Since the car was launched, there's been plenty of hot new competition in the family sector. However, the Toyota's build quality, low depreciation and rear seat cabin space still makes it a force to be reckoned with.
Toyota's response to the safety trend was tardy - Carina Es didn't get a driver's airbag (even as an option) until 1994 and dual 'bags and ABS weren't standard until 1996. Apart from that (and the best-forgotten normally aspirated diesel), there isn't much to criticise.
There's certainly no shortage of choice; three bodystyles (saloon, five-door and estate), at least seven different trim levels and a selection of four different 16-valve DOHC petrol engines await you. If you can afford a recent model, try and find one with Toyota's astonishingly frugal 1.8-litre lean burn petrol engine.
The more you drive a Carina, the more you realise how carefully thought out Toyota's thrust into the medium range marketplace has been. Though the styling reminds you of at least four other models in the class, the end result is not unappealing.
Very little goes wrong. The Xi and XLi trimmed cars are good value and the GL variants have lots of equipment.
The estates aren't all that spacious and the non-turbo diesels not all that economical. Don't worry about uninspiring GTi models either (they're rarer than hens' teeth anyway).
(Based on a 1.6-litre Carina E - ex Vat) Good quality but slightly pricier than the mainstream competition. A new clutch will cost you about £90. Front shock absorbers are about £50 and rears around £80. An exchange alternator is about £240, a radiator about £150 and a replacement windscreen close to £140. A tail lamp is about £60 and a nearside front wing about £140. A catalyst is about £700.
Foolproof is the word that springs to mind. Carinas have never been favourites with driving enthusiasts - and this one is no different. If, however, you want solid, well equipped, reliable family transport, then you won't care about that.
All the engines offered (apart from the diesel) are willing performers. The 1.8-litre lean burn unit combines ready acceleration (rest to 60 in 11.7 seconds on the way to 118mph) with impressive economy; at least 35mpg around town and between 45-50mpg at cruising speeds.
Most cars you'll come across will have electric front windows, sunroof, power steering, stereo, rev counter and more. Basically, it depends upon your choice of trim - X, XL, GS, CD or GL. Either way, there are more creature comforts, pound for pound, than with most of the competition.
A sound family secondhand buy. It's almost impossible to go wrong buying a Carina E. Peace of mind starts here.