Toyota's Corolla is one of the world's most popular cars


Toyota has built up an enviable position as one of the world's best producers of cars and the Corolla is the best-selling car in Toyota's line up worldwide. The larger Camry is more of a favorite with buyers in the U.S. Nevertheless the Corolla is still one of the most popular small cars in the U.S. competing head to head with the Honda Civic, Ford Escort and Saturn in particular.

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 needing a first car or a car for their teenage children, the Corolla makes a lot of sense. They are quite plentiful and Toyota's reputation for reliability should provide a car with 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 world's most popular cars.


What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1997 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. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Sales History

11. Awards and Commendations Earned

12. Other Reviews

13. Recall Information

14. Price of Spare Parts


1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation - 1997 Toyota Corolla CE

Likes: quality of finish, reliability

Dislikes: simple specifications for price

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

Miles: 23,400

Condition: A

Price when new: $15,500 (est.)

Posted Price: $13,590 (Feb. 1999)

Toyota, like most Japanese manufacturers, changes its models fairly regularly. The pre-owned Corolla I tested was a 1997 model, which was the final model year of a five-year model run. It was a CE model, which stood for Classic Edition. In essence it was a base model car with a package of the most commonly ordered options.

The thing that impressed me most was the performance right off the bat even though it only had a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. It was not a scorcher but at least it had enough power to let the car keep up with traffic. Of course if it was loaded down with passengers or luggage and the air conditioning was on I'm sure it would not be as impressive. The transmission felt okay though there was a slight whining noise.

On the negative side I was disappointed in how simple the interior felt. There were large expanses of plastic and the cover over the passenger side air bag had SRS AIRBAG printed on it in big letters, which looked ugly. It certainly did not feel as sophisticated as a Honda Civic. The simple instrument pod only contained a speedometer, fuel and water temperature gauge. One does not need much more than this but the large empty dials looked naked. This model had obviously started out as a fairly basic model as the radio was an aftermarket addition, which did not blend in well.

Apart from these gripes the interior was in good condition and the seats were fairly comfortable. The trunk is fairly spacious but the hinges intrude into the trunk space when closed. Unlike newer models the rear seats would not fold down for extra pass-through room from the trunk. The cover on the floor of the trunk was flimsy and it was showing signs of bending away in the corners exposing bare metal underneath.

The Corolla makes an ideal pre-owned car for those looking for something straightforward and simple. 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:

"fuel economy"

"comfortable ride"

"good handling"

"room for four adults"

Bad:

"lack of legroom for driver" (6 ft. tall)

"worse fuel consumption than previous model"

"broken heater knob"

"brakes squeak"


3. History of Corolla

Toyota first introduced the Corolla in 1966, making it one of the longest running nameplates in history. Although it has been changed many time over the years - it is currently in its eighth generation - Toyota likes to say it is the worlds' most popular car having sold over 24 million in that time period.

In the U.S. the Corolla competes head to head with the Honda Civic. Both of them are built in the U.S. and Canada for sale in North America. Most of the Corollas sold in the U.S. are made in a factory in California that also produces the Chevrolet Prizm, which is almost identical to the Corolla.

Even though a station wagon was available from 1993 until 1996 only a couple of thousand were sold in the U.S. each year making them hard to find.

The eighth-generation model was introduced in 1998. It is only available as a four-door sedan and only with the 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cyliner engine. The base model still has the less efficient 3-speed automatic transmission as an option to the manual transmission.


4. Review of Current Corolla

The 1999 Corolla I tried was a top-of-the-line LE version with quite a few options added as well. 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 moonroof, power windows, air conditioning, alloy wheels, side air bags, anti-lock brakes and a deluxe sound system plus some other minor things.

Toyota lowered the price of the base model when it introduced the new Corolla in 1998 in order to attract more entry-level buyers. However not much more than 10% of Corollas sold in 1998 were base models. More than 90% of buyers opted for automatic transmission, a radio, air conditioning and power windows. By the time you add those features to a base model you may as well buy the CE model for little more money. The optional side impact air bags are an unusual feature on a small car. Surprisingly a remote entry key is no longer offered, even as an option.

