- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

I smiled when a friend asked how much the Toyota Corolla cost. "About $14,000," I said. I like the surprised reactions I get when people hear this price.
The attractive Corolla sitting in the parking lot of the marina had caught my friend's eye. Although the base price for the all-new 2003 Corolla lineup actually starts at just $13,370, the exterior styling suggests Toyota's popular-selling sedan should cost much more. The compact five-passenger Corolla is available in three trim levels: CE, S and LE.
I explained to my friend that the new appearance is much more European-looking, a style that seems to be hottest look of the day. My Corolla S test car, with a base price of $14,515, looked even sharper with the Sport Plus Package. The optional $825 feature includes a rear spoiler, 15-inch tires and alloy wheels. The sporty look didn't stop with the spoiler. The S model also features smoked headlamps and fog lights.
First sold in Japan in 1966, the Corolla is in its ninth generation. The 2003 model is longer, taller and wider than the previous version. Toyota describes the new look as much more substantial, defined by a muscular, athletic and upscale body. The aerodynamics of the Corolla have been improved with a reduced coefficient of drag, from 0.31 to 0.296. The S test car, equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, had Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings of 32 miles per gallon city and 40 mpg highway.
The test-drive sedan had several other optional features, bringing the total "as-tested" price to $17,270 a remarkably low figure considering all the content on the S model. For example, some of the optional items that enhanced the test car included anti-lock brakes ($300); driver and front passenger seat-mounted, side-impact air bags ($250); and power windows and remote keyless entry ($605).
On the inside, the Corolla S had lots of standard content, making it a great value in its compact-class segment. Equipment features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport leather-wrapped shift lever, chrome accents, air conditioning, plus power door locks and mirrors, dual front air bags and three-point safety belts.
The buttons and controls had a refined, smooth tactile operation, and the interior was free of noises and rattles. Most buyers select sedans for the passenger convenience of getting in and out of the vehicle. The Corolla tester even had improvements in this area. Interior designers not only improved the seats with better support for all occupants, they raised seating H-points for an easier entry and exit.
The power plant, mated to the manual transmission, proved to be an extraordinary little performer. As I manually shifted through all the five gears, the performance was healthy and enthusiastic. I felt a stronger, sturdier body when driving into corners, as well as tighter and more secure handling qualities. The body structure was confidence-inspiring.
Toyota engineers says this new Corolla is quicker and faster than past versions. The sporty sedan is powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, twin-camshaft engine that generates 130 horsepower at 6,000 rpm (5 horsepower more than the previous model) and 125 foot-pounds of torque at 4,200 rpm. The notable quality ride and handling characteristics come from MacPherson struts in the front with torsion beams in the rear suspension. Engineers also pointed out that the braking has also been improved.
The 2003 Corolla is a substantial sedan: well-equipped, well-designed and well-priced.

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