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2007 Toyota Corolla LE Review

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Camry's Little Brother

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Last week’s test car, Toyota’s compact Corolla, was a pleasant surprise. The last Corolla I drove was a little white one from the early 80s - my daughter Stephanie’s high school and college car. She named it Skippy. She bought it with 125,000 miles already spent and drove it about seven years. Skippy was approaching 200,000 miles when Stephanie finally sold it. I had to borrow it once when the transmission went out of my XR4Ti. In spite of being a bit slow I remember Skippy being plain and simple but reasonably fun to drive, with its little 4-cylinder and 5-speed stick. I think the only thing that ever went wrong with the car was a battery explosion.

That generation of Corolla was the first product of the GM joint venture called New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI) wherein the two companies built a new factory in Freemont, California and each built a car there - the Corolla and GEO Prism. Those early cars were pretty crass and unsophisticated, but plenty dependable. Each successive generation became more sophisticated and complete. Now this Corolla, still a NUMMI product, is literally just a fine little Camry – and a well-equipped one at that.

Inside, our initial impression is of a nicely appointed family sedan, including good quality materials throughout, wood grain trim, power windows, mirrors and locks, keyless entry, tilt steering wheel, AC with air filter and plenty of room considering its size. I’m a big guy and I was entirely comfortable driving the Corolla. Though I didn’t have any back seat passengers there looked to be lots of room back there. And the trunk, too, appears generous. We can even tow 1,500 pounds with it if we want.

Power is more than adequate for this car. A 1.8-litre DOHC, 16-valve, 4-banger with 126-hp and 122 lb-ft does the job well enough. With the 4-speed automatic transmission it’s rated at 30-mpg city and 38 on the highway. With the 5-speed manual it’ll do 32 and 41. Wow. As I was returning the Corolla to the press fleet distributor the low-fuel light came on just as the trip odometer rolled over 500 miles. With the 13.2-gallon fuel tank that means we got close to 40-mpg with the little squirt.

Since I was out of town on a junket most of the week I didn’t get to spend any serious seat time with the Corolla but I would not hesitate to make a good long road trip with guests and luggage. A 13.6-cu-ft trunk would accommodate enough stuff for a long weekend at least.

Handling was very good. Corolla is front-wheel-drive, of course. Steering is rack-and-pinion with engine speed-sensing power assist. Suspension is McPherson struts in front and semi-independent (torsion beam) rear suspension and damping appropriate for a comfortable sedan. Front disc and rear drum brakes are competent. On our cloverleaf freeway entrance the Corolla didn’t feel like a car I wanted to push too hard but it got up to speed in plenty of time, which not all economy cars will do.

At around 16-grand this well-dressed peasant presents well. Compared to the other products in its class the experts rate it about in the center considering all categories. It’s due for redesign soon so we’ll be seeing another upgrade and modernization. We can expect it to be a class-leading redo if redesigns of Camry and Avalon are any gauge.

Our test car shows a base price of $16,215 (though Toyota’s web site says $15,415). That base price includes an amazing amount of content. In addition we have almost 3-grand worth of options bringing our total to $19,098. Options include: All Weather Guard Package for $70, ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Tire Pressure Monitor for $390, Driver and Passenger Side and Curtain air bags for $655, Audio Value Package for $450, Stability Control/Traction Control for $650 and special carpet floor mats with the Corolla name for $88.

Warranty is 36 months/36,000 miles basic and 60 months/60,000 miles on the powertrain.

In the genre of economical, comfortable, attractive but unobtrusive, small sedans it would be hard to beat the Corolla. It’s the kind of car one could buy and drive forever for hundreds of thousands of miles, if that be the goal. If we figured out the cost per mile for a high mileage plan I bet it would be mighty impressive.