Vehicle Overview
Few cars have a heritage as long as Toyota’s popular compact sedan, which has been on the U.S. market since 1966. More than 25 million Corollas have been sold worldwide, which makes it the best-selling passenger car of all time.

Last year’s redesign of the 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. The car grew a little. Its steering was claimed to be more responsive and linear, and its braking more precise. A higher hip point was supposed to ease entry into the vehicle, and the front seats moved farther apart.

Other than one new color, nothing has changed for 2004. Three versions are available: the value-priced CE, upscale LE and sporty S edition. Corollas are produced in California and Canada.

Exterior
The styling changes for 2003 were less than dramatic, despite the car’s increased dimensions. 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, color-keyed bodyside moldings, front and rear underbody spoilers, and side rocker panels. The S sedan also features special suspension tuning. 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, which features cloth upholstery and a 60/40-split rear seat. Cargo volume totals 13.6 cubic feet.

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 locks, color-keyed power mirrors, a woodlike center instrument panel, remote keyless entry and vertical driver’s 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 four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission can be installed.

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

Driving Impressions
Despite its conservative styling and comparatively high prices, the Corolla has long been one of the best compacts on the market. It delivers a satisfying blend of fuel economy, refinement and reliability. The Corolla imparts a feeling of solidity and confidence that belies its size.

The Corolla’s performance might not stir many emotions, but the 2004 sedan is adequate for ordinary driving. Acceleration is a trifle slow at start-up, but the automatic-transmission model quickly picks up the pace. The engine is a tad growly while accelerating, but it quiets down nicely at highway speeds.

Even though the Corolla maneuvers neatly in town and takes curves acceptably, its 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. Backseat legroom isn’t quite as appealing.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com;
Posted on 11/5/03