1993 Toyota Tercel DX from North America

General Comments:

This is one great car. It is gas efficient, easy to park and pleasing to look at aesthetically (the 2 door model). Handling is excellent.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 7th July, 2003

1993 Toyota Tercel Base 1.5 from North America


Basic, dependable transportation, nothing more


Air conditioning didn't work when I got it; it just blew hot air.

Cigarette lighter never worked.

Emergency brake never worked (but I don't use them anyway).

Usual Toyota rust around the rear wheels.

Upholstery on driver's seat cracked.

The car let in a good deal of moisture. Things I left in the trunk got damp quickly. In wet weather, I had to drive with the windows slightly open, otherwise the car would fog up.

The lock on the gas cap was broken, so it never closed quite right. The lock on the driver's side door was broken too, so you could only open it from the inside.

General Comments:

My Tercel was very reliable. At 149,000 miles, it was mechanically in almost perfect shape, burned no oil, leaked nothing. It was incredibly cheap to run, too, it got about 40 miles to the gallon. This is especially amazing when you consider most of my drives were the kind of short drives around town that burn the most gas.

The shifter is kind of cool, a narrow stick with a ball. It is very easy to shift, I could do it with just two fingers easily.

The cabin is cramped, at least on the two-door (which is what I had). It's bigger than the Honda Civic hatchbacks I've seen, but it's noticeable cramped compared to a Camry, or my Mazda Protege. The seats aren't particularly comfortable, but I had seat covers in front, which makes them a lot better. The interior is all black, which turns into a furnace on hot days. I had to drive with my palms as I waited for the steering wheel to cool down.

I had the absolute basic model. Four speed, power nothing, not even a clock on the radio. It came with air bags and a tape player, which was something at least. It didn't even have power steering. On the road, that's no problem, since the car is so small and easy to maneuver, but it was hard starting up, backing out and parking, it took physical strength to steer. You usually needed both hands firmly on the wheel to turn, which can get in the way of, say, eating a cheeseburger. The cabin is noisy while you're driving.

It's easy to steer, it fits in any lane or parking space. But it's one of the slowest cars I've ever driven or been in. My Mazda Protege felt like a Camaro compared to the Tercel. I took it on an Interstate once; merging was terrifying, passing impossible. When I was going 65, I depressed the gas pedal as far as it would go and counted several seconds before the speedometer crept up to 70. When a strong gust of wind comes, it sometimes feels like the car is being pushed off the road; it takes muscle to keep it going straight on a windy day. This was especially harrowing on winding country roads in the Adirondacks. At least I had the manual; the automatic must be dangerously sluggish.

The seat belts were odd--a regular seat belt in the driver's seat, but separate lap and shoulder belts in the passenger seat. I'm told this was because there was no passenger side airbag, and the separate shoulder belt counted as a "passive restraint," like an airbag, under 1993 law.

Tercels are cheap to buy, cheap to run and absolutely dependable. I loved spending next to nothing on gas, and I'd probably still be driving mine if a half-blind old lady hadn't slammed into the car and totaled it. But they're not comfortable, fast or cool. If all you need is a car to drive around town, they're great. They'd be good for somebody in high school or college, or somebody who didn't have a lot of money and had to commute to work. But if you need anything more in a car, look elsewhere.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 21st June, 2003

8th Nov 2007, 21:36

My 44 year old mother weighing in at 100 pounds can drive my VW bug and Toyota Tercel with no power steering.

My car has 145,000 miles and it runs great. It is better value than any american car of that year.

21st May 2009, 07:56

I recently bought a 93 Tercel with 341,000 miles on it (the engine had been rebuilt with 78,000 currently on it). Normally I would not have considered any car with that many miles. The thing is, I couldn't find anything wrong with it. Before agreeing to the purchase I called the local Toyota dealership since I knew someone that worked there. I learned that three of their mechanics owned older model Tercels as their daily commuter cars. They seem to have an unbeatable dependability record. I have to admit that in the short time I've had it, it's been great. This is a car you really can't go wrong with if you're looking for simplicity and reliability.

CJ in Boise.

22nd Nov 2010, 13:51

I bought my Toyota Tercel new in 1993. It is a four speed manual, no power steering, but it does have air conditioning. I am still driving this car every day, and it just recently turned over 260,000 miles. I am hoping for 300,000 miles, and after that, 350,000.

This may be just an entry level car, but what it lacks in luxury, it definitely makes up in reliability. I hope when I do have to buy another car some day, it serves me as well as this one.