Remembering the Toyota IST

There was an influx of pre-owned Japanese vehicles that flooded our market in the early 2000s when the imports of used cars were relaxed during the Musharraf regime. Among those wide variety of used JDMs was the Toyota IST, which was probably the least talked about car on the market.

Related: Remembering the Toyota Cresta

The Toyota IST made its debut as a concept at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show and went on sale in Japan in May 2002. Toyota had an incredible start, as evidenced by the more than 42,000 orders it got right away. The name was derived from the suffix “-ist,” the name points to a person who is passionate about something (stylist, artist, specialist, etc). The main competitors of IST were the Nissan March and Honda Fit. It was also exported to the United States as the Scion xA and Scion xD, and the Middle East as the Toyota xA.

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Built on the first-generation Vitz platform, the Toyota IST was designed as a high-end multi-purpose compact car with crossover-like looks and wagon-like spaciousness, but with the advantage of better fuel economy from a smaller vehicle. Targeted at the younger set of buyers, the vehicle’s distinctive and aggressive exterior style was attributed to its wide front grille, which featured two thick horizontal bars, large 15-inch wheels, and enlarged wheel arches.

Most used JDMs came here via Dubai

The interior of the IST is distinctive, with an easy-to-read center instrumental cluster positioning similar to the Vitz, Platz, and Vios. The cabin and trunk had greater room since the body dimensions were somewhat larger than those of the Vitz. As needed, the rear seats in the 6:4 split could be fully folded to expand the deck. Meanwhile, the innovative GOA (Global Outstanding Assessment) process made robust body construction possible, improving safety in collisions with larger vehicles.

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It came equipped with either a 1.3L 2NZ-FE engine, the same deployed in the 9th gen Toyota Corolla in Pakistan. The other engine was a 1.5L 1NZ-FE which was also available with a 4WD option. Transmission choices included a 5-speed manual and 4-speed auto. However, in contrast to the 1.3L versions that made up the majority of ISTs in our market, the 1.5L variants were extremely rare.

Related: Remembering the JDM Toyota Verossa

In terms of features & equipment, the Toyota IST was quite rich just like any other JDM. It was available in various trim levels and variants, offering customers a range of options to suit their desired features and specifications. The Standard trim typically provided the essential features and functionalities expected from the model, offering a reliable and practical option for budget-conscious buyers. While it may have lacked some of the premium features found in higher trims, the Standard trim still offered a comfortable and functional driving experience.

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The L trim level of the Toyota IST added a few additional features and upgrades compared to the Standard trim, such as improved audio systems, upgraded upholstery materials, and additional convenience features like power windows and central locking. Moving up, the S trim level offered further enhancements like alloy wheels, an upgraded infotainment system with touchscreen displays, and advanced safety technologies such as ABS and airbags.

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The G trim level represented a higher level of luxury and sophistication. It typically featured premium interior materials, additional comfort features like automatic climate control, and further advanced safety features. The Toyota IST was also offered with special edition or sport-oriented variants featuring sporty styling cues, unique exterior accents, and performance-oriented enhancements.

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The second-generation Toyota IST

The first-generation IST was replaced by the second-generation model in 2007 but hardly any example of 2nd-gen IST reached our market due to the high price and other more viable & economical options flooding the market.

Related: Remembering ‘Cars from the Previous Decade’

The IST being a 1.3L car wasn’t able to get the sort of attention that it deserved compared to other JDMs with relatively smaller engine displacements. Still, along with other JDMs, the Toyota IST (2002-2007) provided a much-needed flavor to the consumers in our otherwise drab automobile market.

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