Toyota has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the world's best producers of cars, which means any pre-owned Toyota vehicle should be on the shopping list for anyone looking for reliable transportation. Although the Toyota Camry is a favorite car with buyers in the U.S. the Corolla, its smaller brother, is still one of the most popular small cars in the U.S.

The Corolla is a solidly built small car that offers adequate performance, good economy -- it is ideal basic transportation. Most people want something a little more in their car and so Toyota offers such mod cons as air conditioning, power windows and the like to make the car more luxurious.

For those of you needing a more recent first car for your teenage children or a runabout for yourself, the Corolla makes a lot of sense. They are quite plentiful and Toyota's reputation for reliability should provide a car that will give years of good service. Prices might be higher than other cars but it must be a good choice -- after all it is one of the most popular cars on the road.

 

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 2001 Toyota Corolla

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Corolla

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Option Installment Rate

8. Sales History

9. Awards and Commendations Earned

10. Other Reviews

11. Price of Spare Parts

 

1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation - 2001 Toyota Corolla CE

Likes: quality of finish, reliability

Dislikes: plain look and feel

Competitors: (on same platform: Chevrolet Prizm), Saturn, Ford Escort, Ford Focus, Dodge Neon, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra

Miles: 38,800

Condition: A-

Price when new: $14,000 (est.)

Posted Price: $11,200 (Feb. 2003)

The first thing I noticed about this pre-owned Corolla sitting on a dealer lot was that it had manually operated windows. It seems most of us have gotten so spoiled with electrically operated power windows that it’s easy to forget that many entry level compact cars come with few mod cons.

If you took a look at an original price list you’d find that the base Corolla lacks lots of features. Yet over two-thirds sold had power windows and over 90% had air conditioning. These and other accessories upped the original sticker price but it does mean that the majority of pre-owned Corollas on the market come with these popular features.

The 2001 Corolla I tried was a former rental car, which explained its short list of features. It also explained the relatively high mileage for a car less than two years old. However despite this the car was in good shape with no visible defects apart from a smell of cigarettes that permeated through the car.

The majority of Corollas came with automatic transmission but the base models, designated VE in earlier years and CE after 2001, only had a three-speed automatic transmission as an option rather than the more refined four-speed automatic found on the CE (until 2001) or LE. The disadvantage is a less smooth shift action and slightly worse fuel economy, but it’s not a big deal to most people in the market for a low-cost car.

The top-of-the-line LE version came with quite a few options but its sticker price was over $18,300 making it an astounding 50% more expensive than the base model. Of course that included a 4-speed automatic transmission, power moon roof, power windows, air conditioning, alloy wheels, side air bags, anti-lock brakes and a deluxe sound system plus some other minor things. Surprisingly a remote entry key was not offered, even as an option until 2002.

The interior has slightly less plastic feel than the older Corolla but it still did not feel as pleasant as in other cars in its class. There are some nice cloth inserts in the door panels to break up the plastic. In the model I tested the dashboard had two tones of plastic, which helped give the car a slightly smarter feel.

On the other hand the car performed flawlessly. Even with the three-speed automatic transmission, performance proved to be more than adequate for a small car. I found the steering a little imprecise, but a set of better tires would probably help. Ride and handling are average.

The finish is good and the car looks slightly sleeker than the previous model. The interior is marginally larger than the previous model but it is almost imperceptible as the wheelbase is the same. Unless you’re six foot tall there’s a decent amount of space in the front and rear seats. Storage places are frequent with a decent size glove box. The door pockets are a little on the slim side though. The model I tested had rear seats that could be tipped down for access to the trunk. However the trunk lid still uses those annoying hinges that intrude into the storage area and take up valuable space.

The Corolla makes an ideal pre-owned car for those looking for something straightforward and simple. Its looks are not as snazzy as a Honda Civic or Ford Focus but it does have the best quality rating in its segment, according to owners. Remember to take a look at a Chevrolet/Geo Prizm as well as it is essentially the same car as a Corolla.

 

2. Summing It Up - Owners' Views

Good:

"Great gas mileage"

"No problems"

"Fuel economy"

"Comfortable"

"Reliable"

Bad:

"Too low to the road for my liking"

"Smaller car than I like"

"Back seat does not fold flat"

 

3. History of Corolla

The Toyota Corolla was first introduced in Japan in 1966, making it one of the longest running nameplates in history. Although it has been changed many times over the years - it is currently in its ninth generation - Toyota likes to say it is the worlds' most popular car having sold over 25 million in that time period. It was first imported into the U.S. in 1968 although the majority have been made in North America since the mid 1980s.

In the U.S. the Corolla competes head to head with the Honda Civic. Both of them are specifically designed for sale in North America so they differ slightly from models sold elsewhere in the world. Most of the eighth generation Corollas sold in the U.S. were made in a factory in California that also produces the Chevrolet Prizm, which is almost identical to the Corolla.

The eighth-generation model featured in this profile was introduced in 1998. It was only available as a four-door sedan and only with a 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cyliner engine. In reality it was not that much different from the previous model as it was based on the same floorpan with the same wheelbase.

In early 2002 Toyota introduced the new 2003 Corolla on an all-new platform. Once again it is only available as a four-door sedan in the U.S. However, at the same time it introduced a more exciting companion model called the Matrix with a totally different sporty "mini minivan" look, aimed at younger buyers.

