1997 Toyota Carina GL Estate 1.8 from UK and Ireland


A grinning oddity with no taste for costing money or going fast


Despite the long list which follows, the car has been mostly reliable over a great number of miles. But...

Toyota recalled the car to fix a potential suspension problem. They gave it a lovely valet and returned it with a bunch of flowers, which was nice, but let down by the surly delivery driver!

At 138000 the ignition keys stopped working - I could not start the car, and it was £400 for a new immobiliser, which was a bit steep.

Being a dual-fuel car, the LPG side has had a few problems: when I bought it, the computer had corroded, having been mounted right by the battery! A new computer was £600, but the dealer I bought it from footed the bill.

Then at 140000 the radiator burst. I was driving along when suddenly there was a terrible rattle and a loss of power. Looking under the bonnet revealed an oily mess all over the engine, and I suspected a blown gasket. However, the Toyota anti-freeze is oily and it was just a rusted radiator. A new radiator (£160 from Toyota) and oil/filter change and everything seems fine again.

General Comments:

Great work-horse with plenty of room, but never in a hurry. This car is fine for getting about with minimum fuss, but its ugly (made worse by a frightening turquoise paint job) and won't go fast until you've spent a few seconds talking it into a bit of a turn of speed.

With the LPG conversion it is mindlessly cheap to run and being an estate, the extra tank is not noticeable.

The tow-hitch makes it even more useful for pulling jusat about anything.

Seats and interior are no match for my wife's Carlton, but nicer than the tinny Pug 104 I had before.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 4th July, 2002

1997 Toyota Carina CD 1.8 from UK and Ireland


Where is the fabled reliability?


Central locking locked us out at 17000 miles.

CD player failed twice within 6 months.

Heater airflow selector failed at 25,000 miles.

Throttle unit failed at 30,000 miles.

Power steering unit leaking at 25,000 miles.

Rear brake cylinders replaced at 42,000 miles.

General Comments:

This car is heavy on front tyres, despite careful driving I get less than 20,000 miles out of them.

There are a lot of rattles and squeaks.

The performance is sluggish.

Rear visibility is very poor.

A comfortable motorway cruiser.

Very high servicing costs.

The local dealer is appalling, their only interest is in emptying my wallet.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 25th January, 2002

20th Mar 2003, 07:04

In light of what you say, your carina does seem to be a bit problematic.

However, in relation to the parts that have been replaced, it is very likely that your main dealer replaces units that don't need replacing at all. My Toyota garage had a Toyota Corrola in for sale, and I noticed the throttle unit was changed at 60,000 miles. The mechanic told me that this was probably not required, which seems to have happened to you.

Your best bet is to find a better garage. The franchised ones do exploit their customers, for example an oil change costs £100 which is ridiculous as it costs £15 elsewhere.

However, to find a good garage mechanic is very difficult. You need to go to a few garages and ask questions about other garages reputations. Try to get a feel for that garage to find out if they are good. If the mechanic for example doesn't want to talk to you, then it's probably a poor garage. However, if the mechanic seems informative and knowledgeable, this could be a good start. My favorite questions are based on real problems I had with my car. I describe the symptoms and see if they can come up with a viable suggestion. Those who just say "oh, it could be one hundred things" usually means they haven't got a clue, but those who come up with two or three ideas usually are better mechanics.

Also, cheap doesn't mean good. Cheap means that they need to drop prices to stimulate demand since they are poorer mechanics. Also, look at the customers who do go there. If they have many customers, this is usually a good sign.

Finally, analyse how enthusiastic the mechanic is to see the car or fix it. The very best mechanics and garages will look at the car immediately, and even test drive it to see if they can find any faults. If they charge to test drive the car, don't pay and just go. This means they are profit maximisers, and only want money and not satisfaction.

So, it is clear that you need to do a lot of research, and once you have a good relationship with the mechanic it is worth keeping them.

9th May 2009, 15:52

Carina E's are the most popular taxi and minicab here in Ireland, and regularly do 350k miles without being rebuilt in any way. 500k is not that unusual. You either drive with no mechanical sympathy whatsoever, or your mechanic is tucking you up.

1997 Toyota Carina CDX 2.0 petrol from UK and Ireland


Brisk and economical with great reliability


Alarm locked up once.

Alarm was replaced after a general recall.

Rear hubs replaced after a general recall.

General Comments:

Rear vision very limited (lift-back model).

Clutch set far too low by design.

Gear changing very crunchy.

Poor gear ratios for towing.

Why rear drums with the largest engine and ABS on a late model car?

Great economy.

Best instrument lighting ever seen.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 14th March, 2001

8th Feb 2006, 09:48

You asked why the car has drumbrakes eventhough its the one with the largest engine and latest model, well because drumbrakes are despite being old fashion very reliable and Toyota is a bit conservative.