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1997 Toyota Paseo REVIEW logo 4/6/2017

Con: High price, low power

Pro: Good looks, great cornering ability, fuel efficient, Toyota reliability

What’s New: A convertible debuts. Coupes get dual-visor vanity mirrors, fresh door trim and rotary-heater controls.

Review: What do you get when you plunk down nearly $14,000 for Toyota's sporty-looking Paseo? You get tepid acceleration, poor visibility, rear drum brakes, and a two speaker AM/FM radio. On the plus side, the new Paseo comes with dual airbags, remote hatch and fuel door openers, locking split-fold rear seats, rear defroster, and a suspension that provides handling in the twisties equal to a Pontiac Firebird or Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Basically, what you get is a Tercel that corners well. Oh yes, there is also the issue of Toyota reliability. Is it worth $14,000? Not in our book. Let's option one out, shall we?

The Paseo comes with a minimum of standard equipment. Add some alloy wheels, air conditioning, antilock brakes, cruise control, and a cassette player, and the Paseo runs just above $16,000. We're thinking that this isn't much of a value. We're thinking speedy and good-looking Pontiac Sunfire GT with an option package for the same money, honey.

Styling was new last year, and while it is derivative, the Paseo certainly is attractive. The greenhouse is small, squashed between a high beltline and low roof. Windows have been enlarged and pillars have been thinned, but the inside of the Paseo is still rather claustrophobic.

The big news for 1997 is the addition of a convertible to the lineup. The four-layer insulated top includes a heated glass rear window and is manually operated. Price? A rather reasonable $17,000 and change, which makes this the least expensive convertible sold in the U.S. if you don't count the Geo Tracker and Suzuki Sidekick. We'd rather have the 4WD and balky top, thanks.

Other news for 1997 is limited to redesigned interior door panels that increase hip room, new rotary climate controls, and the addition of dual visor vanity mirrors in the coupe.

Don't get the impression that we don't appreciate the Paseo for what it is. This car is meant for stylish commuting by people who don't enjoy wasting time at auto repair facilities. We're simply suckers for a good value, and the Paseo coupe isn't one. On the other hand, we're also suckers for top-down driving, and the new convertible is the cheapest way to get some sun on your face in a brand new set of wheels.


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