1988 Toyota Corolla

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1988 Toyota Corolla
$ 4,500-4,500
December 21, 1987
``And, oh, you might want to check out a Corolla.``

It used to be that when people were seeking advice about good small cars, the subcompact Toyota would enter the conversation after nearly every othervehicle was discussed and just before it was time to hang up and move onto thenext caller.

The Corolla in the `70s offered decent transportation at low cost, but it looked awfully frugal, designed on the cheap as an afterthought. If youwere allergic to plastic, the Corolla wasn`t for you.

Corolla moved into the `80s with a reputation for quality, reliability, dependability, and, by that time, a cloth seat or door panel or two hadreplaced the plastic. Still it was low-cost, functional transportation.

For 1988, the Corolla has made a few more inroads. Styling has beenfreshened up, and the subcompact line adopts the rounded aero look. Interiors are as pleasant to look at as the new exteriors-until you spot the stickers.

The little economy cars aren`t so cheap anymore.

We test drove three Corollas-the four-door Deluxe sedan with standard5-speed manual transmission, the four-door LE sedan with optional automaticand the sporty GT-S two-door coupe offered solely with 5-speed.

Base price of the Deluxe is $8,898 with 5-speed and $9,358 withautomatic; the LE is $10,148 with 5-speed and $10,788 with automatic; and the GT-S starts at $12,028.

By comparison, the subcompact Chevrolet Cavalier four-door sedan starts at $8,195 with 5-speed, and add $415 for automatic ($8,610); the largercompact four-door Ford Tempo GLS sedan starts at $9,400 with manual, add $482 for automatic ($9,882); the compact Pontiac Grand Am four-door sedan starts at$10,069 with manual, add $490 for automatic ($10,559); and the much largerFord Taurus sedan with automatic standard starts at $11,025.

A subcompact Dodge Omni or Plymouth Horizon starts at $5,999, or acompact Dodge Aries or Plymouth Reliant at $6,999.

In other words, the one big advantage the Japanese-built Corolla hadover its domestic small-car competition has disappeared. Stickers on thesubcompact now approach levels on compact and midsize domestic cars.

All Corollas feature front-wheel drive. And a 16-valve 4-cylinderengine has been made standard, meaning that all Toyota models except Cressida offer multivalve engines.

The 1.6-liter, 16-valve 4-cylinder in the Deluxe and LE is carburetedand produces 90 horsepower, a 22 percent increase from last year`s baseengine. It still claims 30 miles per gallon city and 35 highway with a 5-speedmanual. The 16-valve in the GT-S is fuel injected and produces 115 horsepower. Fuel injection offers faster, surer starts, better mileage and loweremissions. Though Toyota still offers carburetion in the Corolla, rivalsNissan and Honda now offer fuel injection in their subcompact Sentra andCivic.

It seems odd for the largest of the Japanese import ers to take thelongest to go to fuel injection throughout its Corolla line.

In the Deluxe and LE, the engine seems to come up a bit short on power. The 5-speed in the Deluxe allowed for a bit more zip than the LE withautomatic, but neither is a speed merchant.

The power potential of both sedan models makes it clear that each isfirst and foremost a functional economy car. It looks good and holds smallkids and groceries, but it doesn`t necessarily hold its own off the line.

Both versions have decent road manners, but tight turns and corners are best left to the GT-S and not the sedans, which are at their best inmaneuvering around shopping malls and slipping into parking spaces rather thanslipping past other cars.

The sedans are functional machines offering respectable looks-room-comfort-fuel economy at a slightly stiff price induced by the yen`sgyrations against the dollar.

A few annoyances that need to be remedied focus mostly on gl ass, suchas outside mirrors that require you to push out the handle control to get the glass to move in, and vice versa to get the glass to move out; a rear-windowdefogger that had to be left on much of the time to keep the windows clear;and confusing power window controls that were hard to reach and difficult todetermine by touch whether you were working the diver`s or passenger`s window. On the plus side, both sedans have generous rear-seat room and abundant cargo carrying ability in the trunk. We favor the LE over the Deluxe for itssplit folding rear seats, reclining front buckets, dual door pockets, thickcarpeting, comfortable cloth seats, center console stowage tray, remote fuellid and trunk opener, rear-window defogger, cup holder and wide protective anddecorative body side moldings as standard. The LE looks like a miniatureCressida.

The GT-S coupe is the performer in the Corolla line, with its 16-valve4 cylinder with bidirectional fuel injectors to protect against clogging, andrelatively smooth-shifting 5-speed transmission.

The exterior features sports color-keyed mud guards, rear spoiler, aero skirts and dual electric mirrors. The GT-S is equipped with four-wheel discbrakes, and the sedans have disc brakes up front and drums in the rear.

Toyota has expanded warranties on all `88 models to 36 months-36,000miles from 12 months-12,500 miles. It now includes 5 year-unlimited mileagebody perforation coverage.

Since the model was introduced in the U.S. in 1968, more than 3 million Corollas have been sold. The one version still to arrive is the four-wheel-drive Corolla sold only in Japan.

Toyota offers four-wheel-drive in the Celica and Camry for 1988 andsaid it will assess the system`s acceptance in those models before bringingthe four-wheel-drive Corolla here. It`s likely you`ll see a four-wheel-driveCorolla in the U.S. in 1989.

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