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2003 Toyota Corolla REVIEW logo 4/6/2017

Con: Unless you count the Matrix, pricing on the high end of the economy sedan market.

Pro: Refined and roomy interior, spunky engine, tight build quality.

Edmunds Say: With sportier styling, a larger interior, an improved drivetrain and added standard equipment, the 2003 Corolla will find success.

What’s New: Toyota's Corolla is all-new for 2003. Far removed from the original Corolla, this one is the biggest yet. It's also more luxurious. The return is more interior room, a more substantial feel and changes aimed at fixing the previous model's shortcomings. Though pricing has increased, Toyota has made more equipment standard in the hopes of keeping the Corolla's reputation for value intact.

Review: Toyota's venerable Corolla has gone through many changes 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 best-selling nameplate in the history of automobiles.

Recent competition, however, has outclassed the Corolla. So for 2003, Toyota's baked up an all-new model to serve the buying public better. The new Corolla is bigger, more powerful and more luxurious than the model it replaces.

More power comes in the form of a 130-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Thanks to a variable valve timing system (Toyota's VVT-i), this engine provides good acceleration anywhere in the rev range. It's also clean enough to allow the car to earn ULEV emissions status. Transmission choices are either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Last year's doggy three-speed automatic has been mercifully removed from the lineup.

Trim levels continue to be the base CE, the better-equipped LE and the sporty S. More features are standard this year, and even the lowly CE comes with air conditioning with micron filtration, a CD player, power steering, power mirrors, an outside temperature gauge, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and 15-inch wheels.

The S model includes "sporty" trim such as body-color rocker panels and door handles, smoked headlights, foglights, special gauges and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Go with the LE to gain fake-wood trim, a vertical seat height adjuster (also on the S) and remote keyless entry. Options include upgraded audio systems, ABS, side airbags, cruise control, leather seating and a sunroof.

Inside the cabin, Toyota has made a number of changes to improve comfort. Interior volume is up, and so is roominess. The controls are easier to reach and have a higher-quality feel to them. Though some legroom has been sacrificed in the translation to higher seating positions within the Corolla, other key passenger measurements have all been increased. Even trunk space is up to 13.6 cubic feet.

Much of this newfound room is due to the car's larger size. Curb weight has increased, but it's only about 50 pounds more. Toyota says the Corolla has a more substantial feel, and ride quality is said to be both firmer and more comfortable. The front suspension is MacPherson struts as before, while the rear changes to torsion beam.

All of these updates should only add to what are already Corolla's strengths: a reputation for reliability and a strong resale value. This new 2003 version, with sportier styling, a larger interior, an improved drivetrain and added standard equipment, can only ensure the model's continued success.


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