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Car reviews - Toyota - Paseo - coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Easy to drive, look at, sit in and operate economical, reliable, durable and maintain
Room for improvement
No sports car

23 Jul 2003

TOYOTA launched the original Paseo in 1991, establishing the two- door, four-passenger coupe as a nice car with no vices - but also with no excitement. It was discontinued in 1999.

The Paseo is the coupe version of the Tercel, a small front-wheel drive economy sedan that sits above the Starlet yet below the Corolla in some markets, though not in Australia.

In December, 1995, Toyota released the second generation Paseo to continue the tradition of a sporty yet undemanding and utterly reliable coupe that appeals to the image-conscious.

So the latest series Paseo is a little difficult to pick from the original, even though the sheet-metal is all new, not just a facelift.

The styling surgeon's scalpel produced a tauter, trimmer Paseo.

For a car with sporting pretensions, the Mk2 Paseo's drop in power may not seem like a move in the right direction.

The "Eco-Sport" 1.5-litre, twin cam, 16-valve engine is a heavily reworked version of the old unit yet produces less power than before - down from 74kW to 69kW - at 5400rpm compared to 6400rpm. But maximum torque has increased from 124Nm to 136Nm.

The end result is a car that is even easier to drive than before, which is just what Paseo buyers want, especially as the extra torque better suits the optional, popular automatic.

Although this car is never going to win the traffic light grand prix, around town the Paseo is quite responsive and quick enough for overtaking on the open road.

Paseo's fuel consumption is outstandingly thrifty - but then again it is based on the outstandingly thrifty econocar.

For those worried about blemishes, Toyota claims the second generation Paseo has a stronger body thanks to a rework of the basic structure that makes it safer in a collision. The pyrotechnic seatbelt pretensioners were a first for any Toyota sold here.

Airbags and anti-lock brakes are options.

The more rigid structure provides better all-round protection while also helping make the car quiet and more dynamic on the road.

The Paseo absorbs road bumps without excessive noise being transmitted into the cabin while the ride is soft and pliant.

The handling is secure and predictable but never sports-car exciting while the engine speed-sensitive steering is weighted nicely.

The rather dull cabin betrays the Paseo's humble origins, save for the smart white instrumentation.

There is adequate room for two only with an ideal driving position available via cushion-tilt and height-adjustable steering. The seats start to lose their support on long journeys.

Rear seat passengers must endure cramped quarters, often doubled- up with head bowed under the rear window, which gets very hot in the sun. The seat folds down in one piece to increase luggage space.

Do not expect generous equipment levels. The single-model Paseo comes standard with power windows and mirrors, central locking, a radio/cassette player and rear spoiler.

Accessories like a sunroof, CD-player and air-conditioning are extra-cost items while factory-fitted alloy wheels were not even listed as an option.

Being an imported Toyota, the Paseo benefits from A1 build quality and outstanding reliability.

Nevertheless, since many were purchased new by young, perhaps inexperienced drivers, a thorough body check for accident damage is necessary.

Insist on service records to avoid buying a neglected example and always make sure a mechanical inspection is carried out.

The Paseo is what the Celica was in the 1970s - a car that puts style over dynamic substance. But the small coupe has other virtues such as outstanding reliability, economy and quality.

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