TOYOTA COROLLA 2000 – 2015

2003 Toyota Corolla Sportivo hatch

2003 Toyota Corolla Sportivo hatch


B.2007 Toyota Corolla hatch

Toyota Corolla is now in its 50th year in Australia and has consistently been a major player for that entire period, even more so in the last few years when it has been in number one spot outright.

Corolla was built in Melbourne until 1999 and fully imported from Japan since then. Significant improvements were made by Australian engineers to suit them to our conditions. Though the cars are no longer made here Australia continues to provide engineering information to Japan and there’s little doubt Corollas worldwide are all the better for this.

The Australian-built Corollas are getting in on years so we’ll concentrate on the Japanese built ones in this used-car feature. However, there are still many good ones pre-2000 and, while their built quality isn’t quite up to that of the Japanese-made models, you may care to dabble in them as well.

Corollas had conservative styling that was sometimes criticised by trendy people, but it suited the sensible buyers who preferred a less striking shape. In any case, the all-new model of November 2012 took a neat direction midway between conservative and sleek. It has been the best selling car in Australia for most of its life so the designers have obviously got it just right.

2007 Toyota Corolla hatch

2007 Toyota Corolla hatch

Most Corollas are four-door sedans and five-door hatchbacks. A station wagon was sold until the model change of April 2007. While the wagon is a practical machine and has a good load area it was never particularly popular as buyers prefer the macho feel of compact SUVs to sensible station wagons.

Toyota Corolla has reasonable rear-seat room and a good-sized boot so is large enough to be considered as a family car if the children haven’t reached their mid-teen years.

Engines are all four-cylinder units with a capacity of 1.8 litres. Manual gearboxes were five-speed units until the all-new model of May 2007 when a six-speed was installed. An exception to this is the Celica-engined Sportivo which has a close-ratio six-speed unit.

The automatic transmission was a four-speed unit until the 2012 Corolla and an efficient CVT was introduced. Performance from the old four-speeder can be marginal so take it for a test drive to see if it’s okay for you.

The first Corolla Sportivo was introduced in March 2001 – and disappeared from import list before the end of the year. It had rather half-hearted styling-and-suspension changes, but no more engine performance.

Much better was the Sportivo from May 2003 until 2006, it used a variant of the hot Toyota Celica 1.8-litre engine. There’s plenty of power high up the scale, up to 141 kW at the peak, but down-low torque is noticeably lacking so driving can be irritating unless you are a full-on sports enthusiast.

2010 Toyota Corolla sedan

2010 Toyota Corolla sedan

The 2001 Toyota Corolla Sport l did have a turbo engine with plenty of grunt, but it was expensive and didn’t sell well, so is relatively rare. As it’s something out of the ordinary it may become a low-level classic in years to come and perhaps even increase in value. No promises, though.

The Corolla is easy for the good amateur mechanic to work on. We recommend having a workshop manual at your side. Anything affecting safety should be left to a professional.

Spare parts and servicing are available through one of the biggest, most widely spread dealer networks in the Australia. Some outlets in the outback may not stock less common components for the Corolla but can usually have them shipped in within a few business days.

Insurance premiums are usually low on all but the turbocharged Sport and full-house Sportivo models.

Check for signs of panel damage or previous crash repairs. Easiest to spot are ripples in the body, best seen by looking at the car end on in good light; watch for paint colours that don’t match correctly; look for tiny spots of paint on areas like glass, badges and rubbing strips that should be paint free.

2012 Toyota Corolla Levin ZR

2012 Toyota Corolla Levin ZR

Look carefully at the interior and boot for signs of damage or excessive wear caused by the hurly-burly of family transporting.

The engine should start within a couple of seconds and settle into a smooth idle within seconds. Listen for a rattle from it when it does start and check the oil light goes out quickly.

Look for smoke from the exhaust pipe when the engine is accelerated hard after having been idling for a minute or so.

Make sure the brakes don’t pull the car to one side when they are applied hard and that ABS, if fitted, works correctly. A pulsation through the brake pedal under hard braking will tell you all is the ABS is working.

No matter how good a reputation a vehicle has for long life and reliability it still makes sense to get a full professional inspection before purchase.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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