The Car Connection Toyota Tercel Overview
The Toyota Tercel subcompact was sold from 1980 through 1997, with a two-door coupe model remaining on sale in 1998. It was the first front-wheel-drive model Toyota sold in the U.S., starting in 1980, and was replaced in 2000 by the Echo (sold in other markets as the Yaris).
The fifth and final generation of Tercel sold from 1995 through 1998. The last Tercel was offered as a two-door or four-door sedan through 1997, but only as a Coupe for 1998. It was powered by a 93-horsepower 1.5-liter engine and a five-speed manual gearbox, with a three-speed automatic transmission as an option. Front driver and passenger airbags were standard, with anti-lock brakes as an option. Power windows and locks were also optional. For 1997 and 1997, the previous base and DX trim levels were replaced by a single CE trim.
The fourth-generation 1991-1994 Tercel was offered only as a two-door or four-door sedan, with the hatchbacks of earlier generations gone from the lineup. The 1.5-liter engine continued, rated at 94 hp, and again powering the front wheels through a four- or five-speed manual gearbox or a three-speed automatic transmission. For 1993, the Tercel added a driver's side airbag as standard equipment--its first ever--and optional anti-lock brakes, as well as a mild styling upgrade comprising new front and rear fascias. Trim levels on the Coupe were base and DX, while the Sedan model was offered in DX or high-level LE trim that included color-keyed bumpers, a folding rear seta, and full wheel covers.
The third-generation Tercel from 1987 through 1990 was slightly larger and used a transverse four-cylinder engine rather than the lengthwise positioning of the powertrain in its predecessors. The previous-generation wagon carried on for 1987. Again three- and five-door hatchbacks were offered, along with a two-door sedan. For 1987, an economy model called the Tercel EZ was added, with a four-speed manual gearbox, plain vinyl upholstery, and fewer standard features--even deleting the passenger's sun visor to lower the starting price. Power from the 1.5-liter engine had increased to 78 hp by this point.
The second-generation Tercel, sold from 1983 through 1986, used more angular styling on the same underpinnings as the earlier model, and was sold only in three-door and five-door hatchback models. The sole engine was a 63-hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder, again with four- or five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmissions. One entirely new model, however, was a wagon mode, which could be ordered with four-wheel drive to become the Tercel 4WD--the only Tercel to offer that option. The 4WD model only could be equipped with an optional six-speed manual gearbox with an extra-low first gear for off-road or "creeper" use, which was accessible only in 4WD mode.
The first-generation 1980 model, launched as the Corolla Tercel, was offered in two-door coupe and four-door sedan models, as well as a three-door hatchback with a distinctive glass tailgate. It was powered by a 60-hp 1.5-liter engine driving the front wheels through four- or five-speed manual gearboxes or an optional three-speed automatic transmission. For 1981, it was slightly facelifted, with orange turn signals wrapping from the headlights around the front corners of the fender. This model was sold through 1982.