Thursday, February 14, 2013

Used Car Review - Toyota Corolla (1997-2005)

On the market for a cheap commuter car? For this day, Myk Belmonte gives you a simple answer for this problem.

1997-2005 Toyota Corolla

The perennial problem with redesigning a vehicle is whether to use 100% new parts or to rehash the parts since they are reliable or due to money saving reasons. But there is one thing to consider, why would you fix something that is not broken. In the case of our featured car, a recession happened during the early 90s in Japan, which affected development of the eighth generation Corolla.

Basically, when this generation of the Corolla was launched in May 1995, the platform, engine, suspension, and even the doors are carried over the previous one. Cost cutting at its finest, and we cannot blame Toyota and Corolla development chief Takayasu Honda to reduce costs. Japan had this one until November 2000 while other countries have to stick to this model two to three years later.

Despite the launching which featured Gary Valenciano, this generation became available in late 1997 selling alongside the "Big Body" Corolla and the financial crisis that crippled Asia occurred. Mixed reviews was the result especially that this model was said to be "rushed" than the PBB Teens couple. Except for the XL and LE trims, this model was phased out in favor of the Corolla Altis sometime in July/August 2001. The XL and LE was laid to rest in 2005. Other than the two, trim lines also include the XE, GLi, and the Altis SEG.

Value and Costs
Costing between P190,000-P240,000, this generation of Corolla (as with other year models) is a good candidate if the need for a cheap commuter car is required. However, don't expect any luxurious features or great handling, especially that it can bring you to point A to Z without fuss. Better scrutinize that XL or LE model you're eyeing at, that unit could be an ex-taxi and become a potential headache since they are beat up and battered.

One strength of the Corolla is parts availability, you can buy them anywhere from the original to the replacement ones. There are no reported serious problems with this car although the carburetor must be in tip-top condition. One thing to consider, the fuel consumption of a 1.3 XL/XE/LE is almost similar to a 1.6 GLi so keep that in mind.

Exterior and Interior
To tell the truth, there is nothing to praise about the exterior design. In fact, some offerings during that time period (including the Civic EK) eclipsed this Corolla in the field of exterior execution. Sure, it has 3D look head and tail lamps but this is not a car that would turn heads.

Quality is still a forte, especially that fit and finish is tops when it comes to durability, and unrelated though, the usage of fleets is a testament to its reliability. While it is durable, the interior won't win any awards. It has soft touch plastics, but have them dirty and it could be a disaster. Ergonomics and space is not a strong point, despite riding on the previous model's platform, space management is a weakness. For normally sized people, sitting at the front is not trouble but those who exhibit more than average height, it could be a bad sight to see them squeeze. For those planning to sit at the back, tagging three people would give you the Mega Sardines feeling while two is just fine.

The engines offered are almost the same with the previous one, so let's just have a recap on their displacement and their names and figures. First on the Corolla chain is the 2E 1,295cc with 72hp at 6,200rpm and 101Nm at 4,200rpm then the higher member (until year 1999) is the 4A-FE 1,587cc that has 110hp at 6,000rpm and 145Nm at 4,800rpm. New to the Corolla family is the 7A-FE 1,762cc which carries 116hp at 5,600rpm and 154Nm at 4,800rpm. These three engines perform well in the low to mid revs but gets boomy at the higher end.

Driving Impressions
Comfortable and well composed, the Corolla is one good companion for the drives inside the city and low speed cruising in the open road. However, handling and sudden braking are not good, so keep it below 4,000rpm if possible. Steering isn't lively, so don't expect an enjoyable ride.

A basic, no-frills commuter car and no more. To tell the truth, the Corolla "Big Body" is more enjoyable to be in and has more space. The crisis spared no one, but the secret recipe is still there, bulletproof reliability. A good choice for commuting, but for spirited driving, look elsewhere.

The Good:
  • Reliable
  • Cheap to maintain
  • You can buy one easily
The Bad:
  • Definitely not fun to drive
  • Backseat ain't roomy
  • Bland, bland, bland
The Pick: GLi variants

Engines: 1,295cc 2E Carburetor, 1,587cc 4A-FE, and 1,762cc 7A-FE I4 gasoline
Power: 72hp @ 6,200rpm (1.3), 110hp @ 6,000rpm (1.6), 116hp @ 5,600rpm (1.8)
Torque: 101Nm @ 4,200rpm (1.3), 145Nm @ 4,800rpm (1.6), 154Nm @ 4,800rpm (1.8)
Fuel Consumption: 8-12km/L (city), 10-13km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear independent McPherson strut

Price (New): P480,000-P720,000 (range from 1997-2005)
Price (Now): P190,000-P240,000
Rivals: Nissan Sentra, Mitsubishi Lancer, Honda Civic, Ford Lynx
On Sale: 1997-2001 (all variants), 1997-2005 (for XL, and LE)

Toyota Balintawak North - (02) 927-7215
Toyota Bicutan - (02) 777-9500

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