2001 Toyota Corolla
2001 Toyota Corolla Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
An excellent transportation appliance.
Toyota's Corolla is one of the most trusted vehicles sold in the U.S. Many choose it as their first new car, and with good reason. For more than three decades, the Corolla has earned a reputation for delivering reliable, durable, and comfortable transportation. Every Toyota vehicle sold, from the entry-level Echo to the premium Lexus sedans and SUVs, is built to an extremely high standard. If you pay a little extra for a Toyota, that's what you're getting in return.
Changes for 2001 include a realigned product mix. The base Corolla is now the CE, followed by a new S version and topping out with the LE model. The S version comes with standard fog lamps, color-keyed body side moldings, door handles, and front grill, a leather-like wrap for the steering wheel, and a few other touches that imply sportiness. It receives no mechanical or performance-minded upgrades.
Three models are available: CE ($12,568); S ($12,793); LE ($13,383).
All Corollas are four-door sedans powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. All come standard with a five-speed manual gearbox. A three-speed automatic is a $415 option for the CE; a four-speed automatic is an $815 option for S and CE. Side-impact airbags are options for all three versions, but you have to step up to either the S or LE to get antilock brakes.
Most people opt for the S or the well-equipped LE. CE is a low-price car with all but the most basic amenities optional. None of the models are exactly luxurious unless extras are ordered, but they fulfill transportation needs well.
CE gets the plainest interior fabrics, and even a digital clock costs extra. It's hard to imagine anyone but fleet customers will go for a CE without air conditioning. Add much equipment to one and its price begins to climb to that of the S. By ordering options, an S can be equipped to be a virtual twin to the LE. Standard equipment for the top-of-the-line LE includes power steering, variable-speed intermittent windshield wipers, outside temperature gauge, rear-window defogger, and a four-speaker sound system.
Start ordering options and you may suffer sticker shock. The CE's base price appears to put the Corolla squarely in the bargain category, right down there in rock-bottom land with many competitors. But by the time you've driven away in a fully equipped LE the tab has climbed toward midsize territory.
The Corolla has a conservative, clean shape that doesn't attract much attention. It is, in fact, one step away from being plain. But it is nicely proportioned, trim and efficient.
A few new exterior details show up on the 2001 models. There's a new front fascia with four-beam halogen headlamps, some chrome-plated trim, and restyled rear lamps. Still, even with these enhancements, the Corolla isn't easily classified as a stunner.
Standard safety features include dual airbags, side-impact door beams, front seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters and adjustable shoulder belt anchors, child protector rear door locks. Side-impact airbags ($250) and ABS ($550) are optional.
Toyota has done a fine job of squeezing maximum passenger space out of a small overall package. Generous room is provided for the driver and front-seat passenger, both of whom sit on comfortable reclining bucket seats. The rear seat, as is common to cars in this class, is less commodious. There's reasonable room for two occupants, though it's lacking in both leg- and headroom for taller passengers. Three's a crowd.
The interior design matches the exterior insofar as it's attractive and well finished (plus, there are new interior fabrics for 2001), but it is otherwise similar to most cars in the class. Instruments are housed in a curved dashboard; a tachometer with an outside temperature gauge is standard. Controls are laid out for easy use. Cupholders, storage boxes and a center-console with a lidded bin are provided for convenience.
Materials and workmanship are above average. Some find the cloth seat material scratchy, but it looks attractive and durable. Neat-looking red illuminated instrument faces come with the S model.
Luggage can be stowed in a roomy trunk with a large lid that opens right down to bumper level for easy loading. Corolla S and LE trim levels feature a convenient release in the trunk to fold down the rear seats.
Overall, the Toyota Corolla offers good performance, handling, ride quality and comfort.
Its all-aluminum 16-valve 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is powerful, lightweight and economical. Toyota has outfitted this double overhead-cam engine with its VVT-i variable-valve timing technology. Rated at 125 horsepower, this engine gives the Corolla sprightly performance. With the variable-valve technology, it offers strong low-rpm torque, that force that propels you away from traffic signals. Low-rpm torque is especially important when teamed with an automatic transmission and the Corolla works well with the four-speed automatic. At the same time, it gets an EPA-rated 39 mpg on the highway with the automatic. The engine is noisy under hard acceleration. It's much quieter at cruising speeds, though there's an intrusive resonance at 3000 rpm. The transmission, on the other hand, shifts smoothly and responds quickly when called upon to downshift for hill climbing or passing maneuvers.
Judged by class standards, the Corolla handles well. Power-assisted steering is light but precise. Ride quality is very good, thanks to a relatively long wheelbase, fully independent MacPherson struts on all four wheels and front and rear stabilizer bars on all three trim levels. Nothing short of potholes will disturb the Corolla's occupants. Freeway expansion strips, which create uncomfortable rocking-horse motions on some cars, go unnoticed in the Corolla.
The economy-grade tires are less than ideal, however. They make a noisy nuisance of themselves when asked to carry the car around corners at anything beyond a casual pace, they transmit tread noise into the cabin on the highway, and they lack grip under hard braking. Otherwise, the brakes work well, even after repeated hard use. We recommend ordering the optional anti-lock braking system.
Driving a Corolla equipped with the automatic transmission, I found the brake pedal and throttle a bit close together for my big feet. The pedal arrangement is much better on models equipped with the five-speed gearbox.
The Corolla is comfortable, rugged and well built, a solid little machine that delivers what it promises. In the ride and handling department, it is better than expected. It is an excellent transportation appliance.
Corolla holds its ground well against strong competition. Budget-minded buyers who want a solid car need look no farther. Those seeking a sportier package may want to check with their Volkswagen or Honda dealers.
By shopping carefully, a customer can drive away in a nicely appointed Corolla without spending much more than $15,000. The CE model, for example, when equipped with optional side air bags and ABS, is a good buy. As such, it represents good value. Be warned, however, that a loaded Corolla intrudes into Camry territory, so a decision has to be made: Do you want a larger car with minimal extras or a smaller car loaded with everything?.
CE ($12,568); S ($12,793); LE ($13,383).
Fremont, California; Ontario, Canada; Japan.
Options As Tested
ABS ($550); side-impact airbags ($250); All-Weather Guard Package ($70) includes heavy-duty starter, heavy-duty heater, rear heater ducts, rear-window defogger with timer); cruise control ($250); power tilt and slide sunroof ($715); Value Package #2 ($1,165) includes air conditioning, power windows, door locks, and mirrors; carpeted floor mats ($76).
LE with automatic transmission ($14,198).
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