Toyota Tercel

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Toyota Tercel
Manufacturer Toyota
Also called Corolla Tercel
Corolla II
Production Aug 1978[1]–2000
Assembly Toyota City, Japan
Successor Toyota Platz/Echo
Class Subcompact

The Tercel is a subcompact manufactured from 1978 to 2000 across five generations, in five body configurations — sized between the Corolla and the Starlet. Manufactured at the Takaoka Plant in Toyota City, Japan, and sharing its platform with the Cynos (aka Paseo) and the Starlet, the Tercel was marketed variously as the Corolla II — sold at Toyota Japanese dealerships called Toyota Corolla Store locations, and was replaced by the Toyota Platz in 2000. It was also known as the (Japanese: Toyota Corsa) and sold at Toyopet Store locations.

Tercel was the first front-wheel-drive vehicle ever produced by Toyota, establishing a layout and frame that was later used in popular Toyota models. For example, Toyota Corolla E80's frame is almost similar to AL20 Tercel's frame. Also, Toyota designed a new A engine for Tercel, attempting to achieve good fuel economy, and performance as well as low emissions at the same time. Choice of body styles increased as well, with the addition of a four-door sedan.

The name "Tercel" derives from the Latin word for "one third" as the Tercel was slightly smaller than the Corolla — much the way "tiercel" refers to a male falcon, which is one-third smaller than its female counterpart.


First generation (1978–1982)

First generation
Tercel 3-Door (US)
Also called Toyota Corsa
Production Aug 1978[1]–Apr 1982[2]
Body style 2-door coupé
3-door hatchback
4-door sedan
Layout FF layout
Engine 1.3 L 2A I4 (AL11)
1.5 L 1A I4 (AL10)
1.5 L 3A I4 (AL12)
Transmission 3-speed automatic
4-speed manual
5-speed manual

The Tercel was introduced in Japan in August 1978,[1] Europe in January 1979[2] and the United States in 1980.[3] It was originally sold as either a two- or four-door coupé, or as a three-door hatchback. A version marketed in parallel through a separate distribution network in Japan was called the Toyota Corsa.[4] In the United States it was named as the Corolla Tercel, hoping that the Corolla's reputation — long known for quality and durability — would bring buyers to the new model. Models sold in the US were powered by a 1,452 cc SOHC four-cylinder engine producing 60 hp (45 kW). Transmission choices were either a four- or five-speed manual, or a three-speed automatic available with the 1.5 engine from August 1979 on.[5]

In the Japanese market, the 1500 engine developed 80 PS (59 kW) at 5,600 rpm,[6] while the lesser 1.3-liter 2A engine, added in June 1979, offered a claimed 74 PS (54 kW).[5] In Europe mainly the smaller 1.3 version was available, with 65 PS (48 kW).[7]

File:'81 Toyota Tercel Coupe.jpg
1981 Tercel coupé (North America, facelift version)

In this new front-wheel-drive design, the first for Toyota, the engine was mounted longitudinally. The transmission was mounted under the floorpan, as is the case in a rear-wheel-drive car. Unlike a rear-wheel-drive car, the transmission had a ring and pinion gear on the front part of the transmission, underneath the engine. Halfshafts then extended from the transmission to the front wheels.

In August 1980 the Tercel (and Corsa) underwent a facelift, with considerable changes to the front and minor ones to the interior and rear. The 1A engine was replaced by the 3A of identical displacement but now with 83 PS (61 kW).[4]

Second generation (1982–1986)

Second generation
1983-1984 Tercel 3-door (US)
Also called Toyota Corolla II
Toyota Corsa
Toyota Sprinter Carib
Production May 1982[2]–February 1988[8]
Body style 3-door hatchback
4-door sedan
5-door hatchback
5-door station wagon
Layout Front engine, front-wheel drive / Four-wheel drive
Engine 1.3 L 2A I4 (AL20)
1.5 L 3A I4 (AL21/25)
Transmission 3-speed automatic
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
6-speed manual

Due to disappointing sales of the first generation Tercel, Toyota redesigned the Tercel for May 1982. The "Corolla" part of the name was dropped, becoming simply "Tercel" in all markets. This, the L20 series, was a more modern and angular shaped model.[9] The second generation Tercel was available in three- or five-door hatchback models or a four-door station wagon, and also as a four-door sedan in Japan. The station wagon, known in Japan as the Sprinter Carib (Japanese: Toyota Sprinter Carib, short for "Caribou"[8]), was introduced in August 1982. The wagon was also available with four-wheel drive (front-wheel-drive wagons were only available in select markets). In Japan, a four-wheel-drive sedan was also available, it too remained in production alongside the wagon version even after the introduction of the third generation Tercel. Standard front-wheel-drive vehicles (and four-wheel-drive wagons not equipped with the six-speed manual transmission) came with either a three-speed automatic or a four- or five-speed manual transmission. The four-speed manual was reserved for the very simplest version in North American markets.

