, it remains somewhat cramped and experiences an excess of engine and wind noise.

Toyota Tercel Evolution

The fourth generation of the Toyota Tercel debuted in 1991. At that time, the model received a major makeover to fall in line with the prevailing oval theme of the era. Toyota also discontinued the hatchback version of the Tercel at this time, instead introducing a four-door sedan version. The car contains a 1.5-liter engine that generates 82 horsepower. 1993 saw the addition of a driver’s side airbag, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes came as an option. Non-CFC air-conditioning debuted in 1994.

The fifth and final generation of the Tercel began in 1995. Tercels from 1995 feature standard dual airbags, three-point seat belts for rear passengers, and adjustable shoulder belts for the front passengers in four-door sedan versions. ABS came as an available option at the time, and Toyota implemented 1997 side impact standards two years ahead of time. The engine boasts of a power boost to 93 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque, while the dash moves back to give the driver more room. The addition of dual overhead cams enables a 15 percent increase in the car’s gas mileage.

In 1997, the Tercel came in the same single CE trim level that remained until it ceased production the following year. The CE coupe includes many features from the DX trim. The car’s wheels increase in size to 14 inches, the dash panel shows another update, and rotary vents are added. The interior uses new seat fabrics door panels. In 1998, for the final year model, the car’s exterior received an update with new clear turn signal lights, multiple reflector headlights, and modified rear styling.

Third generation Tercels, dating from between 1987 and 1990, can sometimes be found on the road today. Models from this period contain 78-horsepower engines that rely on a sophisticated variable-venturi single-barrel carburetor to maximize gas mileage. While Tercels from this period offer little in the way of acceleration, they corner well and feature easy-to-operate manual transmissions. Hatchback versions offer reasonable interior space, even though legroom in the back seat remains limited.

Where third generation Tercels truly excel, however, is gas mileage. The 1987 Tercel gets 41 mpg highway when equipped with a five-speed manual. Toyota also offers three- and four-speed automatic transmissions for models from the same era, along with the Tercel 4WD—an elevated four-wheel drive wagon version.

During the third generation, Toyota produced a wide variety of different models of the Tercel. These include three-door and five-door Deluxe Liftback versions, three-door standard Liftback, a two-door Deluxe, a standard Coupe, an EZ Liftback, and two-wheel or four-wheel drive wagons.

Select a Toyota Tercel Year

1998 Toyota Tercel

Compact, Coupe, Sedan

The 1998 Toyota Tercel has a lot of things going for it; however, price is not one of them.

1997 Toyota Tercel

Compact, Coupe, Sedan

The 1997 Toyota Tercel is available as a coupe or sedan.

1996 Toyota Tercel

Compact, Sedan

The 1996 Toyota Tercel is one of the best built coupes available on the market.

1995 Toyota Tercel

Compact, Sedan

Like many of Toyota’s other products, the 1995 Tercel offers dependability and convenience.