LOOKS . Cuddly
COMFORT . adequate
QUALITY . Durable
STEREO . Swell
HEADS TURNED . Pedestrians
EMOTION . Pragmatism
CACHET . Fun Scoot


Sticker . $14,490
Power . 100 horsepower
0 to 60 . 10 to 11 sec.
Test Mileage . 32.6 mpg
Seating . 5
Trunk . 9.3 cu. ft.
Parking . Nice & Easy


Yeah, I know what a drag it is to read about all these hot cars, you're never going to drive, let alone own. So now read about one that is really in reach - the new Toyota Tercel. With base models clicking out the door at under $10K, almost any working stiff can swing a Tercel. So dump that clunker and come into the future, where basic transportation comes with 93 horsepower and delivers almost 40 miles per gallon.

Tercel style is crisp and unsquat; clean lines which bulge where the people are; honest design. The tail has more than a passing resemblance to a certain upscale German marquee and the quick impression is very reassuring. Buy cheap, add flashy mags and a good set of tires for a fashion upgrade.

A trim package that slips through rush hour and into the tiniest urban last space on the block at midnight. Terrific in traffic, willing on the open road, the Tercel's five speed and snappy power unit wail along a fast clip. A nimble, refreshing cross-town champ. Brakes are tight and chassis likes a nice fling or two. Skinny tires will have to go soon, though, as grip is a little shy.

The interior is simple and well done, if somewhat plain in the trim department. Back seats and trunk are small but serviceable, so I'd leave the friends at home for that long weekend. On board 4-speaker stereo sang a full soprano and fit in neatly.

When it comes to the bottom line, one might pause a moment. While the base Tercel is very affordable, option costs add up fast. Our 2 door DX totaled over $14K with a 5- speed, ABS, air and the good stereo. The price is somewhat higher than a better-equipped Neon, to cite one alternative. Over the long haul, Toyota reliability and resale will make up for most of the extra you paid to get into a Tercel. A simple, fun car that will run forever.