IT HAS been some time since we last tested a Toyota Tazz. Although the most recent facelift did not change the car’s dynamics significantly, we figured that a fresh look at Toyota’s 1,3-litre entry-level hatch would be sure to remind us why these cars are so popular. Perhaps the most significant change when compared with our previous test is the addition of a fifth gear to bring it into line with all its rivals.
The basic shape of the Tazz has not changed, although subtle mods to the grille, bumper, and rear light lenses have been implemented. The grille is of the "semi-smiley" type, in plain black, while the headlight lenses are now of clear plastic instead of glass, and do provide a more modern touch. Side repeater indicators have been added, and the rear lenses have subtle colour variations, as modern fashion dictates, although Toyota has not gone overboard in this area.
Oh yes, there is one other more fashion-conscious change: the small hubcaps are no longer black, but silver. There are no chrome retro-touches in evidence, simply black door handles and side mirrors to match the grille. Sensibly, Toyota has realised that, while the shape remains fixed due to body press tooling being expensive to alter, paintwork can easily be changed, and has provided customers with a choice of nine colours to suit their tastes.
The Tazz has a wide stance and this is borne out inside where it boasts respectable elbow room, although all four door armrests are rather narrow.
Front seats provide ample comfort with adjustment for rake and reach, and are fitted with functional headrests. Legroom in front is spacious, with a handy footrest to the left of the clutch pedal. For rear seat passengers there is acceptable, rather than good, leg- and headroom. Seat squabs are a bit short in somewhat typical Japanese style. Only lap seatbelts are fitted at the rear. Although there is space for door pockets none are fitted. Apart from a small bin at the rear of the console, there is only one storage bin in the centre of the hangdown section of the facia – which would benefit from a rubber mat to stop items from sliding about. The glovebox provides decent storage space, though.
On a budget-priced car such as a Tazz, one can understand the omission of most features that, while nice to have, are not "must haves". For example, there are no remote door mirror controls, so a window must first be wound down before adjusting the mirror angle by hand. Other deletions include a rear window wiper (although the glass has an electric heating element for demisting), passenger grab handles, as well as luxuries such as air-conditioning, central locking, and a sound system. One glaring omission, which we thought was cutting it a bit fine, was the lack of a dipping interior rear-view mirror. This is more of a safety feature than a luxury, and its absence was rather annoying during night driving stints.
However, as a theft deterrent, Toyota has decided to fit a gearlock as standard. This is a sensible choice since it is unfortunately true that these cars are not only sought after by paying customers… To engage the gearlock, the gear lever is placed in reverse and a chrome knob pushed down to lock. Unlocking is a bit more fiddly since the gear lever partially obscures the keyhole.
The hatch opens to a height of 1 800 mm, and there is a 650 mm load height. Once the rear seats (which are split 60:40) have been folded forward, a sizeable load volume of 968 dm3 is available.
Few Tazz owners will waste much time peering under the bonnet, yet the mechanicals are at the heart of the healthy sales figures consistently achieved by Toyota. The drive train has a reputation for being bullet-proof and, even when maintenance or repairs are needed, there is ample space in the engine bay for such activities, which should please the DIY owner. The overall appearance of the engine exudes quality, although the multitude of vacuum pipes around the carburettor look complicated, to the extent that a diagram is provided under the bonnet showing the layout of these pipes.
The engine revs very willingly and does not seem to have a limiter. Although it can be revved hard, there is really no need, since there is a good spread of torque across the range. A sporty note is provided by the exhaust design, which produces a racy sounding rasp between 3 000 and 3 500 r/min, reminiscent of Opel Kadetts/
Monzas of the ’80s and some Fiats from the ’70s. This is not an unpleasant sound and, once cruising at 120 km/h, one has passed through the resonance period
Acceleration is quite nippy with the willing engine and slick gearchange, provided that snap changes are not attempted, since the lever tends to baulk through the gate if used in earnest. Driven normally, progress is effortless. The engine still has the typical performance flat spot found with these carburettor-fed units, occasionally occuring when accelerating at more than half throttle. This is, presumably, caused by a change in manifold depression when the second choke starts opening, and can be felt as a hesitation in the acceleration, but fortunately not to such an extent that it would upset many people.
LIKES & DISLIKES
Despite its low mileage, the C3 1,6 posted respectable times on the test strip, and felt capable of even better had we been prepared to continue extending the still-tight engine. The zero to 100 km/h dash was covered in 11,33 seconds (with a change from second to third required at just under the 100 km/h mark), the super-slick gearchange contributing in no small measure to the excellent performance. The kilometre was completed in 32,93 seconds (at a terminal speed of 156 km/h), and the two-way average top speed was 191 km/h, with the speedo optimistically reading 201. The odometer was also more optimistic than most, overreading by almost five per cent, but still within the accepted tolerance.
On the move, frequent downshifts are needed to maintain momentum, while fifth gear serves as an overdrive for relaxed cruising on a level road. Incidentally, our top speed figure of 159 km/h was achieved in fourth gear, due to fifth being unable to pull more than 5 000 r/min.
The car has an automatic choke that takes a while to warm up on cold winter mornings, but starting is quick and easy. The heater, however, warms up rapidly, and the slide knob ventilation controls can be used to demist the windscreen fairly quickly.
Fuel consumption is an all-important factor not exclusive to the lower end of the market. Our index figure worked out at 9,24 litres per 100 km, which was a touch better than our CAR Guide estimate, and significantly better than the 10,28 achieved during our previous test of the four-speed version in October 1996. This shows the benefit gained from the extra ratio and, while fuel thirst is only average in class and bettered by some smaller rivals, the difference is unlikely to be sufficient reason to discourage buyers.
Ride is acceptable for a light car, being both comfortable and compliant, with predictable handling, no doubt partly due to the fitment, as standard, of gas dampers both front and rear. The only department requiring some effort is the steering that, without power assistance, is rather heavy at parking speeds.
Even with 4,1 turns lock-to-lock, the four-spoke wheel requires some heavy tugging to cope with manoeuvering. Driving at normal speeds is no problem, but high speed cornering requires a firm grip on the wheel. The straight-ahead position also feels a bit wooden, but we have been spoilt by power steering being standard fitment on the vast majority of cars and, after some acclimatisation, the steering begins to feel more natural.