2005 Toyota Corolla
$13,780 - $17,555

2005 Toyota Corolla Expert Review:Autoblog

XRS Rear View

My handy Palm Pilot lost my first day's report I typed up on my plane ride so I'm writing this all over again. The pain and agony I go through for our Autoblog readers. Originally I wrote how I only had a few minutes to get acquainted with the Toyota Corolla XRS before having to head out to the airport for a weekend trip out of town.

I had forgotten how nice the Corolla was as a form of basic transportation.

Toyota just does a fabulous job on the fit and finish of this workhorse of an economy car. Since the company already sells more Corollas then they can handle they decided to try and hit a demographic not served by the standard version. Thus the XRS was born to draw the attention of the tuner crowd.

While the car features a 1.8L 170 horsepower engine and 6 speed transmission there isn’t any visceral thrill to driving it. The shifting is economical and pretty easy to master but the engine strains loudly when pressing it hard. Worst of all is the clutch pedal. It might be light on the foot but its position forces my size 11 to press down more on the pedal’s arm than on the pedal itself. After a few different techniques and changing my seating position I still couldn’t get comfortable. 

A revised suspension rides an inch lower and has a tower strut brace. Neither gives a remarkably stiff or high-performance feel to cornering. I like the leather wrapped steering wheel though.

So far, after limited driving I can only admire the Corolla for the excellent economy car it is and the XRS for being a fully loaded version of that vehicle. Otherwise, I’m not impressed yet.

XRS Center Stack ThumbAfter driving around town I do have to amend some of my comments from Day 1. Most of all, the suspension really does show improvements on tight turns and considerably cuts body roll in the XRS. Basically I got to test out some of my favorite roads and found both the handling and acceleration pretty enjoyable considering this was still a Corolla underneath all the body panels.

But most of all I’m impressed with the Corolla attributes like the easy to use environmental controls, nice interior materials and even the spacious trunk has come in handy. The XRS touches, like the leather wrapped shifter and sport bucket seats just make the economy car a bit sportier.

Finally I found a good seating position for my left foot on the clutch but it’s still not the most comfortable and I still prefer the Mazda3 s seats. Actually if you compare the Mazda3 s to the  XRS it’s a fair comparison since both feature a stiffer body, more powerful engine and even two tone cloth seats. The price is also similar.

Our vehicle started at $17,455 and here’s a breakdown of some standard features and add ons:

Starting Price: $17.455
Standard Equipment: 4-Wheel ABS, Sport Strut Tower Brace, 16 inch Alloy Wheels, Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel, Power Windows and Door Locks
Optional Equipment: All Weather Guard Package $70, AM/FM/6-disc In-Dash CD w/6 Speakers $200, Power Moonroof $750, Power Windows and Door Locks (again?) $605, Carpet Floor Mats $87, Security System $319.

Total: $20,001

2005 Toyota Corolla XRS

This is the diary entry I'm sure the automakers wish I didn't write. I'm going to round up all the things I don't like about the Corolla XRS. This doesn't reflect my final thoughts on the car, those will come to light tomorrow, just all the little hang-ups that annoy me on a daily basis.

Any car, economy or not, that costs $17-$20,000 needs to have a trunk release on the key fob. The XRS does not. This has got to be the easiest thing to do and anytime you leave the grocery store, arms full of bags, this will eat at you.

While I don’t generally care about badging on a car, that doesn’t mean a car company can do a half-ass job. The XRS has custom door sills which are pretty cool. But the floor mats clearly say Corolla S. Oops.

As readers mentioned in past days, the color schematic of the stereo and gauges do not match. The gauges are a pleasing red and white, while the stereo and climate controls glow a bland green. This doesn’t add much to the otherwise aesthetically pleasing interior. As the lights assault the eyes a loud beep when in reverse will irritate the ears. While I think the idea of a signal once you get the 6-speed transmission in reverse is a good idea (the difference between first gear and reverse is a big one), leaving it beeping the entire time the gear is engaged seems like overkill. Plus it isn’t beeping outside the cabin where pedestrians would benefit.

While I like the sound quality of the stereo the head unit is hard to reach and the controls (especially volume) aren’t user friendly. Also why no steering wheel mounted controls like the Mazda3?

Like a Band-Aid being ripped off, I try and keep these diatribes as short and to the point as possible. Tomorrow I’ll kiss the booboo and make everything all better.

