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Toyota Corolla LE (2000)

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 15,868
     Price As Tested                                    $ 18,337
     Engine Type         VVT-i DOHC 16-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 109 cid/1794 cc
     Horsepower                                   125 @ 5800 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               125 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   97.0"/66.7"/174.0"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic     
     Curb Weight                                     2563 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                                 70 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            29/37/34          

     0-60 MPH                                       10.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          18.0 seconds @ 78.0 mph
     Top speed                                               N/A
                      * Sequential fuel injection

Japanese cars are just now starting to enjoy the rich heritage heretofore enjoyed only by American and European cars. The Toyota Corolla, a car with a lineage that can be traced back to 1966, introduced America to the reliable, economical, mass-produced compact car at a reasonable price.

Available in base VE, mid-trim CE and uplevel LE trim, Corolla for 2000 now has more power and economy, thanks to modern engine technology.

OUTSIDE - This eighth-generation Corolla underwent a restyle in 1998 that brought with it a smoother, cleaner body style that registered a lower coefficient of drag than Toyota's own Supra sports coupe. And just like nearly every redesign from every car maker, Toyota engineers added structural improvements such as vibration-damping panels, stronger steel and thicker panels to reduce noise, vibration and harshness, and to increase crash protection. Further noise-reducing enhancements include extra insulation, asphalt sheeting throughout the cabin and foam sealing materials placed inside the roof pillars. Full wheelcovers come standard on both CE and LE models, while the alloy wheels on our test vehicle came as part of an options package.

INSIDE - The redesign also brought two feet more interior space, and in the compact sedan market, extra room inside is a welcome addition. The seats became wider, taller and more supportive, and the controls for the ventilation system are larger and easier to use. Those same controls operate with a smooth click or a simple twist. Compact cars are aptly named as legroom for those over six feet tall is tight and climbing into the back seat can be tough for some because the clearance between the seat and door post is tight. A handy release inside the trunk allows the rear seat to be folded down although the trunk hinges impose upon trunk space and the opening is small. Storage nooks and bins are strategically placed about the cabin and all Corolla trim levels are available with side-impact airbags. Standard LE features include air conditioning, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, rear defogger, AM/FM/cassette and a digital clock.

ON THE ROAD - Powering the new Corolla is an all-new, twin-cam, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that is smaller, lighter, quieter and more powerful than the engine choices of its last generation. It produces 125 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque, with EPA fuel economy estimates at 31/38 miles per gallon city/highway with the standard five-speed manual transmission and 29/37 mpg with an optional automatic. Powertrain improvements include an aluminum engine block to replace the old model's iron unit, and a direct-ignition system, standard also on Toyota's best-selling Camry. Also used is a variable valve timing system called VVT-i. This system is now being used on many cars and constantly varies the timing of the camshafts to maximize combustion. As a result, the engine operates at peak efficiencies at all times and thus allows the Corolla to be certified a Low Emissions Vehicle.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Corolla's wheelbase stayed the same at 97 inches, but the car's overall length grew by two inches over the last generation model. Its four-wheel independent suspension includes traditional MacPherson struts with coil springs, tube shocks and stabilizer bars front and rear. It handles as well as any in its class, and with our test car's larger 185/65R14 tires, road grip in the twisties proved to be very good. We experienced some tire scrub and straight-ahead plowing during really cornering, but given that Corolla is designed to be a comfortable ride, we can't expect sports car handling. It uses power rack-and-pinion steering that is quick, responsive and offers a tight turning circle. Its front disc/rear drum brakes provide good stopping power on wet or dry pavement.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags and side-impact door beams are standard, while ABS and side-impact airbags are optional.

OPTIONS - Automatic transmission: $800; in-dash CD changer: $399; cruise control: $250; floor mats: $75; power moonroof: $735; side airbags: $250; ABS: $550; heavy-duty rear defogger: $80.