New Car/Review

Toyota

The Toyota Corolla
I love what you do.

by Larry Weitzman

Toyota Full Line factory footage (15:01) 28.8, 56k or 200k

It has been thirty years since the first of more than twenty million Corollas rolled of the Assembly line. This new seventh generation Corolla is the best ever for many reasons including offering more for less.

Toyota paved the way for this idea with the current generation Camry. It designed a better car with fewer parts, a remarkable accomplishment. Toyota has done the same thing with the new Corolla. The factory goal was to improve one of the best selling and best built economy cars and boy did they ever.

The new 1999 edition has a stylish, sleek look. All the lines seem to be in the right place from its good looking headlights to the very unique taillights, which sit under a small spoiler built in the to trunk deck. Even though its overall length in only 174 inches, it appears bigger because of its side body sculpture and long, low silhouette (co-efficient of drag has been reduced from .33 to .31).

Another emphasis in the new design is safety. Besides the usual reinforced side door beams and crumple zones, this Corolla has standard new second generation air bags plus the option (worth every penny of $250) of side impact airbags built right into the seat bolsters. They are always in the right position relative to the driver or passenger. It's a feature that makes this car an even more attractive purchase.

More safety is found in the five standard lap and shoulder belts with pretensioner, removable head restraints in the rear seats, daytime running lights (they run at about 80% power so the filaments do not wear out as a result) and an optional built in child safety seat ($125).

The inside my top of the line, Corolla LE makes its front passengers very comfortable. Nicely shaped and somewhat large seats have just the right firmness and are supportive in all the right places. The 60/40 split folding rear seat is also comfortable for two adults, but tight for three. Legroom for knees and toes, while not limousine proportions, is about a big as one would expect from a sub compact car. Children would be very comfortable.

The dash is one of the best I've seen is a small car. The pod contains the usual large tach and speedo left and right, flanked by the temp and fuel gauges, but it also came with a neat outside temperature gauge at the bottom of the tach. It was 94 degrees and the air conditioning work great, I stayed cool with the A/C on low medium power.

To the right is a center pod with the A/C vents above the standard am/fm stereo cassette (C/D is optional and recommended for about $100). The simple A/C controls are directly below and below the A/C is a neat drawer, cupholders and more storage. The control stalks for lights and standard intermittent windshield wipers are the usual Toyota quality. The center console houses the emergency brake and floor shifter for the 4 speed automatic tranny, with a convenient O/D lockout button.

The cloth seat materials feel rich and the door panels are soft touch plastic and matching cloth. It's a nice package.

The purpose of all this is to take you from point A to point B. The new Corolla does that with its new, larger, more powerful (15 more ponies than last year) and more economical DOHC, 16 valve 1.8L four cylinder silk motor. It puts out 120 hp at 5,600 rpm and 122 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm. If you want a different engine, you will have to buy a different car than a Corolla.

Toyota in creating this new motor developed a new tubular intake manifold that looks like a work of art. I am not big at looking at engines as I never drive with my hood open, but this little beauty is worth a look. Actually, many of the engines today are covered or blocked from view by shrouds, accessories and systems.

My test car had the optional four speed electronically controlled automatic although a five-speed manual is available at an $800 savings. A three-speed auto or a five-speed manual (standard) is offered with the base model VE. I would definitely prefer the manual over a 3-speed automatic (and save the $800).

The new engine is stronger than last year, especially in the midrange. Although it will do 0-60 in about 10.5 seconds (tip in response is a little soft), its passing times reflect the new found midrange punch. 50-70 takes only 6.32 seconds and 50-65 is a remarkably quick 4.6 seconds. Going up hill will only slow that time to a very respectable 9.9 seconds. It is geared taller than other sub-compacts so second gear will take you all the way to 70 and cruising at 70 on the highway only spins the engine at a lazy 2500 rpm.

The Corolla is EPA rated at 31/38 (up from 35 mpg in 1997) mpg with the 5-speed manual and 28/36 mpg with the 4 speed automatic. With its large (for a sub compact) 13.2-gallon gas tank, a cruising range of nearly five hundred miles is quite possible. Bring along a lot of music for that clean sounding stereo.

This low engine speed combined with incredible smoothness makes for a very quiet ride. The four-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension makes for a very smooth ride. I don't know how Toyota does it, but this little 2,525 pound car has a big car ride. It doesn't jiggle its passengers with a jittery, choppy ride, it simply soaks up bumps with softness and control, The freeway is a carpet with only some road noise entering the otherwise quiet cabin from very coarse roads.

The steering is accurate and responsive. It makes the car feel nimble and inspires confidence. It is a solid performer in the twisties. The LE comes with a standard front stabilizer bar, which reduces body roll. The Corolla breezed down Green Valley and Bass Lake road with nary a twitch. The body is rock solid devoid of squeaks or rattles.

The cost of Corollas have improved as much as the car. A new base model VE lists for $12,218 plus $420 for destination for a total of $12,638. An am/fm stereo is standard and AC will add another $950. It would make a great, quick little commuter.

The top of the line LE model I tested stickered at $15,668 plus $250 for side air bags, $250 for cruise control, $60 for mud guards, $75 for carpeted mats and $420 for destination. The total is $16,723. I would add only anti lock brakes for $550 and maybe the stylish alloy wheels for $510. Prices are actually down a few bucks for 1999 over 1998.

The mid-level CE comes with standard automatic for $14,128 with destination. Add AC ($950), the touring package ($280) and power windows and locks ($640) and your looking at a well-equipped Corolla for under $16,000. With the side air bags you are still under $16,250.

SPECIFICATIONS

Price                                      $12,638 to about $18,000
Engine
   1.8L, DOHC, 16 valve                    120 hp @ 5,600 rpm
   inline four                             122 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
Transmissions
                                           5 speed manual
                                           3 speed automatic
                                           4 speed automatic
                                           electronically controlled

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase                                  97    inches
Length                                     174   inches
Width                                      66.7  inches
Height                                     54.5  inches
Curb Weight                                2,525 pounds 
Fuel Capacity                              13.2  gallons

PERFORMANCE

0-60                                       10.5  seconds
50-70                                      6.32  seconds
50-70 uphill                               9.9   seconds
Top Speed                                  Big Ticket Time
Fuel Economy                               EPA 28/36 city/highway, my estimate
                                           30+ in El Dorado County, near 40 at
                                           a constant 65-70, Standard Oil is not
                                           in love with this car.

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