XRS SideNormally a Corolla leaving the Autoblog Garage would cause no reason for disappointment. But the XRS really did liven up an otherwise sedate driving experience. The handling and suspension was really the perfect mix for every day commuting with just enough performance to keep you interested in the road ahead.

The engine’s power is also impressive once you get used to the power band. But I doubt anyone is getting near that 8000 rpm red line that often. The shifting was the only drawback as far as the performance went. It wasn’t hard to shift but it sure wasn’t silky smooth and I’ve already reported on the odd seating position in relation to the clutch pedal. I just don’t think Toyota planned on anyone with a size 11 shoe to drive the thing. Sports styled two-tone bucket seats were also welcome XRS touches.

Obviously all the Corolla standards receive top marks. Rear seats were spacious enough but if the front seat is all the way back you get this much room. The fit and finish is excellent, trunk room is very adequate. Gas mileage is also excellent due to the 1.8L VVTL-I SFI engine (say that two times fast). 25 mpg in the city and 34 hwy is on the sticker and we couldn’t even get the needle to budge for most of our week in it.

However, as one reader pointed out, the more important sticker feature is the $20,001 (where is the $1 coming from?) final price tag. There is a moonroof and nice stereo but at $20,000 we’re in a completely different range of vehicles than in the regular model. One reader said Mini Cooper S but there are plenty of four-door cars as well. I’m still more a fan of the fun & stylish Mazda3 s, but the XRS comes close. The price is the real killer.

Smooth and refined, practical and reliable.


Toyota Corolla is among the best of the compact sedans: reliable and economical yet refined and comfortable. The 2005 Corolla line sees the addition of a sporty new XRS model, while the entire line gets some enhancements. All 2005 Corollas feature a restyled front fascia and redesigned tail lamps. 

A Corolla LE equipped with the optional leather interior almost feels like a miniature luxury car, a baby Lexus. For 2005, the Corolla LE gets a Lexus-like Optitron center cluster meters along with fabric-covered sunvisors and center console lid. A new JBL audio system with eight speakers is available on the LE grade. 

One of our few complaints about the Corolla line was that the S model offered more show than go. The new XRS model addresses this with a sports suspension and a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter engine. Toyota says the Corolla XRS offers exceptional throttle response throughout its broad power band and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. 

New safety options for all 2005 Corolla sedan models include side curtain airbags with seat-mounted side airbags and a vehicle stability control system (VSC), the latter designed to eliminate skidding. This is in addition to optional anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, which improve steering control in an emergency stopping situation and enhance braking stability and effectiveness. 

Cloth or leather, the seats are comfortable and supportive. Big heating and air conditioning controls, simple, straightforward radio controls, well-designed cup holders, and plenty of cubbies for storing stuff make for a convenient interior. Getting in and out of this four-door sedan is easy and the back seat is surprisingly roomy and comfortable. 

The standard four-cylinder engine revs smoothly and delivers good acceleration performance. Corolla earns an EPA-estimated 32/40 mpg City/Highway when equipped with a manual transmission. Both the manual and the automatic transmissions offer smooth shifting, and the manual is very easy to operate. All models have a smooth, comfortable ride and responsive handling. The XRS is designed to kick it up a notch. 


Toyota Corolla comes in one body style, a four-door sedan (not counting the Matrix). The base CE, the S, and the luxurious LE come with a 130-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine; XRS gets 170-horsepower engine. Prices for most models represent an increase of $110 over 2004. 

The 2005 Corolla CE sedan is available with a five-speed manual transmission ($13,680) or a four-speed automatic ($14,480). CE comes standard with air conditioning (with an air filter), AM/FM/CD stereo system, power steering, tilt steering column, tachometer, intermittent wipers, digital clock, outside temperature gauge, trunk lamp, and a dome light with delay. 

Corolla S offers the manual ($14,725) or automatic ($15,525) and features sporty styling cues such as smoked headlight lens extenders, integrated fog lamps, and an aerodynamic body package with color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, rocker panel extensions, and rear mud guards. It also gets wider 195/65R15 tires. Inside, the S gets a unique cloth interior, a sporty tachometer, chrome accents, and a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The S model gets vertical seat-height adjustment, power door locks, power mirrors, and mirror-mounted map lights. Power windows with keyless entry and cruise control are available as an optional package. 

