Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 1998

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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]

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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

  • Dartman It was all a scam just to gin up some free publicity. It worked. Tassos go back to sleep; no ones on your lawn. Real ‘murricans prefer hot dogs to gyros.
  • ToolGuy I plan to install a sink in the crawl space soon. After that I plan to put washer and dryer hookups on my roof.
  • ToolGuy "That power team adds an electric supercharger"YES!
  • Cardave5150 UAW is acting all butt-hurt that their employers didn't "share the wealth" when they had massive profits. They conveniently forget that they have a CONTRACT with their employers, which was negotiated in good faith, and which the Remaining 3 are honoring, paying them exactly what they negotiated last time.
  • Kwik_Shift That's a shame.