The Toyota Sera is probably best known outside Japan for the fact that it inspired the McLaren F1’s butterfly doors which tilt up and forward when open.
Yes, the spectacular doors of the world’s first hypercar took inspiration from a four-cylinder Japanese compact coupe, as Gordon Murray himself admitted. Sold in Japan from 1990 to 1995, the Sera shared underpinnings with the even more humble Tercel, Paseo, and Starlet models.
Just under 16,000 units were built during that period and all stayed in Japan as the Sera was a JDM-only car. Now, however, one can import the Toyota Sera in the United States under the 25-year rule and Regular Car Reviews argues that it’s the car to have if you want to look cool to non-car people.
It only weighs 1,984 lbs (900 kg), which means the 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine’s 108 horses (110 PS) and 97 lb-ft (131 Nm) of torque don’t have to move a whole lot of weight around. Make no mistake, however, this is not a sports car. It may look like one, but the Sera is actually a comfortable cruiser designed as a commuter car for 1990s Japan.
While it’s not extremely slow (top speed is 121 mph/195 km/h and Toyota described the acceleration as “zippy” at the time), the Toyota Sera is not exactly a driver’s car either. According to the reviewer, it floats in corners and everything feels soft. Should you care? Not really, because it’s one of the coolest JDM models you can import to the United States and it’s clearly more usable than kei cars such as the Autozam AZ-1.
Since it shares many underpinnings with the Tercel, spare parts are easy to find. Add to that the fact that it’s much quicker than a kei car and the Sera looks like a tempting JDM candidate for U.S. import.