The interior is slightly less plastic than the older model but I still did not feel it's as nice 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. I was really disappointed that the single rear cupholder had already come apart because a flimsy small plastic piece had broken. More seriously the moonroof quit working and would not close properly. I guess even brand-new Toyotas have occasional problems!

On the other hand the car performed flawlessly. Even with automatic transmission, performance is more than adequate for a small car. The finish is good and the car looks slightly more sleek than the previous model, though it is still not a match in the looks department to the Saturn or Honda Civic. The interior is slightly larger than the previous model but it is almost imperceptible as the wheelbase is the same. 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.


5. Basic Facts: 1993 - 1997 Corolla

Vehicle Type: Subcompact sedan/station wagon

No. Passengers: up to five

Origin of assembly: Fremont, CA; Canada; Japan

Engine: (standard): 1.6-liter 100 hp DOHC I-4

(optional): 1.8-liter 115 hp DOHC I-4 ('93-'95); 1.8-liter 105 hp DOHC I-4 ('96-'97)

Transmission: 5-spd. manual, 3-spd. automatic ('92-'93) 4-spd. automatic ('94-'98); front-drive

Length: 172 inches

Wheelbase: 97 inches

Width: 66 inches

Height: 54 inches

Curb weight: 2300 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 13 cu. ft. (Wagon: 65 cu. ft.)

Fuel tank capacity: 13 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 31/35 (1.6-liter, manual); 25/29 (1.6-liter, auto); 29/35 (1.8-liter, manual); 27/34 (1.8-liter, auto)


6. Changes in the Toyota Corolla Line 1993 - 1999

1993 Model Year (first year of new model)

New model introduced, moves up in size to compact

1994 Model Year

Dual airbags standard

1995 Model Year

Reduced emissions

1996 Model Year

Minor front and rear styling changes

1997 Model Year

Wagon dropped from line

Revised tail lights

Classic Edition includes options at reduced price

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

Eighth generation Corolla introduced

All models powered by new 1.8-liter aluminum engine

Stiffer body structure

Available only as four-door sedan

1999 Model Year

Few minor changes


7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Crash rating ('95 model year): Driver 4; Passenger 4 (5 is best)

Driver side air bag standard from 1993, dual air bags standard from 1994


8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed! Source: Kelley Blue Book

1992 Model Year

New: $10,013- $14,203

1993 Model Year (first year of new model)

New: $11,523- $15,543

1994 Model Year

New: $12,483- $16,717

1995 Model Year

New: $12,895- $17,245

1996 Model Year

New: $13,148- $16,278

1997 Model Year

New: $13,418- $16,278

1998 Model Year (first year of new model)

New: $12,328- $16,018


9. 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

1993 Model Year (first year of new model)

Installment Rate

Engine:

1.6-liter 4-cyl (SOHC) 100%

1.8-liter 4-cyl (DOHC) 0%

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 70%

Auto 4-speed 12%

Manual 18%

Air Conditioning: 73%

Cruise Control: 22%

ABS Brakes: 3%

Power Windows: 12%

1994 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

1.6-liter 4-cyl (SOHC) 80%

1.8-liter 4-cyl (DOHC) 20%

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 28%

Auto 4-speed 60%

Manual 12%

Air Conditioning: 94%

Cruise Control: 14%

ABS Brakes: 5%

Power Windows: 56%

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

1.6-liter 4-cyl (SOHC) 77%

1.8-liter 4-cyl (DOHC) 23%

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 25%

Auto 4-speed 63%

Manual 12%

Air Conditioning: 96%

Cruise Control: 17%

ABS Brakes: 8%

Power Windows: 59%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

1.6-liter 4-cyl (SOHC) 75%

1.8-liter 4-cyl (DOHC) 25%

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 25%

Auto 4-speed 63%

Manual 12%

Air Conditioning: 98%

Cruise Control: 27%

ABS Brakes: 20%

Power Windows: 60%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

1.6-liter 4-cyl (SOHC) 66%

1.8-liter 4-cyl (DOHC) 34%

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 20%

Auto 4-speed 66%

Manual 14%

Air Conditioning: 97%

Cruise Control: 60%

ABS Brakes: 25%

Power Windows: 62%

Remote/Keyless Entry: 11%

1998 Model Year

Installment Rate

Transmission:

