2003 Toyota Corolla
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Quick—what's the top-selling car of all time? The Ford Model T? Volkswagen Beetle? Guess again. It's the Toyota Corolla.
That shouldn't be surprising, because Toyota has an enormous worldwide sales network and the Corolla has been an affordable "run-forever" car since its introduction in Japan in 1966. The car made its U.S. debut two years later, largely as an alternative to the popular but very dated Volkswagen Beetle. More than 25 million Corollas have been sold in 142 countries.
Awkward Body Shape
The Corolla never has been bought for its looks, but the car's styling always has been acceptable and the last generation actually looked elegant with black paint and silver alloy wheels.
The Lexus styling touches on the 2003 Corolla just make it look dowdier. If you want to send a photograph of your new Corolla to relatives, get down on a knee and snap a front, three-quarter shot of the car. That's the one Toyota features in press releases for the new model.
More than ever, Toyota must improve the Corolla because it is one of the automaker's entry-level cars getting more competition from South Korea's Hyundai and Kia, which offer less expensive models with more equipment. They also have a longer warranty to partly offset Toyota's shining reputation for reliability and resale value.
Larger, Sportier and Roomier
Despite the sporty pitch, the 2003 Corolla remains mostly conservative because excessive sportiness would put off older buyers. Toyota just says the car "addresses concerns of current owners" and "reaches out to younger buyers with a strong new identity."
The $14,515-$15,315 S trim falls between the $13,370-$14,170 "value driven" CE entry trim and the top-line $14,680-$15,480 LE.
The low price for each trim shows it has a standard, slick 5-speed manual transmission, while the high price for each means it has an efficient 4-speed automatic.
However, the S is pretty much a bust as a sporty car. For instance, it has the same 1.8-liter 130-horsepower 4-cylinder engine as other Corollas and no special tires or sport suspension. Rather, there are only cosmetic items, including side rocker panels, front/rear underbody spoiler, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and "sport" speedometer and tachometer.
Longer and Roomier
High Fuel Economy
This is another Corolla that should be cheap to run just about forever. And Toyota's revered name should ensure above-average resale value for owners who don't keep the car for a very long time.
However, despite the longer wheelbase, the new Corolla doesn't ride all that much better than its predecessor. But that's okay because the last-generation Corolla had an unusually comfortable ride for a small car.
The LE adds items such as power windows and door locks and remote keyless entry. But a sunroof and leather upholstery are optional for this model.
The S really should have a standard rear spoiler, but it's tucked in an $825 Sport Plus package that also contains aluminum alloy wheels.
New seats offer better support, and the dashboard is cleanly designed. But the driver's seat still doesn't slide back far enough for a 6-footer with long legs; that's a surprise, considering the appreciably longer wheelbase.
A big windshield and high roof give the interior an airy feeling. There are a fair number of small, but handy, storage areas up front, and rear windows slide down all the way.
The Corolla long has been a very refined small car that offers comforts of larger ones, and the new model's increased size provides it with a more substantial feel. In short, another winner.