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Toyota’s Hot Hatch Revolution: A Deep Dive into the Tercel, Corsa, and Corolla II Trio

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  • Toyota Corsa
  • Toyota Tercel
  • Toyota Corolla II
  • Toyota's first Vitz RS
  • Toyota Platz
  • Honda Civic
  • Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
  • Mazda 5th generation Familia

Toyota’s three ‘Taco 2’ hot hatch brothers

Do you remember the three Toyota brothers known as the ‘Taco 2’ in Japan? This was a friendly name for the Tercel/Corsa/Corolla II, which was commonly known as “Taco 2”, taking one letter each from the “ta” of the Tercel, “co” of the Corsa and “II” of the Corolla II. 

These cars were easy for women to drive and boast stable popularity

These three Toyota brothers appeared as simple, compact FF cars against the backdrop of the bubble economy of the 1980s: they were hatchbacks with FF (front engine front drive), i.e. a straight-4 1.3L/1.5L engine in the front, driving the front wheels.

The history of the three “Taco 2” brothers goes back some 40-odd years. The first generation (L1# model) of the Tercel, Toyota’s first FWD car, was born in 1978 and sold until 1982. The eldest son, the second son, Tercel/Corsa, welcomed the first Corolla II (L2# model 1982-86) in 1982, and it was here that they first began to be known as the ‘three brothers’.

The eldest son, the Tercel, was introduced as a five-door hatchback with a design emphasizing an intelligent, urban feel. The second son, the Corsa, followed his brother with a four-door sedan, with an elegant yet familiar design, a vertically striped grille with an ornate right-hand edge, and a different design from the eldest Tercel’s.

The third generation Tercel/Corsa and second generation Corolla II (L3# model 1986-90), launched in 1986, evolved into a three-or five-door hatchback body. Its compact body size made it easy to maneuver and easy for beginners and women to drive. Toyota’s three grown-up siblings developed into highly popular models in the stable period.

With the retractable headlights, the hot hatch boys gained popularity

A retractable headlight version was added to the three-door hatchback when the third brother’s Corolla II was fully remodeled into the third generation (L4# model 1990-94). Only the 3-door ‘Retra’, as the name suggests, featured retractable headlights, and its AE86-Trueno-esque shape attracted the attention of young users. The driving style of the youngest, mischievous son earned him the nickname ‘Boys’ Racer’, and he became popular with the ‘hot hatch boys’, as they call them nowadays, who attack the streets and mountain passes.

FWD hatchbacks, rare nowadays, were driving around the city in good spirits then. These three brothers unfortunately ceased production in July 1999. The hatchback was merged with the Starlet into its successor, the Vitz, while the sedan went into production as the Platz, bringing an end to almost 20 years of history. Their original body and character are etched in the minds of users from the young to the old. The three brothers, who ran through the bubble period of the 1980s and 1990s, remained famous until the fifth generation (L5# model 1994-99 / Corolla II was the fourth generation).

The Toyota 3 brothers’ rivals were small hatchback cars such as the Honda Civic, Nissan Pulsar, and Mazda Familia. They were popular due to their reasonable prices and spacious interior for their compact body size, but sales in Japan were poor. However, it was well known that its successor, the Vitz, became an explosive blockbuster.

translated by DeepL