2001-2004 Toyota Corolla

By NRMA Motoring on 01 January 2008
2003 Toyota Corolla Sportivo small car


Priced from $12,000
Engine 1.8L
Transmission 5-spd man or 4-spd auto
Fuel Economy
ANCAP rating

For over 35 years the Toyota Corolla has been great for small to medium car buyers. With a reputation for reliability, ease of driving and value the car has remained at the top its class, keeping the price of second hand Corollas above average.

The Corolla came in sedan or lift back with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.

Sedan equipment grades were the Ascent, Conquest and Ultima while the lift back offered these, plus the sporty Levin.

Standard from the Conquest up was air conditioning, electric front windows, full cloth trim, an alarm system with panic mode, remote locking, CD player and driver's seat height adjustment. The Conquest lift back had a spoiler.

Added features on the Levin were anti-lock brakes (ABS), rear discs, alloy wheels, front driving lights, body spoiler, sports seats, a mesh radiator grill, leather covered steering wheel and gear knob.

The Ultima included passenger side airbags, six-disc in-dash CD player, rear power windows, different alloy wheels, a higher grade of interior front seats and velour trim with chrome window mouldings.

The Toyota Corolla scored 4 stars in its ANCAP crash test.

Seating comfort was good in the Corolla with average leg room though those with long legs may have felt restricted. With the front seats set back there was little room in the rear which was suited to children rather than adults. Rear head room was also limited in lift back models.

Instruments were well laid out and easy to operate. Sound system controls were well positioned so adjustments could be made without your eyes leaving the road.

The Corolla's boot (sedan and hatch) were good with 60/40 split rear seats. However front seats needed to be slightly forward to enable the rear seats to fold down all the way.

The 1.8 litre motor performed well in the manual but not so in the auto. This was possibly due to the motor being made to rev high to achieve the higher torque and power output required.

The Corolla's fuel consumption averaged 10.7 litres/100km around the city and 7.0 litres/100km on the highway giving an overall average of 8.2 litres/100km.

This model Corolla was a big improvement over previous models in handling and roadholding. The car felt reassuring and solid on the road.

The steering was quite firm compared with other power assisted systems but this added to the sporty feel in the Levin.

ABS and four-wheel-discs brakes gave the Levin good braking performance which didn't show any brake fade under heavy use.

Shopping guide

Earlier models with mileage around 100,000km can be purchased for $12,000 - $17,000. Later model, high-end vehicles will cost closer to $23,000.

There is no major common fault with the model.

There was one recall relating to a gas generator in the passenger side airbag which affected some Corollas. Check with your Toyota dealer to ensure the recall has been done.

Being a front-wheel drive look out for the common problem of split driveshaft boots and noisy CV joints which are expensive to replace. Put the steering on full lock and listen for a knocking sound when you drive slowly. Check for rust around the rear window of the hatches.

Spare parts costs (Jan 2008)

  • Tyres 185/60 R14 $115.00 (each)

  • Oil filter $17.60

  • Air filter $46.20

  • Front brake pads $66.00

  • Rear brake pads $66.00

  • Front headlight $308.00

  • Rear tail light $242.00

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