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2003 Toyota Corolla

2003 Toyota Corolla

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$2,004 — $6,644 USED
18
Photos
Sedan
5 Seats
36 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
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2003 Toyota Corolla Review

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

Vehicle Overview
Few cars have a heritage as long as Toyota’s popular compact. The Corolla has been on the U.S. market since 1966. More than 25 million units have been sold in 142 countries, and that makes the Corolla the best-selling passenger car of all time. Toyota dealers sold 245,023 eighth-generation Corollas in the United States during 2001, according to Automotive News. It has been Toyota’s second-best seller behind only the midsize Camry.

Toyota’s production goal for the redesigned 2003 model is a little more modest: 230,000 units. Changes for the popular, front-wheel-drive sedan’s next generation are moderate but meaningful. Engine output has increased by 5 horsepower, and a new, low-restriction catalytic converter is used in the exhaust system. The car is also a little larger than before. A new automatic transmission boasts fewer parts and reduced friction, which promises less than a 1-mpg fuel-economy penalty when compared with the manual-transmission model. Steering is claimed to be more responsive and linear, and braking is more precise. A higher hip point is supposed to ease entry into the vehicle, and the front seats have been moved farther apart.

Three versions of the Corolla are available: the value-priced CE, the upscale LE and the sporty S edition. Targeting a younger age group than before — 25- to 34-year-olds rather than 35- to 44-year-olds — the 2003 Corolla establishes a “more emotional connection with a more diverse” audience, says John Kramer, Toy...

Vehicle Overview
Few cars have a heritage as long as Toyota’s popular compact. The Corolla has been on the U.S. market since 1966. More than 25 million units have been sold in 142 countries, and that makes the Corolla the best-selling passenger car of all time. Toyota dealers sold 245,023 eighth-generation Corollas in the United States during 2001, according to Automotive News. It has been Toyota’s second-best seller behind only the midsize Camry.

Toyota’s production goal for the redesigned 2003 model is a little more modest: 230,000 units. Changes for the popular, front-wheel-drive sedan’s next generation are moderate but meaningful. Engine output has increased by 5 horsepower, and a new, low-restriction catalytic converter is used in the exhaust system. The car is also a little larger than before. A new automatic transmission boasts fewer parts and reduced friction, which promises less than a 1-mpg fuel-economy penalty when compared with the manual-transmission model. Steering is claimed to be more responsive and linear, and braking is more precise. A higher hip point is supposed to ease entry into the vehicle, and the front seats have been moved farther apart.

Three versions of the Corolla are available: the value-priced CE, the upscale LE and the sporty S edition. Targeting a younger age group than before — 25- to 34-year-olds rather than 35- to 44-year-olds — the 2003 Corolla establishes a “more emotional connection with a more diverse” audience, says John Kramer, Toyota’s corporate manager for distributors and public companies. Corollas are produced in California and Canada and went on sale in February 2002 as early 2003 models. Chevrolet used to offer a near-twin of the Corolla called the Prizm, but that was dropped after the 2002 model year.

Exterior
Styling changes for the 2003 model are less than dramatic, despite increased dimensions. The Corolla rides a 102.4-inch wheelbase and measures 178.3 inches long overall — some 5 inches longer than the prior generation. Each model is 66.9 inches wide and no more than 57.5 inches tall. Five-bolt wheels are new for U.S. models.

Special design touches for the sporty S sedan include smoked headlights, fog lights, color-keyed bodyside moldings, front and rear underbody spoilers, and side rocker panels. The S sedan also features special suspension tuning that consists of revalved shock absorbers and different spring rates. Options for the S model include a rear spoiler and aluminum-alloy wheels. All Corollas have 15-inch tires, but those on the LE and S models are slightly wider.

Interior
Five people fit inside the Corolla, with its cloth upholstery and 60/40-split rear seat. Cargo volume totals 13.6 cubic feet.

The new Corolla is better equipped than its predecessor. Standard equipment in the CE model 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 system. The LE adds power windows and door locks, color-keyed power mirrors, a woodlike center instrument panel, remote keyless entry and vertical seat-height adjustment. A unique cloth interior goes into the sporty S sedan, which features a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a silhouette sport speedometer.

Under the Hood
A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (VVT-i) generates 130 hp. Either a five-speed-manual or a four-speed-automatic transmission can be installed. Some prior Corollas used a three-speed automatic, which is no longer available.

Safety
Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are optional. Daytime running lights are standard on all models. The dual-stage front airbags have an extra-low deployment level for drivers who sit close to the steering wheel.

Driving Impressions
Despite conservative styling and comparatively high prices, the Corolla has long been one of the best subcompacts on the market. It delivers a satisfying blend of fuel economy, refinement and reliability. Although the 2003 shape may not set too many hearts afire, the new model builds upon Toyota’s reputation for excellence. Toyota is targeting a younger group of buyers. The Corolla seems to impart a feeling of solidity and confidence that belies its compact size.

The Corolla’s performance may not stir many emotions either, and the extra 5 hp doesn’t send the Corolla into a swifter league. But the 2003 model is adequate for ordinary driving. Acceleration is a trifle slow at start-up, but the automatic-transmission model quickly picks up the pace. Though the engine is a tad growly while accelerating, it quiets down nicely by the time it reaches highway speeds.

The Corolla maneuvers neatly in town and takes curves acceptably, but handling isn’t quite as precise as that of some smaller cars. A smooth ride is still one of the benefits. The front seats have somewhat short bottoms, but they are comfortable and supportive. Toyota’s claim that front occupants are farther apart appears to be accurate, and there is a greater sensation of roominess. Backseat legroom isn’t quite as appealing as that up front unless the front seats are pushed forward. The big glove box is a welcome feature.

 

Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com
From the cars.com 2003 Buying Guide
Posted on 10/17/02

Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.6
64 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.0)
Performance
(4.3)
Interior Design
(4.1)
Comfort
(4.2)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.7)

Read reviews that mention:

(5.0)

Great reliable car

by Juanchosr from Orlando, FL on February 20, 2020

This car is in an amazing condition i was amazed of how smoothly it runs definitely 12/10 would recommend no doubt. Also it is very cheap on gas! Read full review

(5.0)

Most reliable car I ever owned!

by Steven S from Philadelphia, PA on November 19, 2019

I bought a 2003 Toyota Corolla CE in January 2015 for $6,000 plus tax with only 62,000 original miles. Very updated too and has new radio and remote start that was put in by the original owner. I ... Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2003 Toyota Corolla currently has 13 recalls


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2003 Toyota Corolla has not been tested.

Latest 2003 Corolla Stories

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Corolla received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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