A reliable, no-frills sedan that holds its ground against a tough crowd. The smooth, spunky engine, tight build quality, and refined bits and pieces set the Corolla apart from a slew of shopworn econoboxes.
Even the smallest of the Mk 10 Corolla models has the specifications to excite enthusiasts and the frugality to satisfy budget-minded buyers. Its 125-hp, all-aluminum, dual overhead cam, 16-valve four-cylinder engine has Toyota's VVT-i variable valve timing system to deliver strong low-rpm torque and good fuel economy. Manual transmission versions get an EPA-rated 39 mpg on the highway, while automatic models can achieve 40 mpg.
Handling is nimble and responsive, especially when the standard tires are replaced with higher-performance units. Power-assisted steering is light and accurate, while the largely independent MacPherson front and rear strut suspension handles bumps and dips with ease. Freeway expansion strips, which sway and upset some cars' ride quality, hardly disturb the Corolla's occupants, either. The Corolla feels like a much more expensive European sedan and not the cheap-budget "econobox" that some pundits would have you believe.
Toyota freshened the Mk 10 Corolla for 2001 with a few cosmetic enhancements and a sporty new CE-based S model that adds faux leather upholstery, fog lights, and a fake, chrome-ringed steering wheel to the line-up. Also new this year are a restyled fascia and front and rear lighting, and two new colors -- Impulse Red and Indigo Ink. A push-button fresh/recirculate air-conditioning control and an internal trunk release handle round out the changes.