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2000 Toyota Corolla LE Road Test

By Charles Ofria

Category: $12,500 to $18,000 Compact Sedan
Who should buy this car: A person who wants a small, economical, very reliable sedan that is also comfortable and peppy.
Sister Car: Chevrolet Prizm.  Essentially the same car built on the same assembly line. Minor differences in trim and standard vs. optional equipment.
Comparable cars in this class: Honda Civic, Saturn SL, Mazda Proteg, Dodge Neon, Ford Focus,Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Mitsubishi Mirage,  Daewoo Nubira andSuzuki Esteem.
 
So you want a new small sedan that gets at least 30 mpg, but not at theexpense of good acceleration. Oh, and you want a smooth, quiet ride,  acomfortable interior with room for four adults, a good size trunk, and you wantit to last ten years without any major repairs, and you don't want to pay morethan $15,000 for a new one.  Well, your friends who have been laughing andsympathetically patting you on the back are about to eat crow.  

For the 2000 model year, Toyota made two improvements to the Corolla thatbrought it over the top in my book.  The first change was to take the highmaintenance timing belt and throw it out in favor of a timing chain with chromedroller pins that does the same job but requires no maintenance.  The secondchange was to add Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i). This system increasespower in all RPM ranges without reducing gas mileage. More about thislater. 

Corolla's have been on the market for over 30 years and have been made in North America since 1987.Our test car was built in Buffalo New York which makes it more of a New Yorkerthen a certain New York Senate candidate that has been making the rounds lately.

The styling on this car is clean and tasteful but as conservative as you canget.  If you are looking for a car that stands out from the crowd, lookelsewhere. This car is the crowd. The perfect car to disappear in.This is fine for Corolla's target customer who is a person that is looking for abasic transportationappliance. A vehicle that takes you from point A to point B as reliably andefficiently as possible with a minimum of fuss.

Walking around this car you can see that it is well made from the close, evenfit of all the body panels, to the satisfying vault-like "Wump" whenyou close the door. Inside, there are a minimum of exposed screws and otherfasteners and a general attention to detail that is uncommon in cars of thisclass. One feature that I like is that the rear door windows retract almost allthe way down into the doors.  In most sedans, you're lucky if they go halfway down. 

The driving position and seat comfort is verygood, at least for my 5'9" frame. If you are over 6' tall, however, legroomwill start getting tight while five footers may have a problem seeing out overthe steering wheel due to the lack of any kind of height adjustment on thedriver's seat. There is an adjustment for seatback angle and the steering columnis adjustable for height. The instrument cluster is very clear and all the majorcontrols are well designed and easy to use.  Rear seat room is sparsehowever, especially if the front passengers adjust their seats back  Try toput three adults back there and your liable to need Henry Kissenger to arbitratewho gets to sit in the middle.

Sincemost people use the radio controls far more than the climate controls, Toyotahas placed  the radio above the heater/AC controls so that it is at yourfingertips, which is the way it should be even though most cars have it theother way around. There is a digital outside temperature gauge in the instrumentcluster and a separate digital clock in the center of the dash.  This caralso comes with an automatic headlamp system that turns the lights on at duskand shuts them off at dawn or when  you shut off the engine.  Anunusual feature for a car in this class.

There is adequate storage space inside with a large glove compartment as wellas two smaller compartments in the dash, one in the center below the heatercontrols and a small one to the left of the steering column that is suitable forsome change for tolls. There is a bin in the console under the center armrestwith a hinged shelf attached to the lid and there are map pockets in the frontdoors. There are two cup-holders in the front and one in the rear. 

I felt that I could drive this car for hours without fatigue setting in. Iwould consider the ride to be excellent even if this were a much largercar.   Under normal driving conditions, the car responded easily tothrottle and steering inputs and felt very nimble and controllable in anytraffic situation that we found ourselves in. The Corolla's small size and tightturning radius made parking lot maneuvers a breeze.  The brakingperformance was adequate and anti-lock is available on the LE and the CE. The problem is that a Corolla with anti-lock brakes is hard to find.  Thedealer says that the $550 price tag makes the car harder to sell so they don'torder too many Corolla's that way.  Our test car was not equipped withanti-lock.  I believe that anti-lock brakes should be standard equipment onevery car just like seat belts and air bags are.

This is a very quiet car with a rigid body structure and noise-absorbingtechnology  previously used only in Camry and Lexus luxury sedans. Windnoise was also dramatically reduced with this higher-end technology.  Allthis attention to detail makes for a very relaxing and enjoyable car to drive.