Corolla LE offers the manual ($14,890) or automatic ($15,690). The LE adds remote keyless entry, power windows, halogen headlamps, and variable intermittent wipers. The LE gets body-colored door handles, lacks the sporty body cladding of the S and looks the better for it. In place of the S model's sporty interior finish, the LE gets wood-like trim and upgraded cloth seating surfaces. An optional leather package ($900) is available for the LE that gives the car a luxurious feel and includes cruise control. Aluminum wheels ($390) are available, which improve the appearance of the LE and should improve its handling slightly. 

Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution ($300) and side-impact airbags ($250) are optional on most models, but can help avoid accidents or reduce injuries in the event of a crash. Other options include cruise control ($250) and a sunroof ($750). 

The new Corolla XRS ($17,455) is powered by a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The XRS features a sport-tuned suspension with revised steering and 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and Michelin performance tires, an upgrade from the standard 15-inch wheels on all other Corolla grades. Special interior and exterior trim distinguishes the XRS. Additional standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes with tire pressure monitors, front and rear disc brakes, and cruise control. 


The 2005 Corolla features a newly designed front bumper, grille and headlamps. At the rear are subtly revised tail lamps. 

The Corolla looks like a small Camry. Its ovoid headlights are similar and its rakish yet curved shape is in keeping with the newest Camry and Lexus ES 300. Thick A-pillars at the front and thick C-pillars at the rear give the Corolla a solid look while hefty bumpers add to its substantial appearance. 

Corolla comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, but looks like it could do with larger wheels and tires that would fill out the wheel wells more effectively. For 2005, the value-driven CE and the premium LE receive new wheel cover designs. Aluminum 15-inch wheels ($390) are an option for LE models. 

At the rear, the Corolla has a high trunk line in keeping with the car's high belt line. The taillights match the shape of the headlights nicely. Part of the taillight module is actually mounted in the trunk lid. This is fine except that the design causes the trunk lid to be narrower than it might be. 

The doors have reasonably wide openings, which makes getting in and out easy. That's a benefit of the long wheelbase (102.4 inches), which also means that the rear wheel wells do not protrude into the rear door as much as they do on some cars. Another benefit of a longer wheelbase is shorter overhangs at the front and rear (the distance from the wheels to the ends of the car). Short overhangs improve the car's looks, and the handling. 

The 2005 Corolla S receives a new front spoiler and fog lamps, and smoked headlamp masking. The S is further distinguished by its body-colored side rocker panels and rear skirt. 

The XRS gets 16-inch wheels that visually fill the wheel wells better. Distinguishing the XRS are a rear color-keyed spoiler, a color-keyed bezel surrounding the grille, and unique badging. 


The Corolla's interior doesn't feel like a small car nor does it feel cheap, like many compacts do. Big and tall people will find accommodations cramped, but shorter people often find the Corolla fits them perfectly. There's plenty of front legroom and headroom and there's a decent amount of room in the back for two average-size adults. Although there are seat belts for a third rear-seat passenger, there's definitely a shortage of space for that person. 

Materials used in the seats appear classy with nice fit and finish. The driver's seat has a much more substantial feel than in many cars in this price range, which makes it more comfortable for long journeys. Even the doors shut with a pleasant thud thanks to sound deadening felt mounted inside the door panels. 

Take a look inside a Corolla LE with optional leather seating and you could easily imagine you're looking inside a luxury car instead of a $17,000 compact. The leather seats have a luxurious soft pleated finish, while the center console and door panels have wood-like veneer trim. Okay it's fake but it's so well made that it looks more realistic than some real wood found in luxury cars. Both the LE and S models get a sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel that adds to the enjoyment of driving. 

The XRS gets sport seats, a silver-colored instrument cluster and switch plates, optitron meters, and a leather-like shift boot and leather shift knob. 

The dashboard is nicely laid out with exemplary ergonomics and a finish comparable to that of more expensive cars. Its top surface sweeps across the width of the car in a slight S-curve and wraps into the door trim. Each side of the center console seamlessly blends up to the lower portion of the dash. Four small vents are nicely inlaid into the upper part of the dash. 

The radio is located high up so it is easy to reach while the three large round knobs for the heating and air conditioning system are located below. The handle for the parking brake is located on the left of the center console so there's room for a small storage cubbyhole on the right. Storage spaces are quite generous with small pockets in each door and the glove box is large. Map lights on Corolla S and LE are mounted on the rearview mirror, not the ideal location. 

