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It was the day of my birthday. Very early that morning I went jogging and as I was coming back I came past my local garage who had placed this beauty at the very front. I hadn't seen it there before, but it made me start jogging on the spot so that I could check it out.
The price of £2000 was a bit of a shock actually, the car looked so good and the overall condition and milleage was excellent. So I went home to do some research on this car.
I was surprised to find out that the Paseo was not actually one of the most popular cars to have been imported to the UK. In fact, sales were killed by more amusing rivals such as the Renault Megane Coupe. But for the used buyer, me and you, this translates to a couple of benefits:
Firstly, residuals wont stand up as well, which makes this Toyota a relatively inexpensive used buy.
Secondly, you will also gain some aspect of exclusivity! Think about it. When was the last time you saw one coming the other way? This car is compact, sporty looking and very sexy-lined. With all of the traditional benefits of the Toyota ownership package, I was really puzzled as to why this car did not become a best seller.
The Paseo is a neatly styled, and perhaps, bland little coupe. The overall effect is of a slightly smoother and less butch Rover200/coupe. Electric front windows, twin airbags, removable glass sunroof and an alarm immobiliser are all standard equipment on the ST version but the interiors are the usual Toyota fare of unimaginative plastics and trim materials.
The Si version added a rear spoiler, alloy wheels and a Sony CD system. There is a plethora of websites on the net dedicated on all sorts of nip and tuck that people have done to their Paseo and I must say some looked very impressive. But for some reason, showroom appeal was always a problem with the Paseo, compared to the Hyundai & Renault Megane Coupe ranges that offer better targeted and marketed products.
Many dealers actually don't have a clue what to pay for one, and many will scratch their heads when they consult their trade price guides. An early Paseo ST on 1996 N-plates can be picked up for around £2,300 even thought I bought mine for £2000 (just plain luck on the day of my birthday!), with even the final 1997 P-registered cars going for £2,600. The Si model, which is the later model, is worth around £200 more, with the last of these cars, a 1998 R-plated edition, reaching around £3,100.
Due to their rarity, it may be a long while before a Paseo becomes available, and Toyota franchised dealers are probably the best method of sourcing an honest example.
As a first time driver, it was extremely important to make sure that I wasn't going to go bankrupt by insuring this baby. To my surprise, the quote that I got was just £50 more than I got for a Ford Fiesta! Insurance for the Paseo is extremely reasonable, with the ST rated at Group 6, and the Si at Group 7.
One area where the Paseo scores well is reliability. Of course, with it's specifications, it never appealed to the hardcore sport car drivers, nor did Toyotas idea of marketing it to a younger audience pay off. Most Paseos were bought by middle-aged empty-nester customers who appreciated reliability and a gentle nature. This particular coupe served those particular qualities up in spades.
Therefore it makes a safe used buy. Look for a full service history and buy assured that somebody else took the financial hit from the Paseos quick initial depreciation. But since it is one of the lower volume sellers in the Toyota range, the Paseo has some parts prices that you should consider. £400-£500 for a new exhaust system and about £350-£400 for an alternator. Not the most expensive around, but nonetheless nearing the top of the price range for a budget coupe.
Fortunately though, other parts prices are more affordable. A new radiator or a new starter motor both retail at around £230, whilst a new clutch assembly is about £175. Front brake pads are £40, and rear shoes are about £35 a pair. Those narrow headlamp units are a mere £90 each to replace, a lot cheaper than many more mainstream rivals.
Part of the fun of a sports coupe is svelte handling, and the Paseo plays the part reasonably well. It is an enjoyable car on a twisting road, and its mild handling characteristics make for added safety in emergency manoeuvring situations. Push harder though, and the little Toyota starts to show its more humble origins. Torque steer, often a problem in sporty front-wheel drive cars, is not a problem here due in no small part to the modest power output.
Nevertheless, comfort is not compromised for handling, and good shock damping, low levels of wind noise, decent soundproofing, and good luggage capacity for two make the Paseo a good A-road cruiser or commuter. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine is a 16-valve unit tuned for torque and flexibility rather than maximum power, endowing the car with a languid nature. Despite this, there was never an automatic gearbox option for UK buyers. This would have, indeed, made a fine accompaniment to the relaxed Paseo.
It is true that many of the Paseos rivals hold more instant enticement. However, if you're after something that is a bit different, it's a safe and reliable used buy. It also represents a significant saving on new prices, which makes buying a Paseo not such an odd option. Just be prepared to put up with blank looks when you tell people what you've arrived in!
I am, to this day, very pleased that I bought this car and I actually feel more than lucky that it came my way on the day of my birthday.