2004 Corolla New Car Test Drive
Toyota Corolla is among the best of the compact sedans. It's reliable and thrifty, but it's also refined and comfortable. Some have described it as a baby Camry or a baby Lexus, the latter particularly true with a Corolla LE equipped with the optional leather interior.
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 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 offer response handling. Corolla earned the New Car Test Drive editor's choice for best compact sedan for 2003 and is likely to retain that title for 2004.
Redesigned and re-engineered for 2003, the Toyota Corolla is relatively unchanged for 2004.
Toyota Corolla comes in one body style, a four-door sedan (not counting the Matrix, which is reviewed separately). 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: the base CE, the S, and the luxurious LE.
CE ($13,570 or 14,370 with automatic) 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.
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 nice leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The S model gets a vertical seat-height, power door locks, power mirrors, and mirror-mounted map lights. Power windows with keyless entry are available as an optional package.
LE ($14,780 manual; $15,580 automatic) 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 may improve its handling slightly.
Options you should be sure to get are the anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution ($300) and side-impact airbags ($250), both of which can save lives and reduce injuries in an accident. Other options include cruise control ($250) and a sunroof ($750).