As only the first two generations were sold officially in Europe, this was the last generation of the Tercel series available there, with either the hatchback or station wagon bodywork. In Japan, power outputs were as follows:

  • 1,295 cc 2A-U: 75 PS (55 kW) at 6,000 rpm[10]
  • 1,452 cc 3A-U: 83 PS (61 kW) at 5,600 rpm (9.0:1 compression, 82.05-86.05)[10]
  • 1,452 cc 3A-U: 85 PS (63 kW) at 5,600 rpm (9.3:1 compression, 86.03-88.02)[10]
  • 1,452 cc 3A-HU: 86 PS (63 kW) at 6,000 rpm (variable venturi carburettor, 9.3:1 compression, 82.05-84.08)[10][11]
  • 1,452 cc 3A-SU: 90 PS (66 kW) at 6,000 rpm (twin variable venturi carburettors, swirl intake version, 84.08-88.02)[10]

North American Tercels all received the 1.5-litre engine, producing 63 hp (47 kW) at 4,800 rpm. In Europe, both the 1.3 (65 PS/48 kW at 5,400 rpm) and the 1.5 (71 PS/52 kW at 5,600 rpm) were available.[12]

The four-wheel-drive models (chassis code AL25, only with the 1.5 engine) could be equipped with six-speed manual transmission, and could be shifted from two- to four-wheel drive without coming to a stop. The sixth gear it carried was an "Extra Low" (EL) first gear, a standard transmission gear with a very low (4.71:1) gear-ratio. The EL gear generated a 17.6:1 final drive ratio, giving the driver the torque needed to extract the vehicle from conditions which otherwise may have trapped it. Because of its low gear-ratio, it was suitable only for very low-speed use on loose or slippery road surfaces (such as snow, gravel, or sand). Also included with better equipped four-wheel-drive models is a inclinometer above the radio/air conditioner that measures the tilt of the car.

The new Tercel 4WD was built from existing pieces in the Toyota inventory. The engine, transaxle and front-wheel-drive system was from the existing Tercel. The coil-sprung rear axle was taken from the Corolla. The only part specifically designed for the new Tercel 4WD was the transfer case, built into the transmission. This gave the driver greater versatility than was possible on a purely front-wheel-drive vehicle, as it provided three different power arrangements. Normally, the car would be operated with front-wheel drive. When the driver pulled the 4WD selector lever back into four-wheel drive, or pressed a button on the gear selector for the automatic transmission, the power was split 50/50 between the front and rear axles via a direct mechanical coupling. There is no conventional center differential, so the four-wheel-drive system could be used only on loose or slippery surfaces; otherwise the drivetrain would experience severe wear, and handling would be compromised. The third power option (which was only available on the six-speed manual) was low range. This isn't the same as the low-range power option found in a truck or conventional SUV, as the Tercel lacked a high-range/low-range transfer case. When the lever was placed in four-wheel-drive mode it became possible to down shift the vehicle from first to EL (extra low).

1985 saw minor changes to gear ratios and to the grille design, and the interior was updated in 1986. The Tercel wagon (and four-door sedan in Japan) continued with the same design until February 1988 (when the Sprinter Carib was replaced by a larger Corolla based design), while the coupé, sedan and hatchbacks moved on to the newer design.[8]


Versions available in Europe:

  • 1.3 GL (3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback)
  • 1.5 GL (3-door hatchback, 5-door hatchback)
  • 1.5 4WD (5-door estate, only version from 1986 onwards)


1985-1986 Tercel 5-Door (North America)  
Tercel 3-door (US)  
3-door Tercel 1.3 (Europe)  
Tercel wagon (US)  
Dash/Interior of 1983 Tercel  
4WD Tercel Running Gear  

Third generation (1987–1990)

Third generation
1989 Tercel 5-door (US)
Production 1987–1990
Body style 2-door coupe
3-door hatchback
5-door hatchback
5-door station wagon (Previous generation)
Layout FF layout
Engine 1.5L 78 hp (58 kW) I4
Transmission 3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
5-speed manual
4-speed manual
Wheelbase 93.7 in (2,380 mm)
95.7 in (2,431 mm) (wagon)
Length 157.3 in (3,995 mm) (hatchbacks)
166.7 in (4,234 mm) (coupe)
169.7 in (4,310 mm) (wagon)
Width 64 in (1,626 mm)
63.6 in (1,615 mm) (wagon)
Height 57.1 in (1,450 mm) (wagon)
52.6 in (1,336 mm) (2-door hatchback)
51.8 in (1,316 mm) (sedan)
52.8 in (1,341 mm) (4-door hatchback)
Related Toyota Starlet

