Car manufacturers from Japan were late bloomers compared to many of their competitors in Europe and the US but in recent years, automotive companies from the Land of the Rising Sun have caught up, and in many cases surpassed, rivals with a much more established history and reputation.
Toyota is probably one of the best-known of those car manufacturers, and the company has been making vehicles since the 1930s, first for the domestic market and later for export around the world. The firm has grown beyond all expectations, and as of September 2018, was the sixth biggest company in the world by revenue.
Founded by Kiichiro Toyoda, the company produced its first passenger vehicle, the Model AA, in 1936, and sold it for less than the Ford and General Motors vehicles which had been imported into Japan. Now, Toyota has surpassed its great rivals in the states in many areas, especially in the production of hybrid cars; the auto giant is the global market leader in the sale of hybrid vehicles, thanks mainly to its successful Prius model.
Not all Toyota vehicles have been as successful as the Prius however - and there are even some Prius models that have failed to hit the mark with consumers. Read the list below to discover some of the most glaring problems with Toyota cars that nobody talks about.
25 Toyota Yaris - Poor Safety Rating
The first model of the Toyota Yaris, launched in 1999 and known as the Toyota Echo in some markets, was definitely one of the company’s biggest failures. Designed to be affordable for drivers on a tight budget, the car just ended up looking and feeling, rather cheap, as though the company had cut a few corners when it came to both the engineering and the design. There was no power steering, and even something as standard as electric windows was only available as an optional extra, while the car’s safety record left a lot to be desired.
24 Toyota RAV 4 - Engine Failure
The Toyota RAV 4 – or Recreational Activity Vehicle 4-Wheel Drive to give the SUV its full name – have been one of Toyota’s big success stories, in production constantly since 1994. So why has it ended up on a list of problematic Toyota vehicles? Well, that’s all down to the 2007 model of the compact crossover SUV, which suffered a number of issues with the steering system as well as overheating problems. Most significantly, there were several thousand complaints from RAV 4 drivers about serious engine failures, which sometimes happened while the vehicle was traveling at high speed on the interstate!
23 Toyota Camry - Transmission Problems
It appears that 2007 wasn’t a great year for Toyota. Not only did the RAV 4 compact crossover SUV suffer a litany of faults and failures, the but the Toyota Camry mid-size car also failed to impress drivers. Issues with the transmission system were probably the most significant problem, but Camry owners also reported oil leaks and issues with the brakes. Toyota tried to restore the reputation of the Camry, which had been in production since 1982, with a complete re-design of the vehicle for 2008, but sales that year bore the brunt of the problems with the 2007 model.
22 Toyota Mega Cruiser - Gas Guzzler
When Toyota executives saw the success of the vast military-style Hummer in the mid-1990s, they decided that it was time to get a share of this new market for heavy-duty all-wheel-drive vehicles – and the Toyota Mega Cruiser was the result. It was certainly one of the largest vehicles Toyota ever built, but a truck that size also required a powerful engine – and the Mega Cruiser was a bit of a gas guzzler. By the time the 21st century had dawned, consumers were starting to become more interested in environmentally-friendly vehicles, and trucks like the Mega Cruiser went out of fashion.
21 Toyota Tacoma - Issues With Transmission
The pickup is about as USA as vehicles get, but that hasn’t stopped car manufacturers like Toyota from making their own versions of these popular trucks. The Toyota Tacoma is a mid-size pickup, powered by a V6 engine, which has been in production since 1995. Most models have been quietly successful, but the 2016 Toyota Tacoma had some serious issues with its automatic transmission which infuriated drivers who had bought the pickup. Owners reported that the automatic transmission would shift down at odd times, forcing motorists to use the Electronically Controlled Transmission button more than they wanted to.
20 Toyota Tundra – Accelerator Pedal Failure
The Toyota Tundra was the company’s full-size pickup truck, launched in 1999 – two years after the smaller Tacoma – and which is still in production today. This was yet another Toyota vehicle from 2007 which seemed to be cursed, as far as owners were concerned, at any rate. The Tundra may have looked the part, but the 2007 model had a serious failing once owners got behind the wheel. This model was even recalled by Toyota because of the tendency of the accelerator pedal to become hard to depress or to get stuck in position, increasing the risk of a serious accident.
19 Toyota Avalon - Problem With Airbags
Safety is obviously a major concern for drivers and is, therefore, something on which car manufacturers spend a lot of time and money. The stylish Toyota Avalon is one of the auto company’s most luxurious sedans, with a basic starting price of $35,000, so consumers should reasonably expect that the car they are buying is going to be both safe and well-engineered. However, the 2016 model of the Toyota Avalon was one of a number of models which were recalled by the manufacturer because of problems with the airbags, which could fail to deploy in the event of an accident.
