1997 Toyota Levin BZ-R 1.6 4AGE Blacktop 20v from Australia and New Zealand
- Minor scrapes on the front bumper.
- Bottom lip of front bumper came off and was poorly reattached (both of these from the previous owner).
- Gearbox crunches into 4th if going higher than 45kph. Other gears are becoming more rough too.
- Superstrut suspension is knocking and squeaking; will need replacing soon.
- Wheel alignment is off. Possibly due to superstrut issues.
- Brakes aren't very powerful, most likely need new pads or something, not a fault of the car.
- Passenger side electric window switch has come loose (:O!)
I have only had this car for under a year, so I can't make any comments on long term reliability etc. But I can absolutely say that it is AMAZING! Absolutely fantastic car for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, it looks great. Unique looking coupe, looks sporty, sleek and beautiful, especially with the stock BZR spoiler, side skirts and front lip. Mine is in a real nice metallic black (factory), and it just looks so good!
While I'm talking about looks, the interior is also really nice. Some people seem to think that it is too plain, but I think simple interiors are nicer. Being the top spec BZ-R, it has a Recaro interior, which includes nice "semi" bucket seats with a cool red print on them (which also features on the rear seats and on doors), a wicked looking steering wheel, and a racey orange and yellow dash. The interior is typical of Toyota in the 90's; nice and simple, looks good as it's not overly complicated and distracting like in most modern cars. It seems quite thin, almost just has what is needed with no extra padding, which makes it look a bit sporty and probably contributes to the low curb weight. Everything is well placed and easy to use.
The interior is also fairly well equipped. Air con is fully functional and icy! Works like a charm, and the small cabin space probably helps with keeping the temperature comfortable. Also has an "ECO" air con setting. I'm not entirely sure what the difference is, but I am guessing it uses less power and keeps the fuel consumption from going up so much, it still works great!
There is a cup holder, which is a good size, but can be slightly annoying, as if there is anything in it, you will likely find your hand clashing with it when you shift to 3rd or 5th. Very minor issue.
It has both electric windows. The stock speakers seemed decent to me, but I replaced them with aftermarket ones and a head unit, as I am a big fan of my music :) But they are certainly passable.
Now the most important part - The performance. This car is an absolute blast to drive. Whether cruising around or boosting frantically, it never fails to put a smile on my face.
The engine is Toyota's famous 4AGE Blacktop, a 1.6L power plant which is quoted at putting out around 165hp, although that is considered optimistic. However it is safely over 150hp (mine more so as it has a few mods: extractors and muffler, pod filter, cold air intake) and this combined with its low weight of about 1080kg, low ride height and aerodynamic design mean the BZR can seriously move. Normal driving would have you sitting at just under 2000rpm at the bottom of your gear. There is not much power until 3000rpm, where you can usually hold your speed or even accelerate up most hills. But the serious performance comes at around 5000-5500rpm, where the engine note changes slightly with the VVT and you shoot off into the distance :P There is no kick as in VTECs, the power curve is more consistent, but it revs extremely hard all the way to the redline if unlimited, which is 9000rpm. (Mine is limited to 8200rpm, which is plenty). So basically it revs long and hard! The acceleration is great, and you can easily get the wheels spinning into 2nd gear.
Speaking of gears, the gearbox is really nice. It's a 6 speed, which is great fun and means you can keep the revs low when cruising around, or alternatively stay in the power curve more easily when gunning it. The gearbox is nice and tight, with a reasonably short throw distance. The gears engage nice and fast, a huge contrast to my clunky old Vectra. However 4th gear crunches when going at any speed over around 45kph, and sometimes other gears do also; this has been getting more frequent as time goes on. I have heard that the 6 speed is weak, and the synchros may be going, which is unfortunate. But even then the gears are great, I make full use of the 6 speed gearbox and enjoy every second!
You can just get the car into 6th gear at 60kph, which helps to keep the gas price down! However there is minimum power at that speed, and the car revs high quite easily (3000rpm in 6th at 100kph), so some people might prefer a wider gearbox.
The throttle response is also fantastic, it is instantaneous. Brakes are fine, but mine are not very powerful; in a fresh BZR they are apparently really good. Steering is nice and light except at very low speeds (under 10kph), and the wheel looks and feels so good :) The handling is absolutely superb, the superstrut suspension (even when it's creaking around like mine) glues you to the road, and allows high speed cornering with ease. The ride is very stiff, which means great handling, but is a bit uncomfortable for older / less thrill craving people. Also the ride height is quite low, you will may have to get used to going very slowly over speed bumps and parking away from higher curbs.
The engine sound is great, although mine is unique because of the mods and muffler. Sounds incredible, but even stock they have a nice aggressive tone at higher rpm. Ride noise is quite loud, Toyota didn't put much sound deadening in to keep the weight down. If you are buying this car for comfort and quiet, you are kinda missing the point :)
Fuel consumption is good to great in my opinion. Driving lightly in not the most economical conditions (lots of short trips, some country side driving) I manage to consistently get over 500km from the 40 (or 45?) litre tank. Record has been 540km, and even that is under the same conditions and with the occasional sprint (Can't resist going 1st - 2nd - 3rd - 4th!) If you are being particularly heavy footed you might get it down to 450km or lower however. For the record I run it on 95 unleaded. Didn't notice a difference between 95 and 98, so I usually get 95, unless there is only 91 and 98, in which case I get 98.
I think I have covered everything. In conclusion, this car is great. A pleasure to drive, highly recommended to all people who love driving and high performance at a relatively low cost. Of course it isn't a supercar by any means, but it does its job of being an economical and reliable car with performance when you need it extremely well. It's not gonna beat any Skylines or Veyrons :P But it will rival similar cars like Civics, Pulsars, Lancers, Integras (Type R will definitely have the edge though). However in my opinion it absolutely trumps all competition in looks! Fantastic car, highly recommended, whether cruising or boosting it is fun and cheap to run! Just watch out as the high performance superstrut suspension and 6 speed gearbox may need replacing or fixing more often than you would hope.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 9th October, 2011