In 1987, Toyota introduced the slightly larger third generation Tercel with a new 12-valve 78 hp (58 kW) I4 engine which featured a defective variable venturi carburetor, replaced under an extended warranty and in 1988 and later models with improved carbs and later, EFI. Other improvements included revised rack-and-pinion steering and a newly designed, fully independent suspension. The Tercel continued in its role in North America as Toyota's least expensive vehicle, while it was no longer offered in Europe. In other markets, the smaller Starlet fitted beneath the Tercel.

In 1987, Toyota introduced the Tercel EZ with less standard equipment: vinyl upholstery, a four-speed manual transmission, rubber mats instead of carpeting, and a deleted passenger's side sunvisor.[13]

For the 1990 model year, the Tercel was available as either a three or five-door hatchback or a two-door sedan, the wagon having been upgraded to the larger platform used for the Sprinter Caribbean (Carib). Also discontinued for 1990 was the four-wheel-drive system; the Tercel was then only available with front-wheel drive. Hard to find is the Tercel Deluxe 4-door Liftback. Made only from 87 to 89, this model which came standard with a 5-speed manual transmission, custom wheels and rear defrost. Non-motorized two-point passive seatbelts for the front-seat driver and passenger were introduced in 1990.


Tercel coupe (US)  
Toyota Tercel (US)  
Tercel Corsa 5-door hatchback (Japan)  

Fourth generation (1991–1994)

Fourth generation
Production 1991–1994
Body style 2-door coupe
3-door hatchback
4-door sedan
Layout FF layout
Engine 1.5L 94 hp (70 kW) I4 3E-E
1.5L 110 hp (82 kW) I4 5E-FE
Transmission 3-speed automatic
5-speed manual
4-speed manual
Wheelbase 93.7 in (2,380 mm)
Length 161.8 in (4,110 mm)
Width 64.8 in (1,646 mm) (coupe)
65.4 in (1,661 mm) (sedan)
Height 53.2 in (1,351 mm)
Curb weight 914 kg (2,015 lb)
Related Toyota Paseo
Toyota Starlet

Toyota introduced the fourth generation Tercel in 1991 as either a two-door sedan or four-door sedan and powered by either a 1.5 L 3E-E engine producing 82 hp (61 kW) at 5200 rpm (and 89 lb·ft (121 N·m) of torque at 4400 rpm) or 1.5 L 5E-FE 16v DOHC producing 110 hp (82 kW).

In Japan, the Tercel was also offered as 3-door Hatchback and 4WD versions. Hatchback models were VC, Joinus, and Avenue. Trim levels for Sedan were VE, VX, and VZ. The VZ is powered by 5E-FHE engine. The higher level Japanese sedan had different tail lights and better equipped interior than the export models.

North American models were Base Coupe, DX Coupe, DX Sedan, and LE Sedan. Colour-keyed bumpers, full wheel covers, and folded rear seat were optional on the DX, standard on the LE. The LE had red trunk garnish similar to Japanese model.

1993 saw a minor exterior redesign to the front and rear fascias and the addition of a standard driver's side airbag and available anti-lock brakes. The Tercel was carried over to 1994 with no major changes — Haloalkane, a non-CFC refrigerant was used in the air conditioning system.


In Chile, the Tercel was introduced in 1991 as a four-door sedan with a 1.3-liter, SOHC 12-valve 78 hp (58 kW), 4-cylinder, carbureted engine, under the name "Corolla Tercel". The "DX" basic version came with tachometer and four spoke steering wheel. It gained moderate success due to the Corolla name.

In September 1992, a canadian-spec version was introduced to replace the previous one with a new 1.5-liter SOHC engine. Unlike the previous one, it was simply called "Tercel". It was brought along the canadian-spec Corolla to meet the new emission standard since no Latin American version of either was yet available with a catalytic converter. Due to the higher trim level of the canadian-spec versions, the Tercel was initially marketed as a successor of the Corolla E90, which had just been discontinued. This made it a very successful car.


