New Car/Review

Toyota Paseo Convertible

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:              1.5-liter dohc inline four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:   93 hp @5400 rpm/100 lb-ft @4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION:        Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:        29 mpg city,  35 mpg highway,  32.6 mpg test
WHEELBASE:           93.7 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:      163.6 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:      51.0 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:       65.4 in.
CURB WEIGHT:         2025 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:       11.9 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:    6.6 cu. ft.
TIRES:               185/60R14
INSTRUMENTS:         Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature,
                     digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:           Power windows, power door locks, air conditioner, 
                     AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and CD, anti-lock braking,
                     dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:       $20,315

The Toyota Paseo has always represented a good value for a subcompact sedan or coupe. Toyota read the market well with this car (as they usually do) and hit the center of the target.

Now Toyota has added a convertible to the mix, and once again it's a nice package. Powered by the same 1.5-liter DOHC engine that powers the coupe and sedan, the convertible has plenty of pep. Coupled to a five-speed transmission and driving the front wheels, there's enough power to get you in trouble with speed controls, but not enough to get really crazy.

I was particularly impressed with the handling of the Paseo convertible. We put a lot of miles on the car in the week we had it, over interstates and back-country winding roads. With judicious use of the five-speed, the Paseo was able to zip along and take corners with a lot of flair. There were times I almost felt like a race car driver. Almost.

The independent front suspension is by MacPherson struts, which is fairly conventional. The rear is a trailing torsion beam affair.

One trip with the Paseo will be etched in my mind for a long time. I had to cover a basketball game, and it was at a school that was about 50 miles away. due north. When I left the house it was clear, but I encountered first rain, then light wet snow, then fairly heavy wet snow before I reached the school.

By the time the game was over, there was an inch or two of snow on the ground. I had to get back to the paper to write my story and that ugly word "Deadline" was looming over me.

While most of the other drivers on the road were either having trouble negotiating the snow-covered roads (or were afraid), I had no problems with the Paseo. I was able to travel most roads at 50 mph or so where there was slush on the road, and actually faster when I was in the snow-covered portions. The only delays were caused when I cautiously passed other cars that were throwing up slush. Also, I didn't want to hit a hidden ice patch and spin around into the car I had just passed. By the time I reached the paper the weather was back to rain and when I got home, it was dry. The joys of winter driving.

Since this was winter, I didn't drive with the top down. But we did drop the top and found it an easy affair. It is a manual affair, and all you have to do is release two clips at the windshield pillars and pull it back. It can probably be done from inside the car, but you get more leverage working from outside. When the top is down it stows neatly into a compartment behind the rear seat, with a tonneau cover to complete the job.

Because it's a convertible, the trunk is rather small. But we were able to put all the grocery bags we needed back there.

My main complaint with the Paseo was that the engine was noisy. It made the Saturn seem like a Cadillac. In fact, we turned down a trip to the children's houses in Virginia because I couldn't stand the thought of four or five hours behind the wheel listening to that engine drone on.

The seat upholstery was cloth and in a pattern that was definitely designed to appeal to younger drivers. My wife thought it was too garish; I could stand it because I don't look at the seats when I'm driving. And they don't show the dirt that much.

All in all, the Paseo convertible is a nice package. The base Paseo coupe is a good car and one would expect the convertible to be as good a package. It is, except for a noisy engine.

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