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Toyota Corolla S (2001)

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

by Carey Russ

The Corolla has been a mainstay of Toyota's lineup since 1966, and has been an important part of its American sales since 1968. During the thirty-plus years of its existence, more Corollas have been sold worldwide than any other nameplate. It's a benchmark in the subcompact sedan class, with a good reputation for an appliance-like character. And, make no mistake, "appliance" in the context of a car is a very positive attribute.

Corollas are a common choice for economical transportation, but are less commonly chosen by those looking for a sporty small car. The 2001 Corolla, particularly the new "S" model, is designed for appeal to youthful (or youthfully-budgeted) enthusiasts as well as practically-minded people. All new Corollas share freshened, more distinctive styling, but each trim level has subtle differences. The high-tech 125-hp version of Toyota's 1.8- liter four-cylinder engine, with "VVT-i" variable valve timing, introduced last year, continues.

I've just finished an enjoyable week with a new Corolla S. I was most impressed by its refinement and well-tuned suspension. With its enjoyable handling, good power, and economical performance, it brought back memories of the sporty Corolla GTS Twin Cam of the late 1980s, but it is a larger, more substantial car. It offers all of the fun potential of a sporty coupe and the space and practicality of a sedan.

APPEARANCE: The 2001 Corolla's relatively minor external makeover has major results for its appearance. Although the basic shape is unchanged, the 2001 Corolla is much sharper than the 1998 to 2000 models, in both senses of the word - sharp-looking and sharper-edged. The most noticeable changes are at the front, with larger, complexly-shaped headlights, a larger, reshaped and pointed grille, new, sportier bumper fascia, and new hood with chiseled-in fender lines. At the rear, new taillights incorporate backup lights that echo the inset circular shape of the high beams. The freshened styling gives the 2001 Corolla a more defined shape and a more assertive character. The S trim level features a monochrome exterior color scheme and sporty-looking rocker panels.

COMFORT: Interior enhancements to the 2001 Corolla are less obvious than the external changes, with new seat fabrics, control upgrades, and added convenience items. Most notable in the S are the steering wheel rim and the matching shift lever boot, outfitted in black leatherette with red stitching for a sporty look. The black and red motif continues on the instrument panel, with red-on-black lettering and a Celica-like honeycomb background. Storage space, important in a small car, is good, with a large glovebox and two- level console box. Power windows, locks, and mirrors are part of the "Value Package" option group, along with air conditioning. The manually-adjustable front bucket seats have firm, supportive foam padding and grippy cloth upholstery. Rear seat head and leg room should be adequate for anyone under 5' 10". The trunk is larger than expected, and has a protected latch to prevent damage to luggage.

SAFETY: Every 2001 Toyota Corolla has side impact beams, front and rear crumple zones, three-point safety belts in all seating positions, dual front and optional front side airbags, child-safety rear door locks, and daytime running lights.

ROADABILITY: The new Corolla S's suspension calibration puts it at the top of its class for ride comfort and control. Its fully- independent front and rear strut design is not unusual; the careful tuning of the spring and shock rates is. The 2001 Corolla feels like a more expensive European sedan in ride quality, not a low-budget "econobox", with supple spring rates and moderate body roll that will please comfort-seekers and do not discourage enthusiastic driving. Enthusiast drivers will want to upgrade the standard tires.

PERFORMANCE: The Corolla's engine has the specifications to excite enthusiasts and the frugality to enthuse the masses. It's a 1.8- liter dual overhead cam, 16-valve four-cylinder with Toyota's VVT- i variable valve timing system for a broader rage of power and lower emissions. Its maximum 125 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 126 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm, and sporty exhaust growl don't tell the complete story. Thanks to the variable valve timing, power is strong right off the line, and fades only slightly at the top of the rev range. The standard five-speed manual gearbox is the perfect match for the engine, and adds to the car's sporty character. But the engine's broad range of power should make it work well with either of the two optional automatics, the CE's three-speed or the electronically-controlled four-speed in the S and LE. High gas prices got you down? Expect mileage in the low-to-mid 30s in real- world driving, especially with the manual transmission.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2001 Toyota Corolla combines practicality and economy with jaunty performance.

2001 Toyota Corolla S

Base Price              $ 12.793
Price As Tested         $ 16,963
Engine Type             dual overhead cam, 16-valve aluminum 
                          alloy inline 4-cylinder with VVT-i
                          variable valve timing
Engine Size             1.8 liters / 109 cu. in.
Horsepower              125 @ 5800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)          126 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission            5-speed manual (4-speed
                          automatic available)
Wheelbase / Length      97.0 in. / 174.0 in.
Curb Weight             2405 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower   19.2
Fuel Capacity           13.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement        unleaded regular gasoline, 87 octane
Tires                   P185/65 SR14 Goodyear Integrity
Brakes, front/rear      vented disc / drum, antilock optional
Suspension, front/rear  independent MacPherson strut / 
                          independent strut
Drivetrain               front engine, front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed      32 / 41 / 34
0 to 60 mph                9.0  sec
Coefficient of Drag (cd)   0.31

Heavy-duty rear window defogger       $   205
Anti-lock brake system                $   550
Side airbags                          $   250
Deluxe 4-speaker radio and CD system  $   310
Tilt/slide moonroof                   $   735
Convenience package - includes:
 tilt steering wheel, cruise control  $   430
Value package - includes: air conditioning,
 digital clock, power windows and locks,
 dual power color-keyed mirrors       $ 1,800
Value package MSRP discount         -($   550)
Destination charge                    $   455