The first Cresta was introduced April 1980 and was available exclusively at Toyota Vista sales channels across Japan. The Cresta was positioned as a high-level luxury sedan just below the established, traditional luxury sedan, the Crown. The Cresta was introduced with halogen headlights to provide a more upscale appearance, and was available with a full range of luxury amenities and conveniences. The SOHC 2.0 L M-EU engine was used with an automatic transmission only, which was shared with the Crown, as well as the 2.0L 1G-EU straight six engine, also used in the Crown. Trim levels used names meant to suggest luxury overtones, such as Super Lucent, Super Touring, Super Deluxe, Super Custom, and Custom, names that were similarly used on the Crown. Upper level trim levels used two-tone paint schemes to further the Cresta's elevated status towards a younger demographic. The Nissan competitor was the Laurel.
Power side view mirrors were now installed western style at the leading edge of the front doors instead of on the front fenders above the front wheels to provide a more modern appearance, and retracted electrically for confined parking spaces.