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2004 new car guide, model guide, new car reviews, by brand


Toyota of Japan - armed with global production facilities including multiple engine and assembly plants in the United States and Canada - for 2004 delivers nine different nameplates to the North American market with sedans in four variations, a pair of sporty two-door coupes, plus a car-based crossover wagon, racy two-seat roadster and a hybrid gas-electric vehicle that earns high fuel economy figures.

Toyota's hybrid is called Prius and it morphs into a new generational size for 2004 bearing Toyota's new high-voltage and high-powered Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) powertrain. The HSD can operate in either gas or electric mode, or one with both the gas engine and electric motor contributing power simultaneously.

Another generational change occurs with the slinky Solara coupe. It shows stunning new styling and a fresh cabin design with more features, plus more power flowing from an optional new V6.

Popular Toyota sedans continue with Camry and Avalon, Toyota's mid-size and large-size cars assembled at a Kentucky plant, and the compact-size Corolla, which comes together in California and at Toyota's Canadian factory in Ontario. The California plant in Freemont also constructs Toyota's Matrix crossover vehicle with its unusual canted roofline disguising boxy lines of a wagon. Other Toyota cars ship from Japan, like the rakish Celica compact coupe, a two-seat MR2 Spyder roadster, plus the eensy-weensy Echo sedan.

Toyota Prius
2004 Toyota Prius

Toyota's Prius scored as the world's first electric-gas hybrid vehicle in mass production when it debuted in 1997. For 2004 it appears in a new format that's bigger than before but also more powerful.

Prius rides on a new platform with wheelbase extended six inches. The stretch elevates it in size from compact to mid-size with more room in the five-seat cabin. A bold design for the body features sleek styling that ranks as one of the most aerodynamic production vehicles on the market.

Prius uses Toyota's new high-voltage and high-powered HSD powertrain that runs on the gas engine or electric motor or in a mode that combines the two. The system generates 50 percent more electric power than the previous motor and also provides more low-end torque to enhance acceleration. Despite the power boost, it achieves even higher fuel economy figures - with anticipated combined ratings reaching the mid-50 mpg range.

Prius has a new drive-by-wire throttle and shift controller, replacing a traditional shifter lever with a finger-tapping joystick on the dashboard. Also, it operates with a keyless entry system.

Toyota Solara Coupe
2004 Toyota Solara Coupe

Toyota's mid-size sports coupe, spinning off the Camry sedan, rolls out in new style for 2004. The cockpit increases in size with more room for riders and the exterior adopts a sportier stance marked by an aggressive face yet sensuous lines swirling around the body.

Production of the coupe moves to Toyota's Kentucky plant where Camry is built. Solara's powertrains come directly from Camry. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder plant pegs at 157 hp for Solara SE, while Solara SE V6 and deluxe SLE V6 draw from Camry's 3.0-liter V6 raked up to 198 hp. With the V6, Solara adds a new five-speed automatic sequential transmission.

Standard safety items range from side-impact air bags to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and independent rear seat headrests. Curtain-style side air bags for front and back seats are also available.

An optional sports kit for Solara SE installs a five-piece body kit, sport gauges in the instrument cluster, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter cap plus aluminum pedals and sport tires mounted on cool 17-inch wheels.

Toyota Camry
2004 Toyota Camry

Millions of Camry sedans have been issued since the 1983 inception of this mid-size model, which accounts for a fifth of all Toyotas sold in North America. The third design of 1992 established a new benchmark for aerodynamic styling and performance, while revisions in 1997 produced a larger sedan with more interior room to reflect a Toyota goal to Americanize Camry. A new platform for Camry occurred in 2002 and expanded the structure substantially in every direction.

For 2004, the Toyota best-seller gets a powertrain upgrade with a new 3.3-liter V6 for XLE and SE trims. It generates 225 hp through a new five speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission.

A new Limited Edition Camry also appears in the lineup dressed in white with champagne-tinged badging and a cabin trimmed in wood with leather-wrapped steering wheel and deluxe JBL audio system.

Other tiers run from LE and XLE to SE, each with four-cylinder or V6 engine. Camry's 2.4-liter four-in-line base engine reaches 157 hp yet qualifies for ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) status and has high economy numbers.

Toyota Avalon
2004 Toyota Avalon

As Toyota's expansion idea drawn from mid-size Camry, the full-size Avalon sedan provides more of every asset inherent in Camry -- more room, more comforts, more security, even more power.

With seats for as many as six riders inside and a big back seat with plenty of legroom, the Kentucky-built sedan expands the structure of Camry and shares some components, including a V6 engine. In Avalon the 3.0-liter V6 rises to 210 hp.

Toyota Corolla
2004 Toyota Corolla

Toyota's small sedan, revamped in 2002 on a larger platform, continues in 2004 with only a new color option called Desert Sand Mica. Despite compact-class dimensions, Corolla looks larger and feels big inside the passenger compartment with space for as many as five.