1990 Corsa sedan (Japan)  
1992 Tercel coupe (US)  
1993-1994 Tercel DX coupe (US)  
Corolla II Hatchback (Japan)  

Fifth generation (1995–2000)

Fifth generation
1995-1997 Tercel coupe (US)
Also called Toyota Corolla II (JPN)
Toyota Corsa (JPN)
Toyota Soluna (Asia)
Production 1995–2000
Assembly Toyota City, Japan
Jhongli, Taiwan[14]
Body style 2-door coupe
3-door hatchback
4-door sedan
Layout FF layout
Engine 1.3 L 4E-FE I4
1.5 L 5E-FE I4
1.5 L 1N-T turbodiesel I4
Transmission 4-speed manual
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
Wheelbase 93.7 in (2,380 mm)
Length 162.2 in (4,120 mm) (1995-97)
162.7 in (4,133 mm) (1998-99)
Width 64.8 in (1,646 mm) (1998-99)
65.4 in (1,661 mm) (1995-97)
Height 53.2 in (1,351 mm)
Related Toyota Paseo
Toyota Starlet

In September 1994, for the 1995 model year, Toyota introduced an all-new Tercel. The new design offered a stiffer body with better handling and was one of only a handful of cars in the U.S. to have OBDII in 1995. Retaining its compact packaging and high quality, the new Tercel sported a completely redesigned exterior and an all-new engine. The Tercel now also offered standard driver's and passenger's side airbags in the United States, but only a driver's side bag for Canada. As well, three-point seatbelts for front and outboard rear passengers and adjustable shoulder-belt anchor points for front seat passengers were installed on four-door models. All models met federal standards for 1997 side-impact protection, and offered anti-lock brakes. Exterior styling was targeted toward the youthful buyer. Standard models came standard with only a 4-speed manual or automatic transmission and grey bumpers, while DX models were offered with the addition of body-colored bumpers and either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission.

File:Toyota Corsa.jpg
1995-1997 Corsa 3-door hatchback (Japan)

In Japan, the Tercel was again also offered with the Corsa and Corolla II nameplates, for sales through parallel marketing channels. There was also a 3-door hatchback body version offered in addition to the four-door sedan. The two-door sedan was only ever marketed in North America. There was also a four-wheel-drive option available in Japan.

The interior emphasized a user-friendly environment, pushing the dash further away, but bringing the switches closer, which gave passengers a feeling of spaciousness and comfort. The all-new DOHC 1.5 L I4 engine provided 93 hp (69 kW) and 100 lb·ft (140 N·m) of torque, offering a 13 percent power increase over the previous generation as well as a 15 percent increase in fuel economy. The new 5E-FE engine gets 45 mpg-US (5.2 L/100 km; 54 mpg-imp) on the highway with a 5-speed manual transmission, making it the most fuel-efficient four-cylinder car of its time in the United States.Template:Citation needed Collectively, these upgrades were considered to move the affordable Tercel solidly into the realm of vehicles one buys out of choice, rather than because it is the only one in its price range. Even with its upgrades, the Tercel remained Toyota's entry-level car. The Tercel was also available with the smaller 1.3-litre 4E-FE gasoline four-cylinder, and the Toyota 1N-T engine; a 1,453 cc inline-four turbocharged diesel engine which provided 66 hp (49.2 kW) at 4,700 rpm and 96.1 ft·lbf (130 N·m) of torque at 2,600 rpm.

For 1997, all Tercels were available only in the CE (Classic Edition) trim level and incorporated many of the standard and optional items from previous base and DX models. All Tercels came standard with a new 13 inch wheel and tire combination. Inside, the Tercel received a revised dashboard with rotary ventilation controls. Also, along with all Toyota models, the Tercel received revised seat fabric and door panels. The RedHawk and WhiteHawk editions were introduced in addition to the BlackHawk trim already offered, which came standard with air conditioning, 185/60R14 tires on custom wheels, a rear spoiler with integrated brake light, and hawk symbols to identify the special model.


File:1998-99 Toyota Tercel Sedan.JPG
1998-1999 Tercel sedan (Canada)

For 1998, the Tercel received updated styling, highlighted by new jeweled multi-reflector headlights, a revised grille and front fascia design and clear lens turn signal lights for the front and rear. The facelift occurred in December 1997 for the Japanese market, and covered all three lines (Tercel, Corsa, Corolla II).

The Tercel's rear styling was also enhanced with redesigned composite taillights and updated bumper molding. The new molding extended across the entire length of the rear bumper for added protection and a seamless look, just as it did in the Fourth Generation Tercels.

Production of the Tercel for the American market ceased in 1998 to make way for the 2000 Echo. Production for Canada, Puerto Rico and some other countries continued through 1999, although for Japan the production ceased in 2000.

