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2000 Toyota Corolla: -- Review by Owen, Jan 26, 2002

The most common phrase that I have seen in reviews of the Corolla is that "25 Million Corolla owners can't be wrong." The Corolla is the second largest selling model of car in history, trailing the VW Beetle, and ahead of the Ford Model T. Its derrivatives have included a sporty 2 door SR5 model, hatchbacks, a wagon, and now the Matrix crossover sport-utility wagon. At the heart of the big sales numbers, however, is the sedan.

My Dad bought a Toyota Corolla new in 2000, close to the end of the model year, and I have now had ample chance to drive it, both in the city, and on Highway 2 from Calgary to Edmonton and back. This car was bought to replace both Tippy, the 1987 Toyota Tercel Wagon, and a white 1991 Ford Tarus that I only got to drive once, but which demonstrated to me the fact that the early 90s were not the best of times for the American auto industry. The Tarus may have been revolutionary when it came out in 1984, but after 8 years without a revision, it was a dinosaur. An unreliable one at that.

This brush with the company where quality is job one was enough to convince my parents that Toyota would be a better choice in vehicles, and thus, the Corolla sitting in the Garage next to my Mazda. The only options on the Corolla are the A/C, which my dad won't go without, and an in-dash single disk CD player. The transmission is, of course, manual, which is probably the best feature of the car.

The best thing about Toyotas in general is their legendary reliability and build quality. Quite simply, if you put gas in one end and oil in the other, and replace filters, pads, and gaskets at the reccomended service intervals, you will never, ever, ever be stuck at the side of the road cursing Toyota Motor Corporation and its wholely owned subsidiaries. Rather you will be rewarded with reliability that verges on boring. If you are a fan of British or Italian cars, Toyotas may not be for you. These cars will stick by you long after you are thinking, "I wish this damn thing would just break so I could justify buying a new car." In a way, owning a Toyota is like having a forgiving and trustworthy friend; you can yell at them, neglect them, and leave them for days at a time in an airport parking lot, and when you finally get around to needing them, they'll help you move. Hmmmm. Maybe I should be nicer to my friends. Naah.

When you slide into the driver's seat of a Corolla, you will find manual seat ajustments for rake and pitch, but nothing else. The steering wheel doesn't tilt, and there is no leather on seats or steering wheel. What you see is a wide expanse of subdued looking but high quality plastics and cloth. The heater is effective, with big, easy to use dials instead of the older style sliders found on Toyota products in the 80s. The stereo is also easy to use, well marked, sounds good, and located within easy reach above the heater controls. The only complaint on that score is that if you are pulling any kind of Gs, like accellerating from a stoplight or accellerating on an on-ramp, any bump or pavement irregularity will make the CD skip. Visibility is excellent, and the seating position is reasonably comfortable, considering the lack of ajustments. The back seat is also reasonably spacious, seating my six foot frame with no complaints as long as the front seat is not all the way back. My main complaint about the interior is that the back seats do not fold down or even have any kind of pass-through, making it inconvienent to move any long or oddly shaped packages. I guess I'm spoiled by driving hatchbacks.

Turn the key in the ignition, and you will be rewarded with a couple of cranks and then an almost imperceptable purr. This is not your mother's 1.8 L inline 4. Nor is it tubby and tippy's 1.5 L 3A model 4 banger. It does take longer to turn over, however, than my 323. This engine is smooth, quiet, and packs a surprising amount of smoothly delivered torque across a broad RPM band. It peaks at 127 or so horsepower, which is plenty for around town or cruising in the slow lane on Highway 2. Run it up through the gears and you will feel the light clutch, short but slightly rubbery throws, and close ratios, although it is geared much longer than my Mazda. Drop it a gear and put your foot down, and the shortish gearing and light weight shine through as you are rewarded with a mildly perceptable level of acceleration. It won't snap your neck back, but you might be pleasently surprised by how quickly you get past that ancient motorhome belching black smoke. Likewise, push it on an on-ramp, and you get reliable and controlable understeer. Bear in mind, though, that the engine is not so powerful that it makes it easy to overcome traction. All in all, the Corolla is an adequate front driver, and while it won't thrill you with its performance or handling, it sure as heck won't surprise you on a slipery on-ramp.

Corolla is an easy car to like, inexpensive, reliable, comfortable, and practical. It is easy to see why millions of people have bought and driven them. My only criticism of it is that it doesn't have the versatility that a hatchback or small wagon will offer. If you don't have a problem with stowing things in a (pretty reasonably sized) trunk, then this could be your car. If you are not an automotive enthusiast, this could be your car. If you want to spend less that 20,000 CAD on a car, and then keep it for the next 15 to 20 years, this could be your car.

This car does what it sets out to do and does it well. I have to respect that. It gets Four pints of Asahi Super Dry, Japan's great contribution to the beer world. It would get five pints if it had the following: a sport handling package, the Celica GT-S's 180 HP engine, and folding rear seats. So Come on, Toyota, what are you waiting for? Get that last pint!

Score: Four Pints


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