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Reader's test: 1990 Corolla

2012-08-08 08:43

BEAUTY IS BROWN AND GOLD (AND SOMETIMES PINK)... Reader Christiaan's relationship with his Corolla did not get off to an ideal start but, three years later, he's smitten.

Christiaan Reinecke

It was the year 1990 and somewhere in a Toyota factory in Japan they were putting the finishing touches to what would become my "Bruin Pikkewyn" (brown penguin).

Fast forward 20 years later... I can remember that disappointing day when my father called and informed me that I was the proud owner of some old lady’s 1990 Corolla. As a matric boy at that stage, the last car that I wanted was a Toyota Corolla.


Its design was so bland and boring; not exactly every boy’s dream. It was terrifying that my dad had made the decision for me and that I couldn’t even inspect the car before he bought it. I didn’t know what to expect.

On the car’s arrival, I was greeted by the ugliest metallic brown/gold (sometimes pink, depending on the reflection of light) Corolla, with matching brown tweed upholstery (henceforth known as “Bruin Pikkewyn”…). At the time, a true disappointment but after three years of ownership, this little Corolla is the best car I could have asked for.

It eats tar for breakfast, lunch and dinner... it’s a road monster and the perfect studentmobile.

The Corolla travels between the Western Cape and Gauteng without any hassles. It travels about 15 000 km each year and never gives me any problems. And don't think the 336 000km on the clock shows any indication of slowing down soon. I get about 12km/litre in town driving and 15km/litre on the freeway; quite economical for such an old carburettor motor. It’s fuel range is also very good, thanks to the 60 litre fuel tank, which makes any road trip a pleasure.  

The performance isn’t anything to sneeze at either as it has enough low down torque so there’s no need for changing back to fourth gear for overtaking. Even with a load of four students and their luggage, this little Toyota cruises at the legal limit (and beyond) with ease. The ride is very good and soaks up bumps and potholes. I have to say, I feel much better after travelling 1200km in my Corolla, than in my mother's new Ford Focus.

The boot it quite big and can accommodate four passengers’ luggage without any hassles. A big thumbs up, is the durable interior. After 22 years there are no scratches or cracks on the dashboard, or any tears in the seats. Built quality is very good, with only one rattle in the door after all these years. There is also no sign of rust, which puts a big smile on my face.


There isn’t a long specification list. A rev counter, clock, rear window demister, gear lock and an optional (ugly) spoiler are about the only luxury features that this car has. No air-conditioning, no power steering, no central locking… Nothing! But it is easy to live without those luxuries although aircon would be appreciated when travelling through the Karoo. But this car gives me so much driving pleasure, the lack of luxury items easily fades away.

The “Bruin Pikkewyn” was one of my best investments, taking into consideration that I bought it for under R20 000 and have received offers for up to R40 000. That’s about the same as an investment with a 30% interest rate... which financial company could give you that type of investment?

After three years, this 1990 Toyota Corolla 1.6 GL has definitely proved itself to me. I will be driving this car for years to come with peace of mind and I will enjoy every second of it. I was a fool to judge this book by its metallic brown/gold/sometimes pink cover... I couldn’t have asked for a better and more reliable student mobile. 

If you, like Christiaan, would love the world to know how fab or drab your car or bike is, send your original review of no more than 500 words, plus your pictures, to Wheels24 and stand a chance to win a Garmin satnav!

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