The Toyota Paseo is a compact coupe that was manufactured between 1991 and 1999. The original design was based around the two-door coupe shape, with a convertible made available during the later years of production. The platform for the Paseo is the same as the Tercel and the Starlet, and the three cars share a number of parts.
The first generation Paseo had a long, dipped bonnet with a chunky, rounded bumper adding to its considerable front end. The rear was raised high, and with a rear spoiler fitted, vision out of the back window was somewhat compact. Its rear boot height, however, does give it additional storage space that is lost in the later edition.
The second-generation version that hit the showrooms in 1995, after being shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, featured a complete smoothing out of the car's lines. The high boot and extended front bumper were replaced with a more slick design. Toyota conceived of a new front grille and gave the Paseo wider 15-inch alloy wheels and low profile tyres. This was also the version that appeared in the convertible format.
The interior, although not innovative, is well up to Toyota’s normal standard, decently laid out and nicely designed with all dials, switches, and buttons within easy reach. The use of plastic and fabric could have been put to a little better use but it’s not an unattractive cabin, just somewhat plain. The rear space is not at a premium for rear passengers and adults may find it a little cramped. The front is more forgiving but tall or long-legged individuals may have a bit of a squeeze.
The early Toyota Paseo came equipped with the 1.5L E series 5E FE I4 engines mated with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic gearbox. After 1995, the vehicle was fitted with the Californian modified 5E FE I4, which was originally produced to comply with the United States’ more rigid emissions laws.
The Paseo came in three choices: the standard, entry-level 1.5L ST 2d; the brightly coloured, limited edition 1.5L Galliano 2d; and the better-equipped, top-of-the range 1.5L Si 2d. All produced an acceleration from 0 to 100 Km in 12.2 seconds, and the 45-litre fuel tank has an average fuel consumption rate of 7.5L per 100/km. The later Eco-Sport engine was a twin cam, 16-valve machine, basically a reworked version of the original engine but with slightly less power. However, its increased torque ratio means the Eco-Sport is easier to drive and makes the car quite spritely to handle.
Driving along the road, the Paseo is a comfortable, economical car, absorbing uneven surfaces and not producing an excessive level of noise for passengers. Its power steering is responsive and road holding good, making it a nippy little street car that has no problems with a journey’s twists and turns.
At launch, the Paseo was available in two trims: the meagre entry-level ST and the moderately better-equipped Si version. Despite the remodelling mid-way through the 1990s, these were still the main trims available with a limited edition brought out in 1997.
The later 1996 models come well-equipped with two themed packages available: the safety package with ABS and driver's airbag or the luxury entertainment package with CD player and sunroof. The new Paseo comes as standard with power steering, adjustable steering column, central locking, electric mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, and rear spoiler.
Toyota’s coupe faced competition from the likes of the unassuming Honda Civic and the Nissan 100NX. The race leaders in this class though were the popular, very French-styled Renault Megane Coupe and the gentle charm of the Hyundai Coupe, along with the verve of the Vauxhall Tigra. They all carved out profitable niches for themselves while the undemanding Paseo made steady progress throughout its manufacture, though it never quite reached their sales figures.
The Paseo is a great little car for those without the restrictions of a large family and those who are looking for a nicely equipped coupe that doesn’t cost a fortune to run or maintain. It’s not quite a sports car, but its handling and power, along with its economical running and maintenance costs, make it one to check out.
Residuals never really held up that well with the Paseo, so if you’re thinking of buying a secondhand one then they do tend to come at a bargain. It sold reasonably well but perhaps not at the same volumes of its rivals, making it ultimately a cheaper buy in its class.