The subcompact Toyota Tercel has been restyled for 1991. It now looksvery much like a Toyota Lexus LS 400 in miniature. But the $8,400 economy car we test drove didn`t act like its $40,000luxury sidekick in the Toyota fold. Those who have
come to expect Toyota to set the automotive standard willfind an unusual number of flaws and shortcomings in the newest machine. Set the standard for others? The Tercel offers no air bag, a vital itemin a vehicle with a mere 93.7-inch wheelbase and
only 161.8 inches long. Rather than an air bag, Toyota relies on front-seat shoulder belts thatfasten around the occupants` torso when the door is closed but serve as abarrier when exiting. Set the standard for others? The ceiling was
covered with a cheap vinyltotally out of character for a `90s car. It brought back memories of the early`70s, when ``floor mats`` were wafer thin slivers of vinyl and the soundsystem was no more than a transistor radio hung from the rear-view mirror.
Standard for others? The gas pedal is so high off the floor that morethan once our foot slipped from it. Call it sudden deceleration. Standard for others? The windshield wipers throw water back through thedriver`s window. One final gripe was
the fuel gauge. It took several minutes each morningfor the needle to wake up and move off the ``E.`` With a 26-mile-per-galloncity/29-m.p.g. highway rating, you expect the needle to move slowly from ``F``to ``E,`` not the other way around. In an
age when consumers toss about the term ``Japanese quality`` as ifit was a divine right, the Tercel`s annoyances were a huge letdown. Tercel is offered as a base, Deluxe and LE sedan only for 1991. Toyotadid away with last year`s hatchback and
coupe. Tercel is powered by a 1.5-liter, 12-valve, fuel-injected, 4-cylinderengine. Electronic fuel injection boosts horsepower by 5 percent, to 82 h.p., from the `90. A 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic is available. Ride and handling are
adequate bordering on ordinary thanks in part tothe 13-inch tires. Keep your expectations to a minimum. The mini Toyota is a functionaleconomy car. You get the room to hold people and their belongings and obtainvery good mileage. On the
positive side, Tercel is considerably more roomy than in pastyears and the trunk probably holds as much cargo as the pickup truck bed. Also, high-zinc content galvanized steel is used in 80 percent of the car body to protect against rust.
The base Tercel two-door sedan starts at $6,488. The four-door Deluxesedan starts at $7,898 with 5-speed manual or $8,368 with the 4-speedautomatic we drove. Standard equipment includes power brakes, rack and pinion steering,radial ply tires, color
keyed grille, front air dam, dual outside mirrors and reclining cloth bucket seats. Power steering is a $250 option, rear windowdefroster $90.