18 Toyota Crown Majesta - Faulty Brakes
The Toyota Crown Majesta is not a name that many motorists will find instantly recognizable – probably because not many drivers can afford to buy a limousine! The first model which was launched in 1991, was smaller, but the vehicle has steadily increased in size over the years, and by the time production ended in 2018, the Crown Majesta looked as though it would be more at home in a dictator’s collection than on the streets of US cities. The vehicle was also plagued by brake problem throughout its period of production, and thousands of cars built between 2007 and 2012 were recalled because the problem was so significant.
17 Toyota Corolla - Airbag Recall
When it comes to automotive success stories, they don’t come much bigger than the Toyota Corolla. Corolla is the name given to a family of compact and subcompact cars which have been produced by the Toyota since 1966, and in 1997 Corolla became the best-selling nameplate in motoring history, recording 40 million sales by July 2013. Even the mighty Corolla couldn’t avoid the airbag problems which plagued several Toyota models in 2007, however, when more than one million vehicles, including thousands of Corolla cars, were recalled because their airbags could rupture when deployed, putting drivers and passengers at risk of injury.
16 Toyota Hilux - More Faulty Airbags
2007 was far from the first time that airbags had caused Toyota a problem. In 2014, the company was forced to recall thousands of vehicle, including the Toyota Hilux, which had been built between 2004 and 2010. There was a fault with the electrical systems in the affected vehicles which could lead to the airbags being deactivated. Add this wasn’t the only problem affecting the Toyota Hilux, a compact pickup truck in production since 1968, as the Hilux has now become the vehicle of choice for many militant groups in the Middle East and Africa – a bit of a PR disaster for Toyota.
15 Scion Xd - Dangerous Sliding Seats
While most motoring aficionados will have heard of Lexus, even if they didn’t know what the luxury brand was part of the Toyota family, the Scion name may not be quite so familiar. Scion was a short-lived Toyota marque which aimed to create cars that would appeal more to younger drivers, but the project was shelved after just 13 years in 2016. The Scion xD was a subcompact hatchback which ended up being recalled by Toyota in 2008, because of problems with the sliding seat controls, which in some cases had caused the seats to move forward in the event of a collision.
14 Scion tC - Poor Safety Record
The Scion tC was another model from the failed brand which had a less than exemplary safety record. In production between 2004 and 2016, first as the Scion tC and then as the Toyota Zelas, this sports coupe came out very badly in safety tests. The car’s structure and safety cage were graded as “poor” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, one of several organizations which carry out rigorous tests to ensure that vehicles on our roads are as safe as they can be. This safety grading could easily lead to more serious injuries for drivers and passengers in the Scion tC in the event of an accident.
13 Toyota Land Cruiser - Very Low Mpg
The Toyota Land Cruiser is a slightly smaller version of the Mega Cruiser, which as we have already seen had some serious problems with fuel economy and polluting exhaust emissions. Unsurprisingly, owners of the Land Cruiser, a full-size SUV, experienced many of the same issues, including a very low mpg or miles per gallon. The Land Cruiser was first built in the 1950s when fuel economy and pollution were not such great concerns, but the vehicle has had to adapt in order to continue being successful in the 21st century – although the 2019 model still only gets 13mpg when driving in the city.
12 Toyota CH-R - Slow Acceleration
As one of the newest cars on this list, it may be a surprise that the Toyota CH-R has a glaring problem. However, this high-end subcompact crossover SUV still has a few flaws which could and should have been ironed out before the vehicle was launched in 2018 on the U.S. market. For a vehicle which looks like a sporty version of an SUV, the Toyota CH-R has recorded some very disappointing acceleration figures, taking 10.9 seconds to get from 0 to 60mph – far too long for most drivers when compared to many equivalent vehicles of the same size and price.
11 Toyota Supra - Engine Blowouts
The Toyota Supra was one of the company’s most successful and sophisticated sports cars, styled on the successful Celica model, and in production from 1978 until 2002 – and due to make a return in 2019. This stylish vehicle has become something of a cult classic and has even featured in video games like Grand Theft Auto and the Fast and Furious movies. Not every Supra model was a classic, though; the 1986 version of the car had more than a few glaring problems, not least the tendency of the head gaskets in the engine to fail at inopportune moments, causing the engine to grind to a halt.
10 Toyota Master Ace - No Sense Of Style
If there was a prize for the ugliest vehicle ever produced by Toyota, then the Master Ace would certainly be in the running. This unusual creation, which looks something like a combination of a family minivan and a Volkswagen Bus, first appeared in the 1970s, and production only ended in 2007 – although by then, the vehicle had been redesigned beyond all recognition and had been renamed the Master Lite Ace. It wasn’t just the awkward exterior design of the Toyota Master Ace which put drivers off, but also the clouds of polluting exhaust fumes which were produced by the vehicle.
