2003 Corolla New Car Test Drive
Toyota says the Corolla has been the world's best-selling car when measured over the past 35 years. Apparently, that wasn't good enough. Toyota engineers and executives have not felt the old Corolla was the best sub-compact car in terms of image or value.
What's more the company is concerned that the average age of Corolla buyers in the US is 44 years while buyers of the Honda Civic are an average five years younger than that.
Rather than try to design one new Corolla that would appeal to older and younger buyers, Toyota has introduced two new cars radically different from each other in looks. Yet both are essentially identical under the skin. For younger buyers the Toyota Matrix (see separate nctd.com review) is a stylish five-door hatchback/wagon type vehicle that stands out in the crowded roads.
For the rest of us, this new ninth-generation Corolla is an evolutionary model that carries on Toyota's tradition of producing a robust small car that acts as a great introductory model to the Toyota family.
It's totally appropriate to describe this new Corolla as a baby Camry, which, in turn, is in a baby Lexus. That's not a bad pedigree for any car.
Ignoring the Matrix, the Corolla line consists of just one body style: a four-door sedan. Although the Corolla line has included two-door and station wagon models in the past the majority of American car buyers want straightforward four-door sedans.
All Corollas come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder 16-valve engine and a choice of a manual or automatic transmission.
Three trim levels are available in the 2003 Corolla lineup: the base CE, the sporty S, and the luxurious LE.
CE ($13,370) comes standard with air conditioning (with an air filter), AM/FM/CD stereo system, power steering, power mirrors, tilt steering column, tachometer, intermittent wipers, digital clock, outside temperature gauge, trunk lamp, and a dome light with delay. CE comes standard with a manual transmission; an automatic is optional ($14,370).
S ($14,515 with manual gearbox, $15,315 with automatic transmission) 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 leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The S model gets a vertical seat-height, power door locks, and map lights.
LE ($14,680 or $15,480 with the automatic) adds remote keyless entry, power windows, and intermittent wipers. The LE lacks the sporty body cladding of the S. And 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 is available ($1,050, which includes a sunroof) for the LE that gives the car a luxurious feel.