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The Toyota Corolla XRS Was a Corolla That Was Actually Fun to Drive

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author photo by Will Kinton December 2016

Like most car enthusiasts, I don't usually get excited by Toyotas. They generally focus on reliability over performance and durability over excitement -- and the sport trim levels of most Toyota models have largely consisted of body kits with zero performance upgrades whatsoever.

And then you have the Toyota Corolla XRS, the complete opposite of Toyota's typical approach to performance. To put it simply, the Corolla XRS was essentially Toyota's response to the Honda Civic Si, and it was pretty fantastic. If you saw one on the street, you'd probably have no idea that it was any different from a regular Corolla -- but underneath, there were some pretty significant changes.

The Corolla XRS features the same variable-valve 170-horsepower 4-cylinder and 6-speed manual transmission that was used in the Lotus Elise, which gave the car an uncharacteristically enjoyable driving experience. The XRS also had a sportier suspension that lowered the car by half an inch, a unique power steering setup, better disc brakes at all four corners and rear cross-bracing that stiffened the chassis and prevented the rear seats from folding down. It was a genuine performance car, and it was a lot of fun to drive -- especially since it only weighed 2,680 pounds.

Unfortunately, few people knew about it, and far fewer people bought it. The fun Corolla XRS was only offered from 2005 to 2006, and it's estimated that less than 7,000 were ever built. Toyota didn't exactly market the XRS well, so it's now a pretty rare car.

Sadly, the XRS was never really followed up. Although the next-generation Corolla also offered an XRS model, it touted a mere 16-hp advantage over the standard Corolla, without any of the sporty bits that made the first one so exciting. As automakers like Ford and Honda have increased their focus on making sporty versions of small cars, it seems Toyota has left the game for good.

If you want a sleeper Corolla that's a blast to drive, there are 16 different 2005-2006 Corolla XRS models currently for sale on Autotrader right now. Luckily, because it is a Corolla, they aren't exactly expensive on the secondhand market -- the average price is just $6,045.

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Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2005 Toyota Corolla LE
Used 2005 Toyota Corolla
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Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2005 Toyota Corolla LE
Used 2005 Toyota Corolla
$6,947
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
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Used 2005 Toyota Corolla S
Used 2005 Toyota Corolla
$3,995
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Toyota Corolla XRS Was a Corolla That Was Actually Fun to Drive - Autotrader