1984 Toyota Tercel SR5 wagon 1.5L from North America


A comfortable, reliable friend - best car I'll ever own


Electronic ignition module failed at ~50,000 miles.

Three rear wheel bearings have failed (about every 60,000 miles).

Muffler rusts out every three years.

Electric radiator fan failed at ~25,000 miles.

Propeller shaft seal failed at ~200,000 miles.

Alternator failed at ~100,000, but still on the original clutch, water pump, and starter motor.

General Comments:

This car has been a faithful companion for 21 years. It has left me stranded only once when the electronic ignition module failed, but otherwise has hauled me and my bikes, canoes, camping gear, building materials, and groceries all over the place.

It was never fancy, quiet or fast, but it has been above all, reliable, comfortable, durable and economical. Except for some dirt, the interior still looks like new after 21 years in the sun.

The only negatives I can think of are that it is underpowered and a bit noisy.

My only regret is that it is reaching the end of its usable life and I can't buy another one to replace it. If Toyota still made this vehicle, I'd buy another in an instant. Can you imagine what this car would be like with modern aerodynamics, an up-to-date engine, a stainless steel exhaust, and modern rust-proofing? I've looked for a comparable vehicle, but haven't come up with anything that measures up. Any suggestions?

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 19th October, 2005

20th Oct 2005, 09:02

It is a shame that Toyota has a far more limited selection than it used to. In any case, I'd recommend the Matrix as a replacement for your old friend.

21st Oct 2005, 01:33

I recommend you go to tercel4wd.com and go to the forums. There are over 250 members that can help you with these little wonders.

There are factory manuals to download and people to swap parts with etc., to keep yours on the road longer.

Good luck and enjoy.


31st Jul 2007, 19:06

Yeah, I love this car. Unfortunately, the closest modern replacements are AWD all the time. Selectable 4WD is a much better option and that isn't available any more... shame on Toyota for opting out on that feature. This was the best car ever made in my opinion... extremely reliable!

25th Oct 2010, 20:47

I have one with 88,055 miles. Recently having muffler problems.

1984 Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD 1.5L I4 2-bbl Carb from North America


Great economy and beginners four wheel drive car


My sister ran the original engine out of oil.

The body sat for 2 years.

Bad alignment.

Carburetor needed rebuilding.

General Comments:

Well, I base performance not on acceleration or maximum speed, but on the capabilities of its total self.

The car is truly a masterpiece of Japanese engineering. Simple, yet durable. There is nothing fancy about this car. There is no traction control, there are no power windows, power locks... There is no fancy European leather, nor a fantastic turbo-charged engine. This is truly a simple machine.

This vehicle operates on a under-inspired, but over-engineered power plant. It is a 4 cylinder, 1.5L Overhead Cam engine pushing out around 62 horsepower.

The transmission is a 6-speed manual with a Shift-On-The-Fly 4wd transfer case. It is full-time FWD.

The suspension/drivetrain components consist of a solid live axle with 5-link setup in the rear supported by coil springs and shocks, and an independent forward suspension utilizing McPherson struts. Both systems include a stabilization (sway) bar.

While being a stationwagon, it handles remarkably well. The chief restriction is the tire size. It simply loosens right up. With proper coils, struts/shocks, bushings, and the likes, it has very little body roll.

Though being simple, the 4wd will move you through a variety of situations with relative ease.

Being a mid-aged teen, I can admit to this car being less than attractive. Oh well. A Jeep isn't as pretty as a McLaren F1, but it is more utilitarian. I am capable of fixing most problems in my driveway. In fact, I swapped a 1986 engine with the sames miles as the 1984 body in my front yard with a set of wrenches and a borrowed engine hoist.

For a first car, I would highly recommend this. It can teach a respect for older economy cars, it runs well (with the rebuilt carburetor I have it gets 26 to 34 mpg) with little fuel consumption. A very important factor for the younger crowd is the max speed of 82mph level and 89 mph on a 1% downgrade. 82 mph in a crash of carelessness is far less harmful than 150mph in an aluminum box of modern days.

This car is pre-aluminum. Only the cylinder head and transmission are aluminum. The body is stamped steel.

A classmate with one of these hit a Jeep that ran a light broadside at 50mph, and though he suffered a minor concussion from hitting the steering wheel and some bruising, he was fine. The Tercel had a bruised front end, whereas the Jeep had its side pushed in 8 inches. He was able to rebend the front and it ran fine again.

I personally lost control on an icy road and flew into a ditch at 30mph. I went down into the 4 foot deep rock-lined ditch and bounced out the other side. I suffered a slight gash in the front passenger door, but everything else remained perfectly fine.

Recently, I have been rallying it, and taking it off jumps and getting in excess of 3 feet of air. All on the original factory springs and struts/shocks.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 31st August, 2005