THE 1986 Toyota Corolla FX-16 GT-S is an excellent car. It's theprice that's lousy.

We're talking $14,000 here, folks. More specifically, we're talking$13,908 for an econobox.

Okay, so it's no ordinary econobox. It has a spiffy 1.6-liter,twin-cam, fuel-injected, four-cylinder, 16-valve gasoline engine thataccelerates a lot faster than it took you to read this sentence. It haspower windows and locks, and a sunroof and a little leather around thesteering wheel and gearshift knob.

The car runs beautifully. Fit and finish are impeccable.

But $14,000? And $14,000 that could easily become $15,000 by the timeyou get the thing off the dealer's lot? All of that money for whatToyota describes as a subcompact car designed to offer "a uniquecombination of performance and practicality?"

I asked a few dozen people to guess the price of the test model. Mostfigured they could get it out of the showroom for about $11,500. Only afew -- actually three out of 34 -- guessed $13,000, including taxes,tags and dealer prep. No one guessed an asking price of what amounts to$14,000.

Things have gone wacko on the pricing of many Japanese cars. Foreignexchange fluctuations have helped boost the average 1987-model prices ofcars from Japan's five leading auto makers by as much as $1,900. Andmany East Coast dealers are adding insult to injury by sticking ondealer markups -- a practice largely discontinued in the West.

When is enough enough?

Complaints: Enough.

Praise: World-class craftsmanship -- in this case, made by Americanworkers under Toyota management in Fremont, Calif. The FX-16 GT-Sactually is produced by New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., thejoint-venture company operated by General Motors Corp. and Toyota MotorCorp.

NUMMI also assembles the Chevrolet Nova subcompact -- a ToyotaCorolla with a Chevy badge sold exclusively through Chevroletdealerships. The FX-16 GT-S is sold only through Toyota. Both carsprove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that American workers can build carsas well as anybody in the global auto industry.

Ride, acceleration, handling: Nearly perfect. The front end tends tolose a little traction in fast, sharp turns. But it's nothingunmanageable. Handling is enhanced by a nifty, easy-to-use, five-speedmanual gearbox.

Acceleration is boffo -- zero to 60 mph in under 10 seconds, 108horsepower at 6,600 rpm.

Head-turning-quotient: Ugly, steeply angled hatch-back rear. Slightlymore appealing slope-nosed front. Econoboring.

Sound system: AM/FM stereo radio and cassette with electronic tuningand four speakers, by Toyota. Good.

Mileage: Easily 27 miles to the gallon (13.2-gallon tank), combinedcity-highway, running driver only and with heater on most of the time.

Price-as-tested: $13,908, including $2,915 in distributor-addedoptions and a $325 destination charge. The base price of $10,668 ispolite fiction on this one, particularly on the East Coast.