 

4. Review of Current Corolla

It’s fair to say that the latest Corolla is a baby Lexus. Okay it doesn’t have the luxurious appointments but some of the Lexus pedigree certainly shows through. It is much more refined than previous Corollas and a higher stance gives it more presence on the road. In some ways it looks smaller but in reality it is a few inches bigger in every direction compared to the previous generation Corolla, hence it has more room inside.

The biggest dimensional increase is in the wheelbase. This not only delivers better handling and an improved ride but also allows for a larger rear door opening. In keeping with its more luxurious brethren the current Corolla gets the job done without any fuss and hardly any noise. A modest five horsepower increase in power output from the 1.8-liter engine is offset by a slight increase in weight.

In many ways the car is more conservative than before which is not necessarily a bad thing for those wanting a good reliable four-door sedan. For those looking for a more versatile and exciting version of the Corolla Toyota offers the offers five door Matrix, which was designed to appeal to younger and/or more hip buyers.

 

5. Basic Facts: 1998 - 2002 Corolla

Vehicle Type: Subcompact sedan

No. Passengers: up to five

Origin of assembly: Fremont, CA; Canada

Engine: 1.8-liter 120 hp DOHC I-4 (‘98-‘99); 125 hp (‘00-‘02)

Transmissions: 5-spd. manual, 3-spd. automatic; 4-spd. automatic; front-drive

Length: 174 inches

Wheelbase: 97 inches

Width: 67 inches

Height: 55 inches

Curb weight: 2400 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 12 cu. ft.

Fuel tank capacity: 13 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 31/38 (manual); 28/36 (auto)

 

6. Changes in the Toyota Corolla Line 1998 - 2002

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

Eighth generation Corolla introduced

All models powered by a new 1.8-liter aluminum engine

Stiffer body structure

Available only as four-door sedan

1999 Model Year

Few minor changes

2000 Model Year

Variable valve timing adds five horsepower to engine

2001 Model Year

Minor changes to front grille and rear tail lamps freshen up looks

2002 Model Year

Remote keyless entry system available as option

 

7. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

Standard on all models: Power Steering, Daytime Running Lights, Remote Fuel Door Release

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

Installment Rate

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 21%

Auto 4-speed 69%

Manual 10%

Air Conditioning: 90%

Cruise Control: 55%

ABS Brakes: 2%

Side Air Bag: 49%

Power Windows: 64%

1999 Model Year

Installment Rate

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 30%

Auto 4-speed 60%

Manual 10%

Air Conditioning: 90%

Cruise Control: 50%

ABS Brakes: 2%

Side Air Bag: 6%

Power Windows: 66%

2000 Model Year

Installment Rate

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 29%

Auto 4-speed 63%

Manual 8%

Air Conditioning: 100%

Cruise Control: 48%

ABS Brakes: 3%

Side Air Bag: 5%

Power Windows: 67%

2001 Model Year

Installment Rate

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 27%

Auto 4-speed 65%

Manual 8%

Air Conditioning: 100%

Cruise Control: 50%

ABS Brakes: 2%

Side Air Bag: 1%

Power Windows: 66%

2002 Model Year

Installment Rate

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 31%

Auto 4-speed 61%

Manual 8%

Air Conditioning: 100%

Cruise Control: 46%

ABS Brakes: 3%

Side Air Bag: 2%

Power Windows: 60%

Remote Keyless Entry: n/a

 

8. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, often include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers/Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

Production run: Oct.1997 through Sept. 1998

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 237,366

1999 Model Year

Production run: Oct.1998 through Sept. 1999

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 253,567

2000 Model Year

Production run: Oct.1998 through June 2000

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 236,385 (includes some 2001 models)

2001 Model Year

Production run: July 2000 through June 2001

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 228,946 (includes some 2002 models)

2002 Model Year

Production run: July 2001 through Dec. 2001

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 207,978 (includes many 2003 models)

 

9. Awards and Commendations

1998

"Among Best Compact Cars in Vehicle Dependability" - J. D. Power and Associates (2002 study of 1998 model year cars)

"Top Car under $15,000" – American Automobile Association

1999

"Best Compact Car in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

"Top Car under $15,000" – American Automobile Association

"Best Overall Value in Compact Class" – Intellichoice

2000

"Best Compact Car in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

2001

"Best Compact Car in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

2002

"Best Compact Car in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

 

10. Quotes

"The Corolla redesign can be considered a near-total success. Despite the few minor problems noted above--awkward pedal placement may be seen as more than trivial, but won't affect the majority of drivers--it is a better car than the previous version, which was itself one of the better offerings in its class. The 1998 Corolla is comfortable, rugged and well-built, a solid little machine that delivers what it promises. In the ride and handling department, it is better than expected." – Newcartestdrive.com, 1998

"Of course, there are aspects of the Corolla that few competitors (with the exception of Honda) can match, including Toyota's run-forever reputation and the previously mentioned build-quality issue. As expected, our test unit was meticulously finished in a sparkling shade of silver enamel. Body-panel gaps were tight and consistent. Interior ergonomics (with the exception of pedal use) were flawless and included a white-faced gauge cluster with an almost Lexus-like orange glow at night." – Edmunds.com, Jan. 1999

 

11. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $148 (below average)

Side marker lamp: $83 (above average)

Door (left front): $513 (below average)

Fender (left front): $81 (below average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1999 model. Prices are current as of early 2003 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision

 

The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

AutoTrader.com

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