By on April 12, 2019

Only one car combines cheap and cheerful motoring with economical driving and butterfly doors. Fittingly, its Tercel and Paseo siblings were also dredged up in this QOTD post.

It’s the Toyota Sera, from 1991.

Toyota previewed the concept that would become the Sera in 1988, calling it the AXV-II. Radical butterfly doors combined with a roof made mostly of glass for a very slick, eye-catching design. Onlookers were duly pleased when Toyota released the Sera in 1990 in a production format that saw very few changes from the concept.

A four-seat hatchback, the Sera was intended as a downmarket alternative to the popular MR-2. Never intended for sale outside the Japanese market, the Sera was sold only at Toyota’s Corolla Store. Imagine having a store just for Corollas in North America. What a Scion ridiculous idea!

The unique hatchback style was the only one offered on the Sera, and all trim levels used the same engine: a 1.5-liter inline-four from its brother, the Paseo. Toyota did see fit to offer different transmissions to its customers; a four-speed automatic and a five-speed manual were available.

Air conditioning was standard on all Seras, given the extensive use of glass, and this economical hatchback was one of the first vehicles to use projector HiD lamps. The cars were built in phases, and each phase determined the general color schemes available to buyers. Phase I was 1990 and 1991, the period when the majority of Seras (over 12,000) were produced. Phase II spanned 1991 and 1992, and the final Phase III was 1992 through 1995. In total, 18,852 Seras were built. When production ended, there was no official replacement for the Sera. At least the MR-2 would soldier on.

Today’s Rare Ride is a rarer example from Phase II, in light green. With an automatic transmission and in need of some cleaning, Duncan Imports asks $9,998.

[Images: seller]

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27 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Paseo-adjacent 1991 Toyota Sera...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Toyota was smart not to bring that here, perhaps they checked with the Subaru SVX group first

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, the Paseo was “out there” enough for the US customer. It would have been more expensive as well, and the Paseo was kind of already overpriced.

      Side note: The window-within-window has returned on the new McLaren Senna, which also has windows in the lower part of the door.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Good, I’m not buying one of those either

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        I remember the commercials for the Paseo. I laughed when the voiceover said “of course, it has some muscle” and “100 hp” flashed on the screen.

        100 hp was “some muscle.” LOL, when we were over 5 years into the resurgence of the muscle car with EFI 5.0 Mustangs and TPI F-bodies, twin turbo 300ZX, Supra, not to mention the Taurus SHO, Spirit R/T, and Lumina Z34 kicking off the hot FWD segment.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    I’ve been reading this site for a long time now, but I think I’m done. Articles like this of a boring little turd of a car smattered among the dry retyped press releases are a sad reminder of the fact that this site used to feature some VERY good writing and interesting stories. Most of the interesting commenters have bailed out since the better writers have slowly faded away leaving this site to be a shadow of it’s former self.
    Here, read this one: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/capsule-review-1985-bmw-535i/
    This is what this site used to be about; not just press releases but the personal connection to cars and the people that matter.

  • avatar
    scott25

    How could you not mention the interior air filtration/perfume options featured as optional equipment. Buyers could choose from roof mounted “CleanAce” air filter (meant for smokers) or the “Air Fantasy” refillable perfume system that worked through the A/C, flavours included Deodorizer, Morning Green, Peppermint, White Herb,and Sazan Floral.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My wife just got back from Japan and all she could talk about were the toilet fragrance buttons.
    Can you imagine how hard it would be to apply a window tint to that back window?
    I kinda like the look , reminds me of an MX3 mated with an SVX.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I feel like this idea would’ve been much cooler if it were based on the MR2, something with an actually sporty drivetrain.

    As it is the only notable thing about the Sera (to me) is the 4-speed automatic, as far as I know most Tercels and even lower level Corollas came with a garbage 3-speed unit all the way until the early 2000s.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Sera is definitely good for “look at what I bought” cred, but people much over 5’8″ need not apply. I did manage to make it into the driver’s seat at 6’2″, but I had to do a funky forward slide/leap into the footwell while limboing under the door.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    They could have sold a launch edition of this: the Qué!

    Whatever will be! ;-D

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I was the Paseo hater, but I’d daily this, with a stick of course. That thing screams 90s. I want a car I can shut the door of and forget Cobain has been dead 25 years. This would fit the bill.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I’m a fan of the Tercel, give me a two door with a manual, dont even care if it’s just a 4 speed. Basic appliance motoring, what Toyota is good at.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I had no beef with the Tercel. It was as you described. But the “give it a slightly sportier body and change nothing else except for the higher MSRP” Paseo was another matter.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Back when these were new, I was selling Toyotas. Everything below the Camry was just awful to drive. There was a reason why we called the Tercel the Turd-smell. There was no margin in these cars and E V E R Y person who came to test drive these things tried to beat you to death on the price. The value proposition was not there. If there were ever cars meant to upsell people into a higher line model, this generation of Tercel, Paseo and Corolla were them.

    It’s a good thing they didn’t bring this thing here, for the money they would have charged, it would have been welded to the showroom floor. The Civic killed both the regular Tercel and cheaper Corolla on the low end, the Geo Storm slaughtered the Paseo on the higher end. There was no place in the US lineup for this car.

  • avatar
    apl

    I like the design. It is different. But if it was sold only in Japan, why are the controls marked with English lettering, not Japanese?

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    I thought these were banned because of the doors?

    How do they function in a rollover accident?


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