Few cars have a heritage as long as Toyota's popular compact sedan, which dates back to 1966. The 2003 redesign of this front-wheel-drive sedan was modest but meaningful. Engine output increased by 5 horsepower, and a new, low-restriction catalytic converter went into the exhaust system. A higher hip point was supposed to ease entry.
A high-performance XRS edition fitted with a 170-hp four-cylinder rather than the usual 130-hp engine has joined the 2005 lineup. Three other versions remain available: the value-priced CE, upscale LE and sporty S. Vehicle Stability Control is now optional on LE and S models equipped with the automatic transmission.
The Corolla rides a 102.4-inch wheelbase and measures 178.3 inches long overall. Special design touches for the sporty S version include smoked headlights, fog lamps, front and rear underbody spoilers, and side rocker panels. An option package for the S model includes a rear spoiler and aluminum-alloy wheels.
All Corollas except the XRS have 15-inch tires. Michelin performance tires ride 16-inch alloy wheels on the XRS, which has a half-inch lower ride height. Its sport-tuned suspension includes higher-rate springs and shocks, as well as a front strut tower brace developed by Yamaha.
Up to five occupants fit inside the Corolla, which features a 60/40-split folding rear seat in all models but the XRS. Cargo volume totals 13.6 cubic feet.
Standard CE equipment includes air conditioning with a clean-air filter, power mirrors, a tilt steering column, intermittent wipers, a tachometer, an outside temperature gauge and a CD stereo. The LE adds power windows and locks, woodlike trim, remote keyless entry and driver's seat height adjustment. A unique cloth interior goes into the sporty S sedan, which features a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Bolstered front seats in the XRS are complemented by Optitron gauges.
Under the Hood
In CE, S and LE Corollas, a 1.8-liter four-cylinder generates 130 hp. Either a five-speed-manual or four-speed-automatic transmission can be installed. The XRS is equipped with a 170-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder that teams only with a six-speed-manual gearbox.
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags are optional. Antilock brakes are optional on all trims but the XRS, where they are standard. Daytime running lights are standard.
Despite its conservative styling and comparatively high price, the Corolla has long been one of the best compacts on the market. It delivers a satisfying blend of fuel economy, refinement and reliability. Riding smoothly, Corollas feel solid and are confidence-inspiring.
Performance might not stir many emotions, but the sedan is adequate for ordinary driving. Acceleration is a trifle slow from a start, but the automatic-transmission model quickly picks up the pace. The engine growls a tad while accelerating, but it quiets at highway speeds.
Even though the Corolla maneuvers neatly in town and takes curves acceptably, handling isn't quite as precise as that of some other small cars. The front seats are comfortable and supportive. Backseat legroom isn't quite as appealing.
Spirited performance makes the XRS unlike the typical Corolla. Acceleration is confident and the manual gearbox shifts easily, though clutch action makes it a bit difficult to get smooth takeoffs. The ride is less gentle than a regular Corolla's, but it's not nearly as harsh as expected; the suspension is sufficiently compliant.