Ferrari, Aston, Lambo… or Toyota?

It is not just supercars that can turn heads and woo would-be owners. TOM SCANLAN recalls a trio of Toyotas, from a marque famous for reliability and satisfied owners, that also had that wow factor.

I was chatting to a colleague recently. He, like me, has been writing about cars for several decades and we reckoned that we had each written about 1,500 new cars.

From A to Z… or at least A to V, like Alfa Romeo to Volkswagen, via Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, McLaren, Porsche and the rest,

Of course, plenty of those have been about T for Toyota.

Toyota’s reputation has long been that of high owner-satisfaction. That’s really important of course… no one wants a car that has any reliability issues and, in fact, that will be the number one point on a potential buyer’s list.

Also featuring high on that list will be a car’s looks.

Of that total of cars I have reviewed, there is a decent number of those flashy sports cars and supercars. But, curiously, I can recall only three occasions on which anyone has actually said to me, and really apparently meaning it, “Wow! That’s great, I’m going to get one!”

And, in each instance, it was a Toyota.

On the first occasion, the father of a young chap I had given a lift to a cricket match took one look at my test car that week and said just that… upon seeing the then-current (1998) MR2, pictured above.

This was a second generation T-Bar version in red. It was certainly a good-looker and was great fun to drive.

The engine would have been the 153bhp version for 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds.

The MR2 had, of course, a mid-engine layout with rear-wheel-drive and input from Lotus in its suspension design.

Then, around 2010, Toyota number two in the wow-factor stakes, and in which we had just arrived and parked at our local supermarket, did surprise me, to put it mildly.

A woman shopper, with her trolley, walked straight up to us and said: “THAT is a great-looking car… I LOVE that colour!”

The Toyota was a third generation Avensis saloon, in silver. “I’m DEFINITELY getting one of those!”

As an afterthought, she asked what it was like.

Well, pretty good, I probably said, which it was.

Toyota marketing said its looks expressed ‘power without relying on sheer mass’, and that it was ‘dynamic to drive but with top-class ride comfort’. By the way, its CD drag coefficient was an impressively-low 0.28.

Then, around 2000, there was the Celica, a seventh-generation model. The test car was in red, particularly enhancing that version’s super-sharp looks.

I had arrived at the offices of a newspaper where one of the admin staff was having a quiet cigarette out in the sunshine… “What is THAT?” he asked/exclaimed.

I gave him a few details but got the feeling that my wise words went in one ear and out the other, as he just stood and gawped.

“I’m retiring in six months,” he said. “And I’m having one of those!”

I never saw any of those three Toyota desirers again so I have no idea if any, or all, of them whizzed off to their local Toyota showroom.

Now that Toyota in Burnaston in Derbyshire has produced more than 4.5 million cars, which ones are making people go ‘wow’?

The nearest recent one could be the C-HR that a small boy saw me sitting in…

“Hey mate,” he said. “That looks like a spaceship!”