The Toyota Carina E is a very under rated car.
I'm surprised more modified versions of these cars are not seen on the road as this car has real potential (not that I ever attempted to soup it up :).
My Carina had serious poke and I surprised quite a few boy racers in it! However this speed was only useful in a straight line as its suspension was set for comfort rather then sportiness. I took a few corners too fast when I first got the car and it started bouncing all over the place (nothing dangerous though :). Once I got used to the vibe of the car I was able to hurry it along nicely when required.
The car was extremely comfortable and tough and felt like it was built to last a life time. The inside trim was a bit cheesy and the gearbox never felt particularly solid. I was convinced it was going to break at some point, but it never did during my ownership. Apparently this is quite common in Carina E's.
It had loads of space and could easily carry 3 big passengers in comfort + luggage in the huge boot.
Fuel economy was not great, but this may have been due to way I drove it.
Reliability was second to none and it started 1st time in cold and hot weather.
The car was seen by many as being as "boring" but I secretly liked its practical and classic shape (saloon). However, at the time I was too young (22) to admit to appreciating these qualities and not wanting to be seen in an old mans car, I traded my Carina in for a Primera GT with bells and whistles. Over time, I came to regret the decision as somehow my new car felt soulless compared to the Carina.
Each to their own, and when I eventually get another I will hang onto it!