New Car/Review

1997 TOYOTA PASEO CONVERTIBLE

by Matt/Bob Hagin

toyota
SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 16,728
     Price As Tested                                    $ 19,600
     Engine Type                             1.5 Liter I4 w/EFI*
     Engine Size                                91.3 cid/1497 cc
     Horsepower                                    93 @ 5400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               100 @ 4400 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   93.7"/65.4"/163.6"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2275 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  11.9 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      185/60R14
     Brakes (F/R)                           Front disc/rear drum
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type            Four-passenger/two-door convertible
     Domestic Content                                 10 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            29/35/30          
     0-60 MPH                                         10 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 78 mph
     Top-speed                                           105 mph
     * Electronic fuel injection

(Springtime is convertible time and this week the Hagin father-and-son team get to cruise in the cute, non-threatening Toyota Paseo drop-top. Father Bob is reminded of earlier times but Matt doesn't think an open car fits into his lifestyle anymore.)

BOB - This little Toyota convertible is as cute as a puppy, Matt, and just about as friendly. The first thing I did when it was my turn behind the wheel was to flip back the top, and while it isn't power- operated, it sure wasn't much trouble to unsnap it and push it back with one hand. Fortunately, the windshield has a pretty steep rake to it, so the wind didn't beat me to death when I drove around town in it.

MATT - I hate to say it, Dad, but I think I'm past all that. The minuscule back seat of this Paseo is too small for anyone except a couple of my pre-teen nieces or nephews, and it's too small for us to lash in the baby's seat. The trunk is just about the right size for a diaper bag - but not much else. But the interior is pretty well thought out and it has more pockets and cubby holes than a rabbit warren. The front bucket seats are very well put together and a definite upgrade from the utilitarian Tercel two-door sedan that is the platform basis for the Paseo. But it uses the same engine and transmission combination as the Tercel and at only 93 horses, it's a bit underpowered. If the 1.5 liter engine was just a bit bigger, maybe bored out to 1800 c.c's, and developed another 10 horses, it would be just about right.

BOB - You've got to remember that it isn't a sports car just because you can drop the top, Matt. Underneath the swoopy body style and the fancy 14-inch alloy wheels there lies the soul of a small around-town sedan. Both the hard-top and convertible Paseos are attractive to buyers who go for more styling than the average econobox provides, but want small-car urban maneuverability, good fuel economy and Toyota reliability. And even though it's got conventional MacPherson struts up front and a beam axle in back, it's nimble enough on winding roads to be fun to toss through the turns, without leaning over on the door handles. The Toyota engineers have built in just enough understeer so that an overanxious pubescent driver won't get into more trouble than he or she can easily get out of. The engine is indeed small, but it's high-tech enough to offer twin-cams and four valves per cylinder. And I'm really thankful that we got one with the slick five-speed manual transmission. I think it would be pretty anti-climactic to chauffeur this sassy red rag-top around with a mush-o-matic.

MATT - The Paseo convertible starts life as a partially-assembled coupe which has had some additional body bracing installed. It's then shipped to American Sunroof Corporation in Southern California, where craftsmen chop off the lid, install the convertible top, then do the rest of the trim-out. The coupe itself starts out life a bit on the heavy side for such a small car and the convertible top bracing and hardware adds another 150 pounds. This brings it up to a 2275 pound curb weight. And you're right about it not being a sports car, Dad. The 0-to- 60 time is 10 seconds flat and the top speed is listed at 105 MPH, but it would take a little time to get there. Our car came with cruise control and according to the Toyota brochure we got with it, a buyer can get either an anti-skid brake system or cruise control, but not both.

BOB - Of the two I think I'd go for the safety of the ABS over the convenience of the cruise control since this car isn't the kind that a customer would buy to make regular long-distance highway runs between major metropolitan areas. At best, its practicality would be found in commuting and driving around town and in these situations, a driver needs all the safety advantages possible. Even though this Paseo convertible is pretty much a fair-weather friend, driving it for a week was great. It took me back 50 years to the times when I'd slide up to Lake Temescal in the Oakland hills in my first car. It was a convertible, too, and it seems like it was only yesterday.

MATT - As I keep telling you, Dad, back then all those high-wheel horseless carriages were convertibles.

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