9 Toyota FJ Cruiser - Blind Spot
The Toyota FJ Cruiser was an ideal choice for drivers who were genuinely interested in an off-road vehicle; most consumers, however, found the SUV a little too basic and too boxy and unattractive for daily driving. It could be pretty dangerous to drive the FJ Cruiser in traffic too, as the vehicle was notorious for having a particularly awkward blind spot. Clearly, this vehicle was never going to be a big success for Toyota, but no-one could foresee just how much of a failure it would be; sales of the FJ Cruiser fell by 72% over the eight years it was in production.
8 Toyota Sera - Unnecessary Lambo Doors
A vehicle which was very much at home in the 1990s, the Toyota Sera sports car was only in production for five years between 1990 and 1995. It was ostentatious, with features that many genuinely sophisticated sports car manufacturers would have found sub-par. The Sera boasted a roof made almost entirely of glass, but perhaps the most unusual and awkward features were the vertical-lifting Lambo doors. Fine on a sexy Lamborghini, but rather unnecessary on a cut-price sports car from Toyota. The Toyota Sera was only ever sold in Japan and Europe, but a few U.S. drivers managed to get their hands on this one-of-a-kind creation.
7 Toyota Prius C - Too Small For U.S.
The Toyota Prius is the best-selling hybrid vehicle of all time, having sold 6.1 million cars in the twenty years from its launch in 1997. The Prius even has celebrity fans, with Hollywood stars like Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, and Leonardo DiCaprio having been spotted behind the wheel of this more environmentally-friendly vehicle. Not every Prius model has been a success for Toyota in the States, however. The Toyota Prius c is a smaller hatchback version of the original vehicle, which has not been as successful in the US, most likely because it is simply too small for the U.S. market.
6 Lexus CT - Too Expensive For Most Drivers
In order to compete with the high-end European car makers like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, Toyota launched its own luxury brand, Lexus, in 1989. Many motorists are surprised to find out that their stylish and expensive Lexus vehicles are just Toyotas in disguise! The Lexus CT is, like the Toyota Prius, a hybrid vehicle, though there are some significant differences between the two vehicles, not least the price. While the starting price for a Prius is $24,000, the Lexus CT, a very similar vehicle in many ways, will set you back $29,000 – with most people paying more than that once they start adding on the extras!
5 Toyota Solara - Not Luxurious Enough
The Toyota Solara is a two-door coupe and convertible, based on the same frame as the Camry, but designed to be a more exclusive and luxurious model. The problem with aiming for the luxury model is that the Solara was up against some genuinely luxurious cars in the same price range – including sporty coupes and convertibles made by some of the best European car manufacturers. The Solara was only in production for ten years between 1998 and 2008, as it seemed to suffer from something of an identity crisis, not quite being luxurious enough to be considered a luxury car.
4 Toyota Previa - Ugly Design
While the Solara struggled to sell despite its stylish design, there were some vehicles where Toyota appeared to have given no thought at all to how their car was going to look. The Toyota Previa, known as the Estima on Japan's market, was one of the least attractive minivans ever created, and the third generation model created in 1997 was a particularly ugly incarnation. The Previa is almost egg-shaped, with its engine in the middle of the vehicle, and bears more than a passing resemblance to the unusual Toyota Master Ace which has already made an appearance on this list.
3 Toyota Tercel - Low Safety Rating
When it comes to cars, the 1990s really were the decade that style forgot. The Toyota Tercel was a subcompact car built between 1978 and 1999, though it changed very little in appearance over the twenty years it was in production. By the time the 1998 model was launched, the Tercel was starting to look very dated – and it also came out poorly in safety testing. Even the Tercel models made in the mid to late-90s didn’t have airbags or antilock brakes as standard. Combine this with the vehicle’s lack of style and it was hardly surprising that Toyota ditched the model the following year.
2 Toyota 4 Runner - Uncomfortable Ride
The Toyota 4 Runner is a mid-size SUV, which started life as a compact SUV. In fact, it started life as little more than a fiberglass bodywork shell over a pretty basic jeep frame. By the time the Nineties and Noughties rolled around, the Toyota 4 Runner was a much better vehicle, but in the early days, after it was first launched in 1983, this was one SUV which didn’t offer a particularly smooth ride, either off-road or on-road. At least with this model Toyota identified and rectified their mistakes, ensuring that the 4 Runner has become a successful and popular model.
1 Toyota Sequoia - Poor Fuel Economy
No-one would be surprised to learn that the monumental Toyota Mega Cruiser and the Toyota Land Cruiser are gas guzzling, highly polluting vehicles. After all, these bigger-than-full-size SUV trucks are notorious for their very poor fuel economy figures. However, these are far from the only Toyota vehicles which have suffered because of their low mpg. Even some of the regular SUVs built by the auto giant have surprisingly low fuel economy figures, including the first Toyota Sequoia models built in 2001, which got just 12 miles per gallon in the city and 16 miles per gallon on the highway.
Sources: carcovers, carcomplaints, thetruthaboutcars, drivemag, consumerreports