CC Capsule: 1991 Toyota Tercel DX – Sub-Corolla Syndrome


(first posted 9/23/2015)    While it may have earned the reputation as the poster child of boring, the Toyota Corolla has nonetheless earned somewhat of a cult following among non-enthusiast drivers as a rock-solid dependable and economical mode of transportation. While the same can largely be said for its larger sibling, the Camry, the Corolla’s smaller siblings, known by various names such as Tercel, Paseo, Echo, Yaris, and Prius C, have oddly never gained the same praise, sales figures, and following as their larger siblings.


Maybe it’s because of the always slim price difference between Toyota’s subcompact offering and the Corolla. When one can have a larger, better equipped, and more prestigious (if you can really call it that) Corolla for less than fifteen percent more, the value proposition presented by the lesser vehicle declines significantly.


Many, however, still did buy sub-Corolla subcompacts over the years, and although they were just as well-screwed together, cars like this 1991 Tercel are far rarer sights than similar-vintage Corollas today. Typical of most inexpensive cars, the average Tercel likely saw more abuse in its earlier years than its larger, costlier siblings. Cars such as these tended to be popular “first cars” for many, and were subject to all the stigmas that come along with that. Subcompacts like the Tercel were also commonly bought by commuters looking for economical, fuel-sipping transportation for high-mileage commutes. In short time Tercels also became popular pizza delivery cars.

1997 Toyota Tercel 2-Door CE Sedan.

Despite this, some Tercels were bought by caring owners looking for humble and reliable transportation. Growing up, my elderly neighbor, Mrs. Sheptyck, owned an sea green fifth-generation Tercel for many years before she finally gave up driving in the mid-2000s (and as far as I’m aware, she’s still vibrant at the age of 92). It was owners like Mrs. Sheptyck that allowed Tercels like this 1991 to go un-abused for many years, and thus remain in service a quarter-century later.

Related Reading:

1979-1982 Toyota Tercel

1984 Toyota Tercel wagon

1995 Toyota Tercel