I drove one of these between 1995 and 2001 as a recent grad while suffering through student debt and an entry level salary. Not bad as basic transportation. Good visibility. Cavernous hatch. Easy to drive, and good traction in the snow. But...for all the hoo-hah about Toyota reliability this car did not deliver. It made my cantankerous old Triumph TR6 look reliable. Many faults manifested themselves over the years, but one thing that really stood out was the crappy "variable venturi" carb. Its designers should be made to walk the plank. And the acceleration was abysmal. In 2001 the starter started going bad for the second time, so I bought the first of two Mustang GTs and never looked back.
Found this one-owner gem on the internet with 29k miles. My 12th Toyota, 3rd Tercel. Toyota's place in America was won with a simple strategy: make their entry-level cars cheap to buy and keep, and buyers will keep coming back for upscale models. The Tercel exemplified that strategy. Comfortable seats; simple, serviceable drivetrain; straightforward interior (you never need an owner's manual to figure out how everything works). Smooth runner (tho noise levels high when compared with 20 today's cars)-- and with 76 bhp, you won't be winning any races. 3-spd auto revs high and hurts mileage (28-30 avg), but does the job; it gets you there cheaply, and with just a little bit of fun thrown in too!
Starts instantly (though it needs 10- sec warm up to run best); very good seat comfort; corners like a go-cart with 185/70-13 tires; tight turning radius; good visibility; previous exp. w/ Tercels bodes 300k miles with minimal TLC. HEY TOYOTA: why are the seats more comfortable in this than the Yaris?
Road- and engine-noise makes conversation tough above 55mph; oil filter in LOUSY place close to exhaust manifold; sheet metal THIN; OEM tires so small they belong on a stroller; poor headlights and VERY DISMAL brakes mean leaving lots of room to stop-- good luck if you need to slam on the brakes!!
My aunt gave me this car 3 years ago. this car is a great commuter car : I drive 140 highway miles round trip, it gets great gas mileage and I regularly go 70mph. Its a fun zippy little thing and its very responsive. No rust, no maintenance issues. It won't win any beauty contests, but it is so reliable and fun to drive.
I bought this car seriously neglected for $1K & 50K miles. I doubt they changed the oil ever as it was owned and operated by an elderly woman who actually died and the nephew sold it to me. That's not a good combination for a reliable vehicle, but after investing another $700 in overdue maintenance, it has given me nearly flawless reliability for two years and 15K miles/yr. The car has had an issue with its thermostat, and it can overheat without you knowing it, so be aware that near-red is actually RED. Also, there is a carburetor adjustment screw that we had to dig-into the carb metal to get to at the back (near firewall), but after that, it runs fantastic for simple transportation.
I LOVE the geeky seat belts. Very useful to keep me from forgetting or hating putting a seat belt on, and it serves as a great handle to pull the door closed after you're in too.
That main carburetor adjustment screw is key to having a car with actual (and safe) power to accelerate in traffic. I still have to merge by braking, but it takes a professional mechanic to figure out where to literally dig-into the carb metal to adjust that carb screw at the back of the carb.