A late-evening stroll through Salzburg, Austria was not exactly where I expected seeing an interesting Toyota Corolla (if that’s such a thing), but indeed the hills were alive with the sights of lesser-seen Corollas that night.
It’s not that I haven’t seen a few examples of this E90 generation Corolla 5-door liftback before over the years, but those technically weren’t Toyota Corollas. You see, while there were no less than seven different bodystyles for the E90 generation, most offering multiple minor variations and nameplates in the Japanese market, Toyota never sold the 5-door liftback Corolla in the United States.
Yet interestingly enough, that body was rebadged and slightly restyled for the U.S. market and sold as the Geo Prizm, a product of NUMMI, a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota, succeeding the fifth generation Chevrolet Nova which was the first product of this partnership.
Available with a few upgrades not made available to U.S.-spec Corollas with more than 2-doors, such as alloy wheels, body-colored bumpers, and the 130 horsepower 4A-GE engine, the Prizm 5-door liftback and its Toyota relatives were distinguished primarily by very futuristic-looking wraparound rear window with thick glass C-pillars.
I’ll be honest when I say that I had completely forgotten this car until coming across this example, a Corolla that I’d dare call interesting.
Photographed: Makartplatz, Salzburg, Austria – November 2018
Nice find. Send that neglected little hatch my way. I’ve always loved the Geo Prizm hatch and the red one shown is one of my twisted fantasy cars. Make mine a 5 speed. Loved my 90 sedan.
Far better looking than it’s successor, but perhaps they thought it looked a little too much like a Honda?
The rear 3/4 publicity photo looks quite similar to a Rover 414/16 of the same era. Of course, Bernard, that’s a Honda also…
True, but Honda and Rover were working together; Toyota weren’t part of the programme!
There was a fabulous time when the Geo/Chevrolet Prizm (and their older sibling, the NUMMI Nova) were the darlings of smart used-car shoppers.
Average folks didn’t know they were Toyotas underneath, so they depreciated like Chevys, while used Corollas sold for top dollar.
Yep, a used CorNova was the deal of the century back in the day. It was the slant-six Valiant of its time and one of the first cars I can recall that would rack up a couple hundred thousand miles with a minimum of effort, and for absolutely the least amount of expenditure. I knew a guy who did exactly that and it was retired only when he couldn’t get the parts to replace major brake/suspension components that had finally worn out.
Hey, the Prizm was a great new-car value as well, at least in its final generation (1998-2002). We bought our ’99 5-speed new for very little money, and it’s still running fine (sold it to a friend 8 years ago).
The Geo Prizm based on the AE91 was the JDM Toyota Sprinter, and in Japan this was called the Sprinter Cielo. In this market it carried a higher spec, and therefore a higher price, than the stock AE91 Corolla sedan which is still a very common sight on our roads. There are very few of these liftbacks around now; can’t think of the last day I saw one. Its contemporaries would have been the original Honda Integra and the Mazda 323 Astina, but it didn’t have the ‘sporty’ edge those cars did.
My 90 sedan was a gift from my GF, now wife back in 2001. We named her Queen Geo. Typical metallic beige paint with a matching cloth interior that wore like iron. The most comfortable seats of any car since or before. A little slow on the highway and the heat never worked well. Temp gauge never moved and I couldn’t find the engine thermostat no matter how hard I tried. Ice cold A/C and cheap as all get out to fix. Traded her in at 134k on a new (2002) GA GT. Sad day.
The rear hatch/hidden pillar theme was an echo of what was established with the ST162 Celica.
Multitude examples of these were sold in Australia and rightly so. I have reservations about the sporty SX version with the 4AGE engine as the handling was rubbish for a hottish hatch and could not deal with what the engine could dish out.
I had the very similar 5 door hatch on SX trim. Felt like a vastly overpowered supermarket trolley to drive in the corners.
I knew a guy who wanted to buy an SX, but it would have been something like over half a year’s wait to get the car, so he settled for the next level down CS-X which only had the 4A-FE and 102 hp Still wasn’t a bad car but very small by today’s standards. Rear headroom in particular wasn’t great.
I had a E90 XL hatch apparently they had wider rims than other grades and lower profile tyres, I’m not sure though I bought it flick but hurl it into a tight corner much too fast and it stuck to the road like glue 1300cc with a five speed so fast it wasnt
A rapidly disappearing breed now these E90 Corollas they dropped in value into dunga status years ago but any new parts are still Toyota prices and cars get scrapped due to minor things.
This is my favorite E90 Corolla variant along with the funky All-Trac wagon that was my first car. I believe this was called the Corolla Seca.
Count me as a fan of the “Cielo” as well when it was new and forbidden fruit. The Nummi ones seemed a bit decontented and thus less desirable to the younger me. I think the rear glass treatment is what I really liked, akin to the Celica liftback of the day.
Back in the late-90s I had a ’90 All-Trac wagon for a few years. Excellent car, roomy and handled well in all weather. The main problem with it was the gearing. The MT cars had a really low final drive ratio such that 70mph it was turning 4500 rpm or some such. The auto’s had higher gearing.
I’ve read that first gen manual Xb’s have the same problem and owners are trying to figure out how to get the taller final drive from the AT into their MT gearboxes.