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Toyota Corolla S (2002)

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

by Brendan Hagin and Mikele Schappell-Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 13,608
     Price As Tested                                    $ 16,449
     Engine Type              DOHC 16-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 109 cid/1794 cc
     Horsepower                                   125 @ 5800 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               126 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   97.0"/66.7"/174.0"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     2580 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                               185/65R14 radial
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Four-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            32/41/37
     0-60 MPH                                       10.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                                  18.0 @ 95.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           115 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

BRENDAN - In 1997 the Toyota Corolla became the best-selling car of all time, passing the Volkswagen Beetle, which is an amazing feat. The Corolla we tested this week is the 2002 model, and it's an S version. It carries mostly cosmetic upgrades from the CE model, but it's considered the sportiest Corolla in the line. There's only one engine available in any of the Corolla models - a well-designed, all-aluminum 1.8-liter dual-overhead cam inline four-cylinder with 16-valves and variable-valve timing. It has 125 horsepower with 125 pound feet of torque, so it has plenty of passing power to propel the 2500-pound four-door sedan into traffic and to maintain highway speeds with enough left in reserve to pass slower vehicles without giving everyone inside white knuckles.

MIKELE - The Corolla S isn't a sports car by any means, but it's nimble enough to navigate crowded city traffic and easy enough to park in tight spots. I was impressed with the way the Corolla S handled, and the press kit says that all of the Corolla models have the same suspension set-up so in truth, they all handle pretty much alike. Typical of the sub-compact genre, it has four-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars combined with P185/65R14 all season radials and power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. This makes for a relatively smooth ride on uneven highway surfaces considering the fact that the car is pretty light.

BRENDAN - The Corolla handles twisty roads pretty well too, but the front-end tended to "push" a little when I drove it hard up in the hills around your folk's house. Its five-speed manual transmission was smooth, although in our test car, the shifting seemed a little "notchy" but that may be because it was still new and tight. It has power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes with an optional anti-lock system, an item that should be mandatory on all cars and trucks. It's an "extra" that a driver doesn't really think about until a panic stop situation comes up and then those fewer feet of stopping distance can be the difference between a close call and a crash.

MIKELE - The interior of the Corolla S has a number of items that make driving easier like power windows and door locks, as well as a digital quartz clock and air-conditioning. The ergonomic design of the instrument panel makes it easy to see the gauges without having to peek around the steering wheel, and the tilt steering easily adjusted to my comfort zone. While it's standard on the LE, it's an option on the S and I'm glad our tester came with. Almost any configuration fits me but big as you are, you need all the adjustment a car has to offer. The back seats are especially tight, but our ever-present dogs fit just fine back there. They love riding around with the back windows down. The AM/FM stereo with a cassette player was included in our S model and it was just passable, but a six-disc CD changer would be ideal. I've become something of a sound-system snob now that I'm also getting some very high-class luxury cars to road test.

BRENDAN - It's easy to get spoiled, but we have to keep these things in perspective. All stereos aren't created equal and all the new Corolla four-doors aren't created equal either. The S model has fog lamps, color-keyed body side moldings, door handles, bumpers, and rocker panels, as well as rear mudguards. It's not going to win any prestigious design awards, but with its extreme reliability and basic styling, it's a reliable car for a small family or a highway commuter. In that case, the four-speed automatic would get the nod over our stick-shift.

MIKELE - The Corolla S has front driver and passenger airbags as standard equipment, and side SRS units are optionally available. Ours had them, and in a car this small, they're good things to have.

BRENDAN - The Corolla is a great car and they last forever. Sometimes I wish I hadn't sold our old '81 SR5 model.

MIKELE - Bearing in mind that you sold it to finance your rock band's ill-fated one-and-only road tour, I'd just as soon you didn't bring up that sore subject.