1992 Toyota Tercel DX 1.5L straight 4 3E-FE from North America
One of the best car you can get for 1000$, if you like small cars
So far, of the 12000 km (7000 miles) I have done with the car, I haven't been let down once, except the heater blower, which has started to make funny noises.
The most significant problem is oil consumption, as with any old Japanese car, but at 1L per 1000km (a quart per 600 miles), it's still reasonable. I just make sure to check the level after a fuel fill-up.
There is a smell of exhaust gas when the car is sitting idle for a certain period, but turning up the blower speed somewhat attenuates the problem.
I did a tune-up on it when I got it (brake check, oil change, coolant change, etc.), and I changed the control arms, which were the only parts of the car that had started to rust (the car had been rust-proofed almost every year).
All in all, it cost me about 1100 CDN $
It's not as slow as you would expect. Of course, that only applies to the manual version. It pulls very decently until 4th gear, which is at about 95kph or 60mph. Rev it hard enough and you will merge on the highway without problems. Another plus is that power delivery is instantaneous, unlike on big American cars where you have to wait for the engine to overcome its own inertia, or on Honda Civics where the engine has to be spinning at at least 5k RPM to deliver any torque. The top speed is 170kph or 105 mph, which is faster than many modern-day trucks, but you don't really need that feature on a daily basis. Don't expect it however to be a race car, and keep in mind that performance will vary a great deal according to the engine's condition.
The handling is also quite good, and even if there isn't tons of grip because of the skinny tires, the steering is precise and shows none of the "slack in the middle" effect that most American cars from that period suffer from. The car's reactions are predictable (understeer). I believe it is very fun to drive , if small cars are your thing. The shifter is precise, and because the car only weighs about 900Kg (2000lbs), reactions are quick, and it can squeeze through small gaps with ease.
I find the car rather comfortable, except for the fact that it is noisy at highway speeds. There is tire roar and engine noise, the latter of which is not helped by the fact that 4th gear has almost the same ratio as 5th, making it nearly useless. Other than that, there is plenty of headroom (I am 6 feet tall), and the seats are intended to give very good lateral support, which works well if you are slim, but might make them completely uncomfortable if you are not. Same thing for the back seats. Entrance is easy, but I have the two-door version, which has "large" doors. The ride is firm, but won't rattle your spine.
The Canadian Winter:
The car never refused to start, but I often use the block heater. The vehicle works well in the snow, but four shining-new snow tires came with it, which has a huge influence. The heater is quite powerful, but not quick to warm up. Humidity may sometimes be a problem.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 6th March, 2011