Automobile

Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 1998

We continue our 1990s-then-2000s series today, with the Japanese counterpart to the American compacts presented here recently. These Japanese compacts from 1998 represented the last of the Nineties’ Golden Era quality. Civic, Sentra, Corolla, make your pick!

Honda Civic

Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 1998The seventh-gen Honda Civic is in its third model year for 1998 and is offered in coupe, hatch, and sedan versions within the North American market. Interesting five-door body styles are available in other locales. There are five trim levels of Civic this year: CX, DX, EX, HX, and LX. Today’s specification is a sedan, which means the bargain basement CX is out of the picture as it’s limited to the hatchback. The cheapest DX sedan asks $12,735 and uses a 1.6-liter inline-four. That engine is good for 106 horses that proceed through the five-speed manual.

Nissan Sentra

Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 1998The Sentra is near the end of its fourth generation run and has been with us since 1995. Unlike the Civic, Sentra is available only as a sedan. Nissan technically offers a Sentra coupe, but it’s badged as 200SX for sporting credibility reasons. The Sentra has four trims in North America in 1998, which include the basic and much cheaper XE, and SE, GXE, and GLE which all cost about the same. A five-speed manual XE asks $13,699 this year and offers a 1.6-liter inline-four that produces 115 horsepower.

Toyota Corolla

Buy/Drive/Burn: Basic Japanese Compacts From 1998

Toyota sells all sorts of Corollas around the world based on the present E110 platform, and the North American version is new this model year. Corolla is built at NUMMI in California and is also rebadged as the Chevrolet Prizm (formerly Geo). Corolla is only available as a sedan in North America, over three trim levels: base VE, middling CE, and luxurious LE. A VE with a five-speed manual and 120-horse 1.9-liter engine is our choice today and asks $11,908 at your Toyota dealer. By the way, the twinning Geo Prizm asks $12,143.

Three bare-bones compact sedans, all promising long-term reliability. Which goes home with the Buy?

[Images: Honda, Nissan, Toyota]

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