Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,600*


1991 Toyota Tercel 4-door sedan


1993 Toyota Tercel 4-door sedan


1993 Toyota Tercel 2-door coupe


1993 Toyota Tercel interior


1994 Toyota Tercel 2-door coupe

Pros:
  • Antilock brakes (optional)
  • Fuel economy
  • Maneuverability
Cons:
  • Engine noise
  • Rear-seat room
  • Road noise
  • Wind noise

Unfortunately for the Tercel, Toyota dictated that it be the low-price leader in the automaker’s very full model lineup, and it shows. The car is simply outclassed by the plusher, more substantial subcompacts against which it must compete.

Overview

Toyota’s smallest front-drive subcompact was redesigned for ’91, and returned slightly roomier and more powerful than the car it replaced. A 2-door notchback was offered, but a 4-door sedan took the place of the previous year’s 2-door hatchback. Wheelbase remained at 93.7 inches, but the 161.8-inch overall length fell between the prior year’s 2-door, which was 4.5 inches longer, and the hatchback, which was five inches shorter. Two-door models came in base and Deluxe trim; the 4-door was offered in Deluxe (DX) and LE form. All used an updated version of the previous 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. A 4-speed manual was the only transmission offered on the base model; the others had a 5-speed manual standard and a 3-speed automatic optional.

Yearly Updates

1992 Tercel
Toyota’s least-expensive model returns unchanged.
1993 Tercel
Tercel jumped the gun on the ’93 model year by providing late ’92 models with standard driver-side airbags and optional antilock brakes. The new airbag brings height-adjustable front shoulder-belt anchors to all 4-doors and a 3-point manual driver’s harness to all models. The front passengers still get a manual lap belt and separate “automatic” shoulder belt. Also new for ’93 are a redesigned grille, 4-spoke steering wheel, and headlamps-on warning buzzer.
1994 Tercel
Only minor changes are made to the ’94 Tercel models.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

All-new Toyota Tercels start out with an updated version of the previous 1.5-liter 4-cylinder Tercel engine. For 1990, Tercel exchanges last year’s single-barrel carburetor for multipoint fuel injection, resulting in a new output of 82 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 90 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. A 4-speed manual is the only transmission offered on the base model; the others have a 5-speed manual standard and a 3-speed automatic optional.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.5/89
Engine HP 82
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 90
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
33/37
29/35
26/29

26.3

Road Test

The tiny engine produces adequate acceleration, but is noisy and feels stressed at freeway speeds. Also, the automatic transmissions are rather slow to downshift when asked to deliver extra passing power. Good fuel economy is a strong point, however. We averaged 26.3 mpg with a DX/automatic model.

Once underway, we noticed the suspension allows lots of bouncing on wavy roads and the ride becomes choppy on rough surfaces. In addition, there is an above-average amount of annoying road noise. Maneuverability is small-car easy, but the car’s handling prowess is hampered by the Tercel’s tiny wheels and tires (155/80SR13s), which run out of grip early when asked to corner.

Adults have ample room in front, but the rear seat is tight for anyone over 5-foot-10. On the plus side, the dashboard is simple, functional, and conveniently laid out.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 Toyota Tercel

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 3
30%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 3
30%
Steering/Handling - 3
30%
Quietness - 3
30%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 3
30%
Room/Comfort Front - 3
30%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 34

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
93.7 161.8 64.8 53.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
10.7 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.7 36.7 41.2 31.9
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
93.7 161.9 64.8 53.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
10.7 11.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.7 36.1 41.2 31.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 Tercel 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 117
Injury 157
Theft 50

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: If the air conditioner does not cool, the compressor runs intermittently, or the A/C light flashes, the wiring harness must be rerouted and protected with a sleeve. (1991-94)
Oil consumption
Description: Oil consumption due to worn valve-stem seals may be eliminated by installing improved seals. (1991)
Windshield washer
Description: New windshield-washer buttons were made available for servicing problems with the system. (1991-92)

Recall History

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.