I know what you’re thinking. 1999 Tercel? Didn’t the Echo come out that year? Well, yes and no.

(Full Disclosure: Toyota wanted so badly for me to drive this Tercel that they sold it it one careful owner, who traded it in to Vandermeer Toyota in Cobourg, where it was sold to my Grandma and Grandad, and after that it was given to my Aunt, whose husband let tear around a big empty parking lot on Sunday morning in it.)

In 1999, the Toyota Echo was released as an early celebration of youth and the new millenium. But only in the US. In Canada, the car dropped one airbag and two speakers, and became the 1999 Toyota Tercel CE, a car that history regards as the definition of meh. I have driven an Echo, and I thought that in typical Toyota fashion, the Echo would be a better car than the Tercel. Boy was I wrong.

The Tercel is not sprightly. 93 horsepower routed through a smooth but not direct 4-speed automatic to the front wheels. However, it is light, tight, and nimble. Handling limits are reached fairly easily on the Oppositelock Abandoned Mini-Mall Course, but overall body motions were controlled, and turn-in was enthusiastic. There wasn’t much tire squealing, more like tire roll. Body roll is controlled and significantly less than the body roll of the Echo. The steering has better feel than that of the Echo, and the suspension is firmer.

Advertisement

On the inside, you have everything you need, and nothing you don’t. The air conditioning is functional, the plastics are of great quality, and the seats are decent. My one complaint is that the cupholders seem to be an afterthought, as they have a tendency of violently throwing drink tumblers across the car during evasive spirited manoeuvres.

My bottom line is that you should buy this car if you are looking for a cheap runabout that is decently fun. This car was an eye-opener for me, and I shall try to look for one as my next vehicle, after I sell my Cutlass Supreme.