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The life and times of budget Toyotas

08.08.2014

TOYOTA doesn’t have a problem selling cars; look at how successful the Hilux, Corolla and Etios models are. The value, customer service and reputation of the brand has been solidified both in South Africa and globally.

Many South Africans will remember the cars that made Toyota great, such as the original Corolla, the Hilux and the Cressida. However, for me, the car that always makes me think of the brand, is the Tazz. Here we saw a trend that local manufacturers have caught on to, whereby an older car, in this case a Conquest hatchback, is remarketed as a new model with a few changes that allow it to be sold at a more reasonable price.

From this, the Tazz was born. It was sold with a 1300cc motor that produced 55kW/103Nm. The first generation model had a four-speed manual gearbox while the updated version gained a fifth, and the option of a bigger 1600cc engine. Much like many budget variants, the Tazz has a few features stripped from it such as air-conditioning, central locking, a radio, passenger grab-handles and no rear window wiper.

It was a back-to-basics car that’s still held in high regard by many, mostly due to the fact that so many still exist today and that, in itself, is a testimony to the car’s reliability and character. I did my driving test in a Tazz, my aunt had a Tazz, my friend’s mother had a Tazz and, come to think of it, the list keeps growing when I think of how many times the little hatch has entered my life.

I mention the Tazz as its spiritual successor enters our local market in the form of the Corolla Quest. I drove the Quest at launch in Durban and had the opportunity to drive one again up at the reef recently, to see if this affordable family car is as good as its makers claim it to be.

So what makes it different to the old Corolla? Well the number plate surround and front bumper are finished in black, the side indicators have been moved to the fender, while the front and rear lights are also different. Inside, the carpets and roof lining are made from more cost-effective materials, while things like the interior lamp have been removed and fabric from the door card has been replaced with a cheaper material.

To be honest, driving the Quest around it’s difficult to notice the changes made. The ride quality is good, the road noise is nice and low and the whole thing feels well made. You can notice things like the trim, at the bottom of the central storage compartment and the feeling of some of the plastics inside, but that’s to be expected because this is bigger on space and value than anything else.

I had the Plus model, which gets alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles, an audio system with Bluetooth/USB/AUX inputs, whereas the base model does without these features but still has an immobiliser and alarm, remote central locking, dual front airbags, Isofix anchor points, air-conditioning and rake/reach adjustment for the steering wheel.

The 1.6-litre VVT-I engine produces 90kW/154Nm and is mated to a six-speed manual transmission which makes for decent progress. I’m glad that Toyota chose its 1.6 and not its 1.3-litre unit as I feel this may have made the car less usable on a day-to-day basis.

I think it’s fair to say that the Quest is ‘just a car.’ It won’t excite you, make you feel special or tear your face off with its performance, but at the same time, much like its older sibling the Tazz, I don’t see it ever giving problems. In ten years from now, I’ll probably be writing about the number of Quests I still see on the road, once this car’s successor takes over the reins.

This clever exercise in cost-cutting engineering will set you back R197 900 for the Plus model which includes a three-year/100 000km warranty and a  three-year/45 000km service plan.

Article written by Sean Nurse
08.08.2014
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