File:4th Toyota CorollaII 2.jpg
Facelifted Japanese market Corolla II 4WD hatchback

In Paraguay and Peru, Tercels are still sold and are the most popular cars by its reliability and relatively low cost. These cars are being sold as imported Japanese cars in many of the car dealers existing throughout the territory.Template:Clarify


The fifth generation of Tercel was introduced in September 1995, presented in the FISA auto Show of that year as the "All New Tercel Twin Cam”, available in three different levels: basic XLI, the medium GLI, and the full equipment LEI. All Tercel featured a 5E-FE 1.5 16v Twin Cam (DOHC) engine, rated at 100 hp (70 kW) at 6400 rpm and 95 lb·ft (129 N·m) at 3200 rpm of torque. With that engine the car took only 10.4 seconds in 0-60 mph. The car was revolutionary to that market at the time, and it was elected Car of the Year in Chile.Template:Citation needed

The XLi version was basic: no tach and power steering was an option. GLi had power steering, four arm steering wheels, trunk and gas cap remote opening; and three pointed rear seat belts was standard. Finally the LEi was full, it had all the equipment and AC; tachometer; rear seat belts, 175/70 13 tires, with power door locks, power windows with driver's side auto down, and four arm steering wheels. It was offered with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic.

By 1998, received multi-reflector headlights, new fascia, bumpers and clear turn signal lights; in the rear, new mirror style taillights and new bumper. It was a huge success, becoming the second best selling car in Chile for four years.


File:Toyota Soluna .jpg
Toyota Soluna 1.5 GLi in Thailand.
Toyota Soluna 1.5 XLi taxi in Indonesia.

In Thailand, Toyota reworked the Tercel with different nose and tail, and called Soluna. The Soluna AL50 was powered by 1.5-liter 5A-FE engine, and campaigned as Asian Family Car. The plain Soluna was a big seller in Thailand. Trim levels are XLi, SLi, and GLi. Only the XLi and GLi were sold in Indonesia, where the XLi was common for taxi. Based on the GLi, the Soluna S Limited with body kits was offered for a short time.

Dimension growth

The Tercel was meant to be smaller than the Corolla, which it always was throughout its production. However, both the Tercel and the Corolla grew in size, and by the end of its production the Tercel had become almost identical in size to the North American-market '75-'78 Corolla that was current in 1980 at the time the Tercel was introduced.

Dimension 1995-1999 Tercel 1975-1978 Corolla
Length 162.2" (4120 mm) 165.2" (4196 mm)
Width 65.4" (1661) 62.4" (1585)
Height 53.1" (1374) 54.5" (1384)
Wheelbase 93.7" (2380) 93.3" (2370)
Curb weight 2,005 lb (909 kg) 2210 lb (1002 kg)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Tercel Parts Catalogue (Japanese market)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Toyota Vehicle Identification Manual. Japan: Toyota Motor Corporation - Overseas Parts Department. 1984. Catalog No.97913-84. 
  3. Finnish "Tekniikan Maailma" Magazine, 18/79
  4. 4.0 4.1 (in Japanese) Car Graphic: Car Archives Vol. 11, '80s Japanese Cars. Tokyo: Nigensha. 2007. p. 8. ISBN 978-4-544-91018-6. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 (in Japanese) Car Graphic: Car Archives Vol. 5, '70s Japanese Cars. Tokyo: Nigensha. 2007. p. 9. ISBN 978-4-544-09175-5. 
  6. Lösch, Annamaria, ed. (1979). World Cars 1979. Pelham, NY: The Automobile Club of Italy/Herald Books. pp. 380–381. ISBN 0-910714-11-8. 
  7. Freund, Klaus, ed. (1980) (in German). Auto Katalog 1981. 24. Stuttgart: Vereinigte Motor-Verlage GmbH & Co. KG. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Car Graphic '80s Car Archives, p. 26
  9. Finnish "Tekniikan Maailma" Magazine, 17/82
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Car Graphic '80s Car Archives, pp. 9-10
  11. World Cars 1984. Pelham, NY: L'Editrice dell'Automobile LEA/Herald Books. 1984. pp. 380–381. ISBN 0-910714-16-9. 
  12. Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (March 10, 1983). Automobil Revue '83. 78. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag, AG. pp. 519, 593. ISBN 3-444-06065-3. 
  13. "Toyota Tercel history and information". 2007-01-31. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  14. "國瑞汽車股份有限公司 KUOZUI MOTORS, LTD". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 

External links

ar:تويوتا تيرسل

de:Toyota Tercel es:Toyota Tercel fa:تویوتا ترسل fr:Toyota Tercel nl:Toyota Tercel ja:トヨタ・ターセル pl:Toyota Tercel fi:Toyota Tercel sv:Toyota Tercel th:โตโยต้า เทอร์เซล

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