1 IT’S JUST A MEDIOCRE SALOON
Despite a long stint in British showrooms between 1971 and ‘77, the Carina is largely forgotten today. But it shared its platform with the Celica coupé and some of its drivetrain with the bigger Corona, with MacPherson strut front end, a beam rear axle, and coil springs all round. It had servo-assisted front disc brakes and a choice of four-speed manual or automatic transmission and conformed to Toyota’s trusty layout of an in-line petrol engine (a 1.6-litre ‘four’ with an alloy cylinder head and twin carbs) powering the rear wheels.
2 IT WAS GUTLESS
Not at all. It was a beacon of liveliness for a medium sized family saloon. The Carina could leap from standstill to 60mph in an eager 12.2sec, and the top speed was 100mph. Handling was rather prone to understeer but contemporary reports were full of praise for brakes, steering and gearchange. From a day-to-day viewpoint, British drivers accustomed to Fords and Vauxhalls were immediately aware of the car’s excellent refinement and driving position. It was far from poor to drive, while never remotely pretending to be a sports car.
3 BRITISH BUYERS HATED IT
People could be openly hostile to Japanese cars in the early 1970s; sales took off at the expense of the ailing British Leyland. But it wasn’t patriotism that limited sales, more the duties levied on Japanese imports. The Carina’s main rivals were the Ford Cortina MkIII and Morris Marina. But the £1183 Carina – available as one model, a none-too-pretty, semifastback four-door saloon – had a specification groaning with things you paid extra for on rivals, including a radio, clock, reversing lights, servo-assisted brakes and reclining seats.
Quasi-fastback styling a refreshing change to British saloon styling.