Used 1997 Toyota Paseo Review

what's new

A convertible debuts. Coupes get dual-visor vanity mirrors, fresh door trim and rotary-heater controls.

vehicle overview

What do you get when you plunk down nearly $14,000 for Toyota's sporty-looking Paseo? You get tepid acceleration, poor visibility, rear drum brakes, and a two speaker AM/FM radio. On the plus side, the new Paseo comes with dual airbags, remote hatch and fuel door openers, locking split-fold rear seats, rear defroster, and a suspension that provides handling in the twisties equal to a Pontiac Firebird or Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Basically, what you get is a Tercel that corners well. Oh yes, there is also the issue of Toyota reliability. Is it worth $14,000? Not in our book. Let's option one out, shall we?

The Paseo comes with a minimum of standard equipment. Add some alloy wheels, air conditioning, antilock brakes, cruise control, and a cassette player, and the Paseo runs just above $16,000. We're thinking that this isn't much of a value. We're thinking speedy and good-looking Pontiac Sunfire GT with an option package for the same money, honey.

Styling was new last year, and while it is derivative, the Paseo certainly is attractive. The greenhouse is small, squashed between a high beltline and low roof. Windows have been enlarged and pillars have been thinned, but the inside of the Paseo is still rather claustrophobic.

The big news for 1997 is the addition of a convertible to the lineup. The four-layer insulated top includes a heated glass rear window and is manually operated. Price? A rather reasonable $17,000 and change, which makes this the least expensive convertible sold in the U.S. if you don't count the Geo Tracker and Suzuki Sidekick. We'd rather have the 4WD and balky top, thanks.

Other news for 1997 is limited to redesigned interior door panels that increase hip room, new rotary climate controls, and the addition of dual visor vanity mirrors in the coupe.

Don't get the impression that we don't appreciate the Paseo for what it is. This car is meant for stylish commuting by people who don't enjoy wasting time at auto repair facilities. We're simply suckers for a good value, and the Paseo coupe isn't one. On the other hand, we're also suckers for top-down driving, and the new convertible is the cheapest way to get some sun on your face in a brand new set of wheels.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.