Monday, August 20, 2012

Used Car Review - Toyota Liteace (1989-1999)

College life is fun right? With the school related events, parties thrown by your friends, numerous heartbreaks, sleepless nights due to the thesis and term papers, and the road trips. Myk Belmonte invites you to go back in time with this vehicle and reminisce. Keeping with this month's theme, don't forget its assembled in the Philippines.

1989-1999 Toyota Liteace

Vans during the 80s and 90s in the Philippines come in various shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Large ones include the clan (family and gangsters) favorite L300 and Hiace, to the American inspired Honda Odyssey and Mazda MPV, and taking up the smallest part of the van chain are the Daihatsu Hijet (the one that install your telephone and cable lines use), Nissan Vanette, and the Toyota Liteace. The popular Tamaraw FX (and the descendant named Revo), Isuzu Hilander, Mitsubishi Adventure, and other backyard assembled AUVs don't make the cut since they don't have sliding doors.

With names of Townace, Masterace, and Van (I'm serious about this); the Toyota Liteace was first launched in 1978. It was a wonder which provided seating for seven to eight people in a short wheelbase, good for city driving. The engine is located under the driver's seat and a 4WD option was made available. Production stayed until 2007 under four generations.

The Liteace was made available to the Filipino consumer in 1989 and became an instant hit. Slightly longer (and more roomier) than the Hijet but consumes less road space than the L300. From families to rich college students (think of Bagets and Tabing Ilog) to transport their barkada to anyplace, this little wonder captured the hearts and wallets of buyers. Production ceased in 1999 with the Hiace taking over the role that the Liteace did for Toyota. We cannot consider the Avanza as the direct descendant of the Litace despite having the same length and possessing small displacement engines.

Value and Costs
For a price equivalent of a brand new compact sedan with a 1.6 engine back then, you can now obtain a second hand unit from P90,000 to P140,000. Basic models from 1989 to 1992 would set you back below a hundred grand or a snip while 1993 and up power loaded GXL variants takes up the upper side of the range. There are Liteaces (and even the Townace equivalent) from Japan wandering in the used car market, be cautious with them since problems regarding their conversion, air-conditioning systems, and decade old electronics that malfunction.

Before driving this van out of the dealer's lot, have you checked these in the unit you've been looking? Inspect the cooling system's reliability (overheating is a common occurence for Liteaces), the air-conditioning mechanism (good luck if hot air blows your hair), the sliding door's capability to protect occupants from water entering during the rainy season (body damage can be the culprit at worst while there is a need for replacing the sliding-door rollers at best), and the carburetor system works properly.

Exterior and Interior
You and I have the same comment that the Liteace is old, but the design does not look current nor looks dated. Early models had their headlamps wrapped in framed seal beams, but swapping it with later model headlamps would remedy the cosmetic issue and also gives you better vision at night. Rust is not a problem unless the previous owner had crashed the van or the daily route involves flooded streets.

Despite the small exterior, the Liteace is big on interior room - with seven warm bodies loving the space provided. The interior bits are high on function factor but low on the bling; but you won't mind since cleaning the dashboard is easy via the usage of a high quality rag (not the pranelas sold in the streets). Notice the steering wheel, it is tilted in a 60 degree position, so get used to it if you are accustomed to sedans.

We wish that the Liteace sold locally had a diesel engine, but Toyota Motor Philippines decided to equip the small wonder with a 1,486cc 5K gasoline engine that has 64hp at 4,800rpm and 102Nm at 3,200rpm on tap. It does not have any fuel injection system, but a carburetor to feed the engine. As what physics dictate us, having a weaker engine (no thanks to the carb engine and low power output combo) and a heavy body would result to low fuel consumption, but it can travel up to 145kph (as what the speedometer dictates) without stress.

Driving Impressions
Sit on the drivers seat, and you will experience driving a mini bus with your friends or family - no thanks to the angle of the steering wheel. But you won't mind it since it will give you an advantage when it comes to visibility, couple it with the high seating position. The mounted steering wheel can be a problem if tackling tight parking maneuvers that the metro has to offer. The ride is on the comfortable side, that's if you avoid potholes littered anywhere in the streets. Your passengers won't complain in general, unless the air-conditioning system conks out.

Filipinos are social persons, we love to travel and hang out with our friends (from your high school batch mates to the people you've met online) and our families. With a multitude of vans of different sizes and prices, the Liteace is a bargain if one prioritizes a limited budget and size factors. Jump in and enjoy the ride! Family and barkada bonding? More fun in the Philippines and with the Toyota Liteace.

The Good:
  • The ultimate space master
  • Perfect for city driving and parking
  • Good all around visibility
The Bad:
  • Power ain't enough
  • Refinement not an advantage
  • Good luck if it overheats
The Pick: GXL variants

Engine: 1,486cc 5K I4 gasoline
Power: 64hp @ 4,800rpm
Torque: 102Nm @ 3,200rpm
Fuel Consumption: 6-8km/L (city), 9-13km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Suspension: Front double wishbone, rear solid axle

Price (New): P520,000-P580,000 (range from 1989-1999)
Price (Now): P90,000-P140,000
Rivals: Nissan Vanette, Daihatsu Hijet, Mitsubishi L300

Toyota Balintawak North - 927-7215
Toyota Quezon Avenue - 712-5001
Toyota Makati - 897-3333

Photos from


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  2. ANy professional opinion: which is better in terms of quality and fuel consumption Toyota Liteace 1993-1997 (non GLX) or Mitsubishi Adventure 2000/2001?

    1. Quality - both are old but these two can hold well.
      Fuel consumption - adventure with 2.5 diesel