Motoring: The Independent Road Test: It's much too good to be interesting: Smooth, fast, spacious and soon to be made over here, Toyota's Carina E lacks only character. It'll probably sell very well, says Phil Llewellin

WRITERS of road tests appreciate bad cars almost as much as they like good ones for much the same reason that extremes of character make Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa more interesting subjects than Joe Bloggs. But can a car be too good to be interesting? An influential motoring magazine recently pinned that label on the Toyota Carina E, slagging it off for having no more character than a top-class washing machine.

My week with the Carina E 2.0GLi hatchback provided a similar conclusion. This is a very efficient car - comfortable, practical, fast, economical - but it will be remembered, if at all, for being bland.

Although it may fail to stimulate the adrenal glands, this is an important car. Designed and developed specifically for Europe (which is what the 'E' stands for), the Carina is to be made in Toyota's new factory at Burnaston in Derbyshire (see below), with the first one scheduled to come off the production line next week.

Imported from Japan, like all Carinas sold in Britain since the model was launched, the GLi tested here earned praise for a wide range of features: an exceptionally spacious interior (four six-footers can travel in comfort); good aerodynamics; a long-striding fifth gear for quiet, fuel-efficient motorway cruising. A two-hour, six-mile crawl across central London was made slightly less awful by light and smooth controls - steering, clutch, gearbox, accelerator and brakes.

The adjustable steering wheel is a commendable feature. But why is the handbrake so close to the gear lever? It gets in the way when selecting reverse.

The versatile hatchback's load-swallowing ability was appreciated when several big boxes had to be carted from the Isle of Dogs to the Welsh Marches. Adjustable headlights, to compensate for weight in the tail, are a thoughtful detail. Headlight washers would be even more useful in a British winter.

The 2.0-litre Carina might not boast the crisp handling of such sporting characters as the Volkswagen Corrado 16v and Mazda MX-3, but its colour- me-grey reputation can obscure the performance it delivers. Accelerating hard in first gear on a wet road makes the steering wheel twitch enough to remind you that this is a front-wheel drive, but this degree of feedback is not typical: the Carina just seems to flow along. There is nothing wrong with that, but the motorist who likes to 'drive' may feel that this car epitomises a 'sensory deprivation capsule' - the tag recently applied to most Japanese vehicles by an American friend.

Certain low-speed conditions excited a few minor creaks and squeaks from the dashboard and there was some tyre noise on coarse surfaces, but overall quality appeared to be in line with Toyota's reputation. The model is backed by a three-year or 60,000-mile warranty.

Devoid of inspiration, the Carina's ability to provide more down-to-earth qualities in an efficient package cannot be denied.

Toyota does not need to be reminded that Ford's Fiesta and Escort, both of which were rubbished by many professional pundits, ended last year as the top-selling cars in Britain.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

    £18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

    Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral