Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 1998

buy drive burn basic japanese compacts from 1998

We continue our 1990s-then-2000s series today, with the Japanese counterpart to the American compacts presented here recently. These Japanese compacts from 1998 represented the last of the Nineties’ Golden Era quality. Civic, Sentra, Corolla, make your pick!

Honda Civic

The seventh-gen Honda Civic is in its third model year for 1998 and is offered in coupe, hatch, and sedan versions within the North American market. Interesting five-door body styles are available in other locales. There are five trim levels of Civic this year: CX, DX, EX, HX, and LX. Today’s specification is a sedan, which means the bargain basement CX is out of the picture as it’s limited to the hatchback. The cheapest DX sedan asks $12,735 and uses a 1.6-liter inline-four. That engine is good for 106 horses that proceed through the five-speed manual.

Nissan Sentra

The Sentra is near the end of its fourth generation run and has been with us since 1995. Unlike the Civic, Sentra is available only as a sedan. Nissan technically offers a Sentra coupe, but it’s badged as 200SX for sporting credibility reasons. The Sentra has four trims in North America in 1998, which include the basic and much cheaper XE, and SE, GXE, and GLE which all cost about the same. A five-speed manual XE asks $13,699 this year and offers a 1.6-liter inline-four that produces 115 horsepower.

Toyota Corolla

Toyota sells all sorts of Corollas around the world based on the present E110 platform, and the North American version is new this model year. Corolla is built at NUMMI in California and is also rebadged as the Chevrolet Prizm (formerly Geo). Corolla is only available as a sedan in North America, over three trim levels: base VE, middling CE, and luxurious LE. A VE with a five-speed manual and 120-horse 1.9-liter engine is our choice today and asks $11,908 at your Toyota dealer. By the way, the twinning Geo Prizm asks $12,143.

Three bare-bones compact sedans, all promising long-term reliability. Which goes home with the Buy?

[Images: Honda, Nissan, Toyota]

Join the conversation
2 of 61 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Sep 16, 2021

    In order of horsepower (apparently there was a shortage in 1998; let's be simple-minded like 1998 automotive enthusiasts): - Walk past the Corolla and buy a 1998 Camry. - Walk past the Sentra and drive an 1998 Altima. - Walk past the Civic and set a 1998 Accord on fire. (This will teach Honda a lesson for knowing how to build good cars, but just not doing it.)

  • Seanx37 Seanx37 on Sep 16, 2021

    Burn the Sentra. Drive the Civic. Buy the Corolla. The Civic and Corolla are likely still in the family. Driven by grandkids or various neices and nephews

  • ToolGuy Rail is what you want.
  • 2ACL What tickles me is that the Bronco looks the business with virtually none of the black plastic cladding many less capable crossovers use.
  • IBx1 For all this time with the hellcat engine, everything they made was pathetic automatic scum save for the Challenger. A manual Durango, Grand Cherokee, Charger, 300C, et al would have been the real last gasp for driving enthusiasts. As it is, the party is long over.
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.