Auto 3-speed 21%

Auto 4-speed 69%

Manual 10%

Air Conditioning: 90%

Cruise Control: 55%

ABS Brakes: 2%

Power Windows: 64%

Remote/Keyless Entry: 0%


10. 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

1992 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1991 through Sept. 1992

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 206,560

1993 Model Year (first year of new model)

Production run: Oct.1992 through Sept. 1993

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 196,118

1994 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 206,942

1995 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1994 through Sept. 1995

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 203,980

1996 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1995 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 216,167

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: 226,454

Total no. sold in U.S.: 219,165

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.: 237,621


11. Awards and Commendations

1992

"Top Ten Models in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

1993

"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest

"Top Ten Models in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

1994

"Best Overall value - Subcompact/Compact Wagon Class Under $15,000" - IntelliChoice

1997

Among "Most Reliable Used Vehicles (1989 - 1995)" - Consumer Reports

1998

"Drivers' Choice" award as "Best Small Car" - MotorWeek


12. Quotes

"We've come to appreciate Toyota interiors as remarkably well finished, functional and comfortable, but rather forgettable." - Road & Track, Feb. 1995

"Despite its sparse specifications, the Corolla engendered plenty of goodwill with its careful assembly. We never felt slighted by the quality of the materials used in the Corolla, nor by its tight, flex-free platform." - Car and Driver, June 1994


13. Recalls (Only major recalls listed)

ID Number: 94V220000

Component: electrical system: wiring

Potential Number of Units Affected: 16,497

Year: 1993-1994

Manufactured From: Sept. 1992 To: July 1994

Year of Recall: '94

Summary: An unused harness connector for power windows, power door locks and sunroof was improperly routed under the floor carpet in the left kick panel. If the vehicle is operated in cold weather conditions where large amounts of road salts are used, the salt water or snow carried into the vehicle by the driver's shoes can penetrate the carpet and drip onto the connector resulting in the formation of a salt bridge between the terminals. This causes an electrical short inside the harness, and can result in a vehicle fire.

ID Number: 96V107000

Component: interior systems: passive restraint: air bag impact sensor

Potential Number of Units Affected: 627,858

Year: 1993

Manufactured From: June 1992 To: Jan. 1995

Year of Recall: '96

Summary: If liquid is spilled in the console box area, the air bag warning light can illuminate and stay "on" during normal driving conditions. This leakage condition could cause the air bag to inadvertently deploy.

ID Number: 94E021001

Component: interior systems: active seat and shoulder belts and belt anchor

Potential Number of Units Affected: 68,725

Year: 1994

Manufactured From: Nov. 1993 To: Jan. 1994

Year of Recall: '94

Summary: The anchor straps installed in the belt assemblies (front inner, left and right hand sides) were improperly heat treated and can break, which will not sufficiently restrain seat occupants in the event of a sudden stop or accident. This does not comply with FMVSS no. 209, "seat belt assemblies."

ID Number: 96V107000

Component: interior systems: passive restraint: air bag impact sensor

Potential Number of Units Affected: 627,858

Year: 1994-1995

Manufactured From: June 1992 To: Jan. 1995

Year of Recall: '96Summary: If liquid is spilled in the console box area, the air bag warning light can illuminate and stay "on" during normal driving conditions. This leakage condition could cause the air bag to inadvertently deploy.

ID Number: 95V195000

Component: electrical system: battery

Potential Number of Units Affected: 14,363

Year: 1995

Manufactured From: June 1995 To: July 1995

Year of Recall: '95

Summary: The battery can have a defective weld inside the positive and/or negative terminal allowing the connection inside of the terminal to separate. This condition can result in a no-start condition, or a battery explosion.

ID Number: 97V043000

Component: interior systems: passive restraint: air bag

Potential Number of Units Affected: 78,296

Year: 1997

Manufactured From: Aug. 1996 To: Nov. 1996

Year of Recall: '97

Summary: If the air bag computer in a subject vehicle experiences a mechanical shock (i.e., rapidly moving the front seat back against the stops or a sudden release of the parking brake) within a very short time after the engine is started, the air bag can deploy inadvertently. Unexpected air bag deployment can result in occupant injury.


14. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $126 (average)

Side marker lamp: $47 (average)

Door (left front): $490 (below average)

Fender (left front): $76 (below average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of early 1999 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.

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