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New Car Review


by Tom Hagin


SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 15,598
Price As Tested                                    $ 18,715
Engine Type                DOHC 4-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SFI*
Engine Size                                 110 cid/1794 cc
Horsepower                                   120 @ 5600 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               122 @ 4400 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                       97"/66.7"/174"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     2546 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      185/65R14
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                 55 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            28/36/33         
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.5 seconds @ 80.5 mph
Top speed                                           110 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

Believe it or not, the Toyota Corolla recently surpassed the VW Beetle as the best-selling automobile of all time. This is an amazing feat, considering the Beetle was marketed for over four decades, and it took the Corolla just 32 years to break that record. .

This eighth-generation car is brand-new for 1998, and comes as the basic VE, mid-trim CE or as our test version, the top-line Corolla LE.

OUTSIDE - Though it rides on the same 97-inch wheelbase as the previous generation Corolla, the new model is a bit wider and taller. It takes styling cues from the larger Camry, with a low beltline and lots of glass, along with a low, sloping hood. Toyota paid close attention to aerodynamics with the new car, and the payoff is a low 0.31 drag coefficient and less wind noise to the interior. Layers of asphalt sheeting, anti-vibration panels and underhood insulation help smother drivetrain sounds, and flush side glass and extra window sealing abates wind noise. Our LE test model had such exterior standards as body-color bumpers, side molding, mirrors and door handles, and the Touring Package which added alloy wheels and color-keyed rocker extensions.

INSIDE - The new Corolla gives two more cubic feet of interior space over the old model, and though it doesn't feel much different inside, the wider, taller and more supportive seats are superior to those in the old version. There is also more legroom up front, and the longer rear doors makes it easier to climb in and out of the back seat. Large twist-knob ventilation controls are within perfect reach, and the myriad of storage nooks, cubby holes and cupholders come in handy. The two-tone interior looks luxurious and again, the hot-selling Camry seems to have been an influence. Our car was fitted with optional side-impact airbags, to go along with the standard reduced-power dashboard airbags. We found just enough room for two adults in the rear seat, which splits and folds to allow for extra cargo space. Top-line LE models come with such standards as air conditioning, variable-speed intermittent wipers, tilt steering, tachometer, rear window defogger and an AM/FM cassette stereo.

ON THE ROAD - Previously the Corolla was offered with either a 1.6 or a 1.8 liter four cylinder engine. Now, all models are powered by an all-aluminum 1.8 liter four that is 64 pounds lighter than its predecessor due to a new alloy engine block. It produces a respectable 120 horsepower and 122 lb-ft of torque, which is 15 more horsepower and five more lb-ft of torque than the old 1.8 version. This gives it plenty of power to get it quickly to freeway speeds. The new engine also uses a freer-flowing intake manifold, a roller chain for the camshaft and a direct ignition system adapted from the Camry. A repositioned exhaust catalyst decreases emissions during warm-up. Toyota expects a 10 percent increase in fuel economy, along with a quicker sprint to 60 mph. Depending on the model, a five-speed manual, or a three-or-four-speed automatic transmission is available, and all have revised gear ratios.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Corolla continues to ride on a traditional small car suspension. Up front and in back is a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts, coil springs and, on LE models, a stabilizer bar. This stabilizer bar gives Corolla a much tighter, more nimble feel than the CE and VE models. It is available on CE models equipped with the optional Touring Package. The rear suspension on all models carries a stabilizer bar. The ride is comfortable although a full load of adults makes the car bottom out on larger bumps. All the newly-added insulation filters noise quite well, especially with its additional foam sealing around the cabin area and flush side glass with stronger seals. Braking duties are handles by front disc and rear drum brakes, with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) offered optionally.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, side-impact beams, three-point seat belts and daytime running lights are standard; side airbags, ABS and a built-in rear child seat are optional.

OPTIONS:Moonroof: $290; Touring Package: $555; cruise control: $290; side airbags: $250; CD player upgrade: $100; all-weather package: $80; floor mats: $74; California emissions: $63.