Exterior styling appears shapely and contemporary but also athletic, even muscular. For action, a 1.8-liter in-line-four engine with dual cams generates 130 hp. It drops into all three of the trims: Entry-level CE, sporty S and deluxe LE.

Transmissions include the standard five-speed manual for all trims, an optional automatic three-speed for Corolla CE and a four-speed automatic on S and LE. Even the base CE Corolla provides significant content. Corolla S applies more goods, but Corolla LE has it all, from power windows and door locks to a remote keyless entry and wood-like appliques.


Toyota Matrix
2004 Toyota Matrix

Toyota pitches this five-door hatchback as a crossover utility vehicle that blends the sleek lines and nimble manners of a sporty car with the practicality of a boxy sport-utility wagon and the budget-minded affordability of a subcompact sedan.

It looks wild and feels fun to drive but also offers lots of room in a cabin that adapts to active lifestyles. A wagon-style layout contains two rows of seats for five, plus the bay in back for cargo. That bay, accessible from the hatchback-style rear door, has a flat floor and, with both rear seatbacks folded down, provides up to 53 cubic feet of storage space.

A track system in the floor adapts to various accessory kits to mount sports paraphernalia such as mountain bikes, snowboards or water skis.

The exterior is different with wheels planted at perimeters of the platform and fenders bulging to cover them, setting up the sturdy stance of a bulldog. The body is then decorated with rakish lines marked by an aggressive face with angular corner headlamp clusters, a windshield canted severely and the sweeping roofline that crimps rear edges and curls low into blackened back pillars.

The price-leading Standard edition and XR grade come with either front-wheel-drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) traction and a thrifty four-cylinder engine. Front-drive Matrix XRS gets a high-performance 1.8-liter engine good for 180 hp with a sporty six-speed manual stick.

Toyota Celica
2004 Toyota Celica

Styled at Toyota's California design studio, Toyota's compact coupe in a daring design features a cab-forward format with distinctive angular character lines and curt overhangs that convey a muscular tone.

New high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps are on the options list for Celica GT grade to mark the only change for 2004.

An optional Action Package installs more gear, like front aero bumpers, side rocker panels and a rear wing. Inside, Celica's 2+2 cockpit stocks sporty front bucket seats supported by bold side bolsters. Faces of gauges in the instrument panel are dark, while the dash in a dark gray tint.

Celica's twin-cam four-pack engine fires the GT-S to 180 hp and links to a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The GT has another version rated at 140 hp, with five-speed manual or the automatic.

Toyota MR2 Spyder
2004 Toyota MR2 Spyder

Toyota's two-seat roadster with mid-engine placement frames the excitement of a sports car in the context of masterful Japanese mechanical technology.

It's simple in design, direct in function -- and fun to drive. Spyder's four-cylinder engine, displacing 1.8 liters and with twin cams on top, nets 138 hp. A manual five-speed stick is standard, but a sequential manual transmission is optional with shift buttons on the steering wheel.

The 2004 editions also offer limited slip differential at the rear.

Black leather seats are available and tie to a black top, as tan leather seats go with the tan top, but this year the tan leather interior is also offered with a body color called Absolutely Red.

Toyota ECHO
2004 Toyota ECHO

Two-door coupe and four-door sedan variations are available for the smallest Toyota. Each carves out surprising space for riders in a five-seat cabin, accommodates a load of luggage in back, then delivers a kick from a juicy little aluminum engine and somehow still manages to rack up high fuel economy figures - more than forty miles down the road for every gallon of the regular-grade fuel consumed.

ECHO dresses in a design that looks progressive, even daring. Rather than the typical long, low and slinky shape of a conventional car, it stands tall in the aerodynamic format of a vertical bubble on wheels that seems to tip forward due to a high tail and low nose united by an arched roofline inset with a boldly raked windshield.

Inside, the cabin floor droops low so you can step aboard easily, and the ceiling bows high to fit tall chair-like seats. Passengers in the two front buckets sit upright, with their heads positioned higher than normal for better visibility though an expansive wrap of windows.

Toyota Scion
2004 Scion

A pair of subcompact-size vehicles are the first to carry this name, which represents a new line from Toyota as a brand within a brand pointed at the youth market.

Scion xA is a five-door hatchback, while the xB Scion looks like a box on wheels as contemporary homage to the tried-and-trusty American panel van in abbreviated version. Both use a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine borrowed from Toyota's Echo. It puts up 108 hp through a manual five-speed or optional automatic four-speed transmission and earns notable fuel economy numbers above 30 mpg.

The hatch and wagon ride on a platform used for two vehicles sold exclusively in Japan -- Toyota's ist hatchback and the bB wagon. Affordable price points for well-equipped models is the big idea behind the Scion badge, and these initial products fit that descriptive with standard gear like air conditioning, power for windows and door locks and mirrors, anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and a CD player that works with MP3 files.

Scion the xB wagon adds vehicle stability control (VSC) to the list of standards and offers side-impact air bags as an option.