Derived from the Latin word “tercel”, the Toyota Tercel was a slightly smaller than the Corolla, and it was the very first front-wheel-drive sedan ever produced by Toyota in 1978. The Tercel’s architecture, layout, and frame were the basis for the next generation of Toyota models. Toyota’s goal was to introduce an entry-level vehicle, which offered an affordable and basic form of transportation. People loved the Tercel and it paved the way for the Toyota Echo in 2000.
1978 to 1982: First Generation
In 1978, the Toyota Tercel was introduced to the Japanese car market, and it was offered as a two-door, four-door coupe, or a three-door hatchback. The Toyota Tercel or Corolla Tercel entered the U.S market in the 1980’s, with hopes that buyers would patronize Toyota’s new model. With the Tercel’s new front-wheel-drive design, the engine was mounted vertically, and the sedan’s transmission was also located under the floor pan. The Tercel sold in the U.S was powered by a 1500 engine, offering 80PS at 5,600RPM.
1982 to 1986: Second Generation
The Corolla name was dropped and it was simply named as the Toyota Tercel in 1982. A four-door station wagon was added to the list of Tercel variants, which offered a four-wheel-drive system. Powered by a 1.5-liter 2A I4 AL20 engine, the Tercel was coupled with a 3-speed automatic transmission, or a 4-speed manual transmission system. The Tercel’s 4WD models can be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. A lot of Toyota’s existing pieces were used to build the Tercel 4WD, and one example is its coil-sprung rear axle which was taken from the Corolla. For a subcompact sedan, the Tercel was one of the most spacious sedans in its class to date.
1987 to 1990: Third Generation
1987 ushered a new engine for the Toyota Tercel; a new1.5-liter 3E I4 engine with 78-horsepower. Toyota’s engineers revised the Tercel’s rack-and-pinion steering and fitted a new fully-independent suspension system. The Tercel’s 4WD system was discontinued in favor of the front-wheel-drive system. The EFI engine was also adopted for the Tercel in the late 1980’s.
1991 to 1994: Fourth Generation
Two Toyota Tercel variants were offered in 1991; a four-door and a two-door sedan. North American buyers were treated with the Base Coupe, DX Coupe, DX Sedan, and LE Sedan models. A 1.5-liter 3E-E and a 1.5-liter 5E-FE 16-valve DOHC engines were introduced for the Toyota Tercel. Standard Tercel features introduced were the full wheel covers, folded rear seats, driver’s side airbas, anti-lock brakes, and color-keyed bumpers. Toyota also decided to use Haloalkane, a non-CFC refrigerant, for the Toyota Tercel’s air conditioning system.
1995 to 2000: Fifth Generation
With an all-new engine and redesigned exterior, the Toyota Tercel had better handling and a stronger body. The all-new 1.5-liter DOHC 5E-FE I4 engine increased the Tercel’s fuel efficiency by as much as 15-percent. A 1.5-liter 1N-T turbo-diesel I4 engine was also offered as a variant for the Tercel. Multi-reflector headlights, composite taillights, front and rear clear lens turn signals, and updated bumper moldings were some of the exterior changes made on the Tercel. Driver and passenger’s side airbags, side-impact protection, three-point seatbelts, and anti-lock brakes helped improve the Tercel’s overall safety features. In 1999, Toyota finally retired the Tercel and introduced the Echo to the mass market.