Three overlapping round gauges in the instrument pod contain a large speedometer, a smaller tachometer to the left and a water temperature gauge and fuel gauge mounted in a matching circle to the right. They incorporate red lettering on a plain white background and are easy to read at night. There's also an outside temperature readout on all models. 

The rear seats split 60/40 to allow access from the trunk, though the opening is not that large, limiting pass-through with large cargo. The trunk is one of the biggest in this class. The gooseneck hinges intrude into the cargo space and can crush fragile items if they are in the way. Many auto manufacturers have switched to the scissor-type hinges that are located outside the storage space, though this design often results in a smaller trunk opening. 

All in all, the interior has a high level of refinement beyond what one expects in a low cost sub-compact. 

Driving Impression

The Toyota Corolla is smooth, convenient, and easy to drive. For many owners, this car quickly fades into the background, allowing them to focus on other aspects of their lives. It's hard to find faults with this car. 

The standard 130-horsepower four-cylinder engine is quiet, smooth and refined. It delivers brisk acceleration performance with a broad power band for nice, linear acceleration. There is no difference in engine, transmission or suspension between the CE, S, and LE trim levels. 

The electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission is nicely matched with the engine. It includes a shift logic system that helps hold a gear longer than it might otherwise if it senses the car is going up an incline or the driver wants plenty of power while passing. For those who enjoy doing their own shifting, the five-speed manual allows for more performance as the engine's power can be better utilized. It shifts easily via a relatively tall shifter. Both the gearbox and clutch are smooth and easy to operate. The manual transmission earns an EPA-estimated 32/40 mpg City/Highway, while the automatic gets 30/38 mpg. 

The power steering is just right, providing a nice feel without being too stiff or sloppy. The suspension has been tuned to give a smooth ride, which is helped by a relatively long wheelbase. Body roll (lean) is minimal and the car feels secure and stable at all speeds. The suspension is soft and does a good job of soaking up bumps and road vibration, giving the Corolla a nice, smooth ride that we really liked. The Corolla handles well, though those who enjoy the crisp handling of a sports sedan may want to opt for the XRS, which has a stiffer suspension. 

The new XRS is powered by a newly tuned version of the 2ZZ dual overhead cam engine and six-speed manual transmission found in both the Celica GT-S and Matrix XRS. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 170 horsepower at 7600 rpm and 127 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. It's tuned for more mid-range torque and features Toyota's VVTL-i variable valve timing and lift system for a burst of power from 6000 to 7600 rpm. EPA fuel economy is rated 25/32 City/Highway. The XRS features a sport-tuned suspension with higher-rate coil springs and shocks and a lower ride height (a half-inch lower). A sport strut tower brace is mounted between the shock towers. Larger 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels come with Michelin performance tires. The revised steering system features a more rigid steering column, designed to improve response. A power steering rack specially developed for the XRS allows for better steering feedback. 


Toyota Corolla is the car to consider if you're looking for a sophisticated and utterly reliable sub-compact sedan that blends in so well it's almost non-existent. It's not too much of a stretch to say the Corolla is a baby Lexus, it certainly has the same DNA. The Corolla boasts a high-quality, ergonomically excellent interior with comfortable, supportive seats. The interior is particularly well suited for shorter drivers. The rear seats are roomy and relatively comfortable and the trunk is big for this class. 

The Corolla rides and handles well with a relatively soft suspension. It isn't a sports sedan, but the engine is smooth and sophisticated and delivers good acceleration performance. In short, the Corolla is arguably the best compact sedan for non-enthusiasts. 

Enthusiasts should take a look at the new Corolla XRS, which promises significantly improved acceleration performance and sportier handling. 

Model Lineup

Corolla CE ($13,680); S ($14,725); LE ($14,890); XRS ($17,455). 

Assembled In

Fremont, California; Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. 

Options As Tested

curtain shield and side bolster side-impact airbags ($655); ABS ($390); Vehicle Stability Control ($650); Enhanced Power Package ($500) includes power windows, cruise control, keyless entry; Sport Plus Package ($825) includes P195/65R15 tires w/aluminum wheels and rear spoiler; AM/FM/6CD changer ($200). 

Model Tested

Toyota Corolla S ($14,725). 

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