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1998 Toyota Corolla REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

Con: Shape is a bit dull.

Pro: All-new with a great engine, new body, and first-in-segment side-impact airbags, the 1998 Toyota Corolla is the best thing to hit the compact car market since the original VW Beetle.

What’s New: The 1998 Toyota Corolla is completely redesigned this year with a new engine, new sheet metal and a new standard for safety in compact cars: optional front passenger side-impact airbags.

Review: The Toyota Corolla has been through many iterations since it was first introduced in 1968. Over the course of its long life, the Corolla has appeared as a hatchback, coupe, wagon and sedan. The world has seen enough people fall in love with this car to make it the second best selling vehicle in history.

Totally redesigned, the new Toyota Corolla is set to increase its global sales record and become the standard against which all small cars will be compared. Why? Because there is nothing like it, other than the re-badged Chevrolet Prizm, that carries this level of refinement and convenience in the sub-$20,000 price class.

We think that the most exciting change to the Corolla occurs under the car's hood. Nestled between the grille and the firewall is a 1.8-liter all-aluminum DOHC four-cylinder engine that cranks out 120 horsepower and 122 foot-pounds of torque. This high-revving engine not only provides the Corolla with more power than last year's motor, it does so while being 10 percent more fuel-efficient. When glued to a five-speed manual transmission, this engine will reward drivers with 31 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the freeway.

Equally impressive is Toyota's newfound commitment to safety. In 1998 all Corollas are available with four-wheel antilock brakes and side-impact airbags. You heard that right, Toyota's bargain-priced Corolla is the cheapest car that driver's concerned about their safety can outfit with seat-mounted side airbags. Those with kids will be happy to know that CE and LE models can be ordered with an integrated child seat.

Also new in 1998 is the car's body. We think the new look is attractive, but this little sedan follows typical Toyota policy and does nothing that will visually offend. This unfortunately means that there is nothing visually exciting about the car, either. Aesthetics aside, the Corolla's new shape does a good job of reducing the cars NVH levels, thanks to flush-mounted side windows and sound-deadening techniques borrowed from the Lexus magicians. Also improved by the new body is the Corolla's torsional rigidity, an important factor in making this car more fun to drive than its predecessor.

Toyota is on a roll, offering up fine products faster than an Amway salesman at a flea market. The Corolla is sure to be a hit with the just-starting-out crowd as well as empty nesters that simply don't need a large sedan anymore. Levels of safety and refinement usually don't come this cheap. We predict that the Corolla will steal plenty of sales from the Honda Civic and Nissan Altima.

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