OK, I'm sure. Those same ex-yuppie, Evian-sucking, Eddie Bauer-wearing marketing types are also trying to peddle products they'll swear you'll love to own. And those marketing types at Toyota hope their new Paseo fills the bill. Never mind that when they were young, they could opt for a hot little Celica. That car's price tag has grown along with boomers' waistlines. So what are we left with? Try the bottom of the automotive food chain. The Paseo is based on the Tercel, the least-expensive Toyota model. But this is Toyota, so it's reliable stuff. Start with styling. It's all new for 1996, though there's certainly nothing radical here. The grille disappears under the bumper, giving the front end a seamless, smooth appearance. This also helps aerodynamics up front. Windows are larger this year, while the rear roof pillar is smaller. The tall tail is stubbier, and the overall effect is one of a stubby automotive roller skate: chunky, spunky and moderately sporty, but not aggressively so. It's a pleasing little shape and moderately distinctive. This styling will stay attractive longer than Courtney Love will. To those familiar with last year's interior, the new digs will be welcome. There's a lot more space and humans will actually fit in the back (if coaxed). The dash is lower and revised, with easy-to-reach ventilation and radio controls. Though a bit Spartan-looking, the plastics are of good quality and the interior has a pleasing modern feel that's solid and well-assembled. The steering wheel has a beautiful feel to it, as though lifted from more expensive models. Trunk and fuel filler door releases are floor mounted and easy to reach. The seats are supportive and covered in a burlap-like fabric that, looks aside, at least offers the prospect of durability. Dual airbags are standard this year, and the doors are graced with map pockets. There's a slide-out cup holder low in the dash and the center console has a small storage area. Standard amenities include full wheel covers, color-keyed bumpers, reclining bucket seats, full carpeting, intermittent wipers, AM/FM stereo and tachometer. Available options include anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, cassette, power windows and door locks, moonroof, cruise control, alloy wheels and a spoiler. It's far from opulent, but has a sporty feel that helps cover its econocar roots. Mechanically, it's identical to the Tercel, which was redesigned for '95. Power comes from a 1.5-liter in-line four-cylinder. A twin-cam, 16-valve design graces this engine with 93 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque. Ideally, you'd want the five-speed manual transmission. This model had the optional four-speed, electronically controlled automatic. It moved this 2,125-pound car with enough spirit to keep you from dreading your purchasing decision. Front suspension is MacPherson strut, but torsion beams reside out back. Not the most moder n of suspensions, but it endows this little scooter with a tail-hopping attitude that a skillful driver can have fun with. Driving is a cut above your typical econobox. This car's tidy size (163.6 inches long, 65.4 inches wide) makes it enjoyable to scoot around town on its 14-inch rubber. Of course, being in your 20s, you probably enjoy a mosh pit or two. So you probably won't mind the engine noise, tire noise and fan noise this car generates. Just crank the radio. And if this car seems too small and noisy for your snotty older sibling to drive, just look at this way: They'll never borrow it. Besides the durability of a Toyota, you'll also get good mileage, EPA ratings are 28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway. The trunk is a small 7.5 cubic feet, but the rear seat folds down to help matters. OK, so a Celica it's not. It's more like a Tercel with an attitude. At least this is a much better car than those whiney fortysomething marketing types drove in their you h. Maybe things aren't so bad for twentysomethings after all.
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