1990 Toyota Corona GL 2.0L 3S-FE carburetor petrol from Australia and New Zealand
A cheap, reliable and competent kitchen appliance... I mean automobile
Oil light stayed on for around 6 seconds when the car was started in the morning. There were no disconcerting noises from the engine during this time though, and I was told by a few knowledgeable souls that in these cars it's nothing to worry too much about.
The right front CV joint was knackered, and made loud clicking sounds whenever I made a sharp turn. Didn't fail its WoF on this, and being a daily beater, I just drove it as is without it getting any worse. When I traded this car, my supplying of a new CV joint was part of the deal!
What I assume was the factory Alpine stereo (I've seen similar ones in other Corona's) quit shortly after purchase, I fiddled around with it, but couldn't get it working again. Once again, just drove the car as is.
There might have been a few more foibles, but certainly nothing serious or unusual given the car's age.
These cars are perfect for use as a cheap daily driver; the only compromise you might not be able to live with is safety (these weren't highly regarded in that respect even when new).
Mine had the carbed 2 liter 3S-FE engine, which provided adequate power and torque, and though the 4 speed automatic transmission didn't always keep it in the power band, I found it fine for motorway cruising. If I bought another, I'd probably make sure it has EFI and/or a manual gearbox; there doesn't seem to be much difference in price between variants.
The driving position is alright, more suited to relaxed driving than anything spirited, and the seats are comfortable enough with a nice adjustable lumbar cushion. Like most Japanese cars I've driven, the foot rest (left of the brake pedal) was positioned for people with very short legs, so it was promptly removed and relocated to the boot. Interior room is good enough for front seat passengers, okay for those in the rear, and boot space is plentiful.
Visibility, like nearly all cars made prior to 1995 or thereabouts, is pretty much excellent. Even though my Corona was the 4 door hatchback with relatively thick C pillars, I could easily see out of it, and blind spots were not a problem.
What I found truly remarkable about this car was its near complete lack of engine noise at idle. You could kneel behind it with your ear a few centimeters from the exhaust and barely notice the engine was running! That's not to say this was the case while driving though, you still heard it meander through the gears pretty clearly.
Handling in the dry was less than satisfactory. The suspension felt rather soggy and tuned for comfort rather than performance, which was fine for what I used the car for. Handling in the wet, however, was ATROCIOUS! The rear end would slide at almost no provocation at all, I learned to take roundabouts at 10kph and really slowed down for even gentle curves when the roads were slippery. The brakes were very bad in these conditions too, locking up far too easily. Whether this was due to worn suspension components, inadequate shocks or cheap tires I have no idea, as I haven't driven any other Corona models to compare it with. Despite these characteristics, I learned to live with them after a while, but anyone unfamiliar with unforgiving cars might find it all a bit too scary.
Overall, this car served its purpose as cheap, reliable, basic transportation. Old Coronas are very practical and should give good service if treated well, and they're easy to fix if anything goes wrong, too. What I couldn't forgive about this car (and this says far more about my mindset as a human being than the car itself) was its blandness. I got so bored with the mind-numbing driving "experience" I opted to trade it for something more fun, less practical, and what turned out to be the biggest automotive mistake I've made so far... a Toyota MR2!
If you need a work hack and don't care about cars being exciting, interesting, a reflection of their owners personality or any of that other romanticist propaganda, the old Coronas will certainly serve you well.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 5th July, 2015