Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback Buyers Guide

By: Joe Kenwright

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Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback
Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback

Future classics - Joe Kenwright looks into his crystal ball and picks some future winners

Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback Buyers Guide
Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback


Toyota Corolla Seca SX Liftback

There was an event in October 1989 that couldn't occur in 2012. Wheels magazine compared the locally-built Toyota Corolla SX with a Volkswagen Golf GTI and overwhelmingly handed the verdict to the Toyota.

The conclusion was that "it's smoother, faster, quieter, easier to drive than the Golf, and in all but the most extreme circumstances handles every bit as well." As for the Golf, "you'll soon tire of the rock-hard ride and the intrusive noise, especially on a long trip." Just as importantly, the Corolla sold for $22,150 and the Golf exactly $10,000 more.

The trend for middle-aged men and women in Europe to get misty-eyed over the early Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTi hot hatches they drove in their youth is therefore not going to happen on any major level in Australia.

For the Corolla SX, Toyota imported an extensively-upgraded drivetrain from the three-door Corolla GT, and installed it in both five-door hatchback styles built locally. After inheriting the extensive local suspension development that placed them "a generation ahead" according to Wheels, the local Corolla SX hatches were the best expressions of the Corolla GT concept, globally. Even on home turf, the Euros would have struggled to reverse the order, a conclusion Wheels also reached.

The high-compression 4A-GE engine offered dual camshafts, a trick variable-induction system, sophisticated multi-point injection and knock sensor for a seamless rush of power up to 7300rpm. The 100kW/147Nm output from 1.6 litres was not only impressive for 1989, strutting its stuff was no effort with just 1085kg to push.

There were two Corolla ranges back then. Toyota Australia drew on the entry range for the locally-built, short-tailed hatch and sedan. From the upper range, it built the long-tailed Seca 'liftback' locally and imported the AE95 Corolla 4x4 wagon. Both premium models were incredibly long-lived and always sought-after.

Because the Corolla Seca liftback from this upper series remains one of the prettiest and best finished small hatches ever, the rare Australian 1989-92 SX version - with its durable Aussie paint and luxury trim - is extra special.

In August 1991, the short-tailed hatch was upgraded and rebadged as the Corolla GTi. The Seca SX version gained the GTi's new sports seats and bigger brakes, plus a new alloy-wheel design and velour trim. But Toyota's subsequent return to 'white goods' Corollas and corruption of the once-exclusive Seca badge to describe any Corolla hatchback has committed these amazing models to distant memory.

Toyota's return to form with the new 86 has brought the mid-'80s Corolla Sprinter back into sharp focus, as predicted in this column. Outlaying little more than $4000 for one of the best of these hot Corolla hatches should be a no-brainer if Toyota learns from its 86 success and starts building special Corollas again.



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