All2000 Corolla's are powered by an in-line four-cylinder, 1.8-liter, 16-valve, dual overhead cam, all-aluminumengine with new VVT-i technology.  VVT-i stands for Variable Valve Timingwith Intelligence.  Prior to variable valve timing, engine designers wouldcompromise on a fixed valve timing setting based on the performancecharacteristics that were desired.  They could skew the settings for goodpower and acceleration but sacrifice gas mileage or vice-versa, or they couldsettle for a little of each.  But with VVT-i, they could have their cakeand eat it too.  The Valve timing could be constantly adjusted by computerfor superior performance and superior economy.  VVT-i provides the addedbenefit of a reduction in emissions allowing the 2000 Corolla to be certified asa Low Emission Vehicle (LEV). 

The Corolla is one of the few small cars to offer optional side air bags which are mounted in the front seats instead of the door panels so that they are always in the proper position. There are also front seatbelt pretensioners that pull the belts tight in a crash, and force limiters to limit how tight they are pulled, three-point front seatbelts with adjustable shoulder belt anchors, and three-point rear seatbelts in all three seating positions

Toyota dealer experience: The car was deliveredwith two problems that were quickly corrected by the Toyota service departmentwithout an appointment on a Saturday afternoon.  The first problem was animproperly set wheel alignment that, if left unadjusted, would have caused acceleratedfront tire wear. The second problem was an electrical box for thedealer-installed Toyota anti-theft alarm that should have been secured to theunderside of the driver's seat cushion, but instead was just laying under theseat where a rear seat passenger could kick or step on it.  A carelessoversight by the technician who installed the alarm, but easily corrected.

The Toyota service personnel were courteous and apologized forthe problems.  In the next couple of days, I received two calls  fromthe dealership asking if I was satisfied with the service work and if everythingelse was ok with the car.  Toyota seems to be trying hard to improve theircustomer satisfaction rating which has been among the poorest in pastyears.  I must say that the entire Toyota dealer experience was a positiveone. 

Available Models:  LE is the top of the Corolla line, CE is mid-range, VE is the stripped down economy model. There is also a touring package that is available for the LE and CE which gives you some additional trim pieces and white faced gauges.

The Test Car

2000 Toyota Corolla LE 4-door sedan with 4-speed automatic transmission andthe following options:

  • All weather guard package with heavy duty rear defogger
  • Side airbags
  • Front & Rear mudguards
  • Value package which includes cruise control
  • Carpeted floor mats

The MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price) for the testcar was $16,788.00.  With the requisite haggling and various promotionaldiscounts, we were able to take this car home for just over $15,000.00. 

Clickhere for more pictures of the Corolla

How would I improve this car?

  • Add a height adjustment to the driver's seat
  • Add seat-back pockets
  • Find a way to make anti-lock brakes standard without increasing the price too much.
    (I imagine that's easier said than done)

How does theCorolla fit yourdriving style? 

Conservative drivers will feel very comfortable and at-home in this car.  Its smoothand quiet demeanor, as well as its nimble handling will make you want to keep itfor a long time. 

Sporty drivers will like the nimble handling and brisk acceleration that this smallsedan provides.  The soft suspension and standard Goodyear Integrity tires will keep you fromhaving too much fun, however. Check out the Mazda Proteg or the Ford Focus if"Fun-to-drive" is high on your list.

Fast driverswill need better tires, better brakes and firmer springs and shocks. You might also like theProteg or Focus better in this class.

Specifications 

Engine Type 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve in-line 4-cylinder, Cast aluminum block and heads. Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i).  
Horsepower 125 @ 5,600 RPM
Torque 125 @ 4,000 RPM
Fuel Recommended Regular 87 Octane Unleaded.
Transmission Four Speed Automatic on test car, (5-speed manual transmission standard)
Tires Goodyear Integrity P185/65SR14
Overall Length 174.2"
Width 66.7"
Turning Diameter 34 ft Curb to Curb
Max. Towing Capacity 1500 lbs.
Curb Weight 2,525
Fuel Tank 13.2 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 28, hwy 36.  Observed during aprox. 400 miles of road testing, 28 MPG
Acceleration 0 to 60 9.6 seconds
Base Sticker Price $16,323.00.  for LE with automatic transmission, includes destination charge but no other options.

Standard Equipment,Corolla LE

  • 1.8-liter DOHC 16-Valve 4 with VVT-i
  • Five-speed standard transmission.
  • variable intermittent windshield wipers
  • Power rack and pinion steering
  • Power Front Disk & Rear Drum Brakes.
  • CFC-free air conditioning
  • Dual power outside mirrors
  • Power windows and door locks
  • Tachometer with outside temperature gauge
  • AM /FM stereo radio with cassette and 4 speakers.

Major Available Options

  • 4-speed automatic transmission
  • Power moonroof
  • Anti-lock brake system.
  • Driver and front seat passenger seat mounted side air-bags.
  • Cruise control (free at this time with the special Value Package discount)

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