Toyota is an automotive industry titan. Founded in 1933 by Kiichiro Toyoda, as a branch of Toyoda Loom Works, Toyota had relatively humble beginnings before exploding onto the scene in the latter half of the 20th Century. Today, Toyota is the leading automotive manufacturer in the world, selling over 8 million vehicles in 2018 alone. They've built a name for themselves on practicality, reliability, and durability and have millions of dedicated fans across the world. Many of their vehicles are known to run for decades and take continuous abuse. Others, not so much. Even Achilles had his heel. Today we review the best & worst Toyota models of all time.
10 Best: Celica
The Toyota Celica had, until recently, been a mainstay in the Toyota lineup. Debuting in 1970, the first generation Celica was a thorough success, and Toyota continued to crank out a new generation roughly every four years with new features, better gas mileage, and better power. The Celica platform even gave birth to the Toyota Supra, arguably the most legendary tuner car in history. Celica means 'Celestial' or 'Heavenly'; one place this name truly held up was on the rally course. Alltrac (AWD) Celicas dominated the rally scene in the '80s and '90s while still being a practical coupe for the everyday man. The '90s were kind to the Celica, but with the debut of the seventh, and final, generation, problems arose, and the market for a sporty FWD car just wasn't there. Toyota ceased production of the Celica in 2006, but rumor has it that it may be in store for a revival.
9 Worst: Paseo
Do you remember the Paseo? No? If yes, you're in the minority. The Paseo was based on the Tercel and marketed as a sportier car. But apparently, someone in engineering forgot to relay the message that it essentially had no improvements over the Tercel. Over4 the course of its short run, it never made better than 93hp. Abysmal for something that's supposed to be "sporty" or "fun." On top of this, Toyota had once again produced a relatively bland car in terms of style. The Paseo wasn't exactly a car that caught anyone's attention. Handling was average, and sales were poor. Overall, this was just a mediocre car being passed off as something entertaining, and it wasn't. It was just meh.
8 Best: Supra
The Toyota Supra began its life as a more aggressive and sporty variant of the Celica in 1979. By 1986 the two platforms split, and the Supra was all on its own as a rear-wheel-drive, inline-six engine housing monster. In 1987 Toyota threw in a turbo and pushed the horsepower to 230! Not bad for a lightweight Japanese sportscar. Enthusiasts were quite content. But it got even better. In 1993 the world was introduced to the legend that continues to dominate the hearts and minds of tuners the world over. The twin-turbo 2JZ-GTE engine was perhaps the most overbuilt engine ever created. This meant you could safely tune and boost your car for huge numbers without worrying about damaging your block. So people did. Its legacy was later cemented in history as it donned the starring role in The Fast and The Furious (2001).
7 Worst: T100
The T100. You'll still see a couple of these rolling around the streets today. They weren't all that bad of a truck. Same familiar Toyota reliability, but the one thing that killed the T100 was that I wasn't quite big enough for the rollercoaster. Toyota tried, and failed, to enter the full-size truck market in North America with a truck that barely fit that description. Americans wanted power, torque, and bed size. The T100 didn't deliver in those categories relative to its competition. The Detroit Big 3 easily ran off the minuscule T100. Luckily for Toyota fans, the Tundra came shortly after.
6 Best: Corolla
Without the Corolla, where would Toyota be today? This vehicle has become legendary for its reliability, ease of repair, low-cost maintenance, and excellent gas mileage. First introduced in 1968 in the US, it became an immediate success. A large thanks in part to Toyota's Land Cruiser -more on that later- By 1974 it had climbed all the way to top as the best selling vehicle in the world. Ever since the Corolla has continued to maintain its reputation as an economical and reliable passenger car. The Corolla has even had its fair share of neat variants; such as the Alltrac wagon and the famed, drift-happy, Sprinter Trueno/Levin models of the late '80s.
5 Worst: Tercel
The "Turdcel", an affectionate nickname given to a somewhat loveable vehicle. Many owners fondly remember their Tercel as a reliable A to B vehicle. Just as many others remember how theirs always needed repairs. From defective seals, and oil burning, to an awful side-draft carburetor prone to failure, the Tercel had a plethora of issues to help tarnish its reputation in the 1990s. The bland styling didn't help to elevate the vehicle to higher sales either. Eventually, the many issues caught up to the Tercel, and Toyota decided to eliminate the nameplate permanently.
4 Best: Pickup/Tacoma
The Toyota Pickup is a vehicle familiar to many around the world even today. It was never flashy or fast, but it got the job done and was always reliable. The Pickup built a reputation in the '80s for being indestructible, and many of those trucks are still on the roads today. As the Pickup transitioned into the Tacoma, it quickly became one of the top-selling trucks in America. Today it maintains that status with a loyal and devoted fanbase. At one point in time, foreign tucks were not even in the conversation. The Pickup/Tacoma changed that.
3 Worst: Echo
The Toyota Echo was, simply put, a failure. It was ugly. It was impractical. It didn't appeal to anyone in particular, though Toyota tried. The Echo, initially meant as a way to grab interest from younger buyers, utterly fell short of the quality the world had come to expect from Toyota. Some of the more notable issues included a center-mounted speedometer, lack of a tachometer, unattractive design, and overall lack of excitement. About the only thing going for it was the gas mileage. Sales started strong but dropped drastically, most likely due to the poor quality of the vehicle relative to its cost.
2 Best: Land Cruiser
Where would Toyota be without the Land Cruiser? Truthfully, nowhere. In 1950, the US awarded a military contract to Toyota to commission military jeeps during the Korean War. A civilian model based on those vehicles was produced, and the vehicle became known for its utility and reliability around the world. But Toyota was struggling abroad and on the brink of collapse when it began to implement its Land Cruiser strategy. Toyota was able to market its sedans because of the Land Cruiser's credibility. Since then, models such as the FJ40, FJ60, 70-series, and more have further cemented their reputation as kings of the trail and a go-anywhere truck. Today Toyota has brought the Land Cruiser to a more luxurious station with an abundance of amenities and features. But they're still just as capable in the mud.
1 Worst: Cavalier
The Chevrolet Cavalier... err Toyota Cavalier was a single generation failure. Running from 1996-2000 in Toyota's homeland of Japan, the Cavalier was a rebadging team-up with GM to try and sell some American vehicles in the Japanese market. Quite an ambitious task. But why, of all the cars to choose from, would they have used the Chevy Cavalier. This was a full swing and a miss by the two automotive giants. Sales never came anywhere close to projections. Toyota even released a TRD version which improved looks, but not sales. The American car in disguise just didn't suite Japanese tastes.