Size, space, comfort, refinement, durability, reliability, versatility, model variety
We Don't Like:
Snoozy styling, weight means eager 1.6 struggles to haul it all around with auto, air-con on and five aboard
The Toyota Corolla displayed the Volkswagen Beetle as the "default" small car when it was introduced worldwide in 1966. Since then the Corolla has undergone a long evolution, including the transition from rear-wheel to front-wheel drive. But the most noticeable change has been in its size and price. In the ageing process, the Corolla has succumbed to that common malady, middle-age spread. It is now as large as its former big brother, the Corona. In its preoccupation with growing the Corolla, Toyota failed to notice it had left a gap at the lower end of the market - a gap which the South Koreans gleefully filled.
The Corolla has always been popular in the market due to a combination of conservative design, good finish, excellent mechanical reliability and a comprehensive dealer network. It has traditionally retained its resale value quite remarkably but this changed in the 1990s as its rivals began offering equal specifications for a lower price.
The 1994 Corolla CSi sedan, the entry-level model, is powered by a 1.6-litre, fuel-injected, DOHC 16-valve engine. A five-door liftback version is also available. Other models in the range include the fleet-oriented Conquest with 1.8-litre engine, Ultima 1.8-litre sedan with automatic transmission only, the well equipped CS-X four-door sedan with 1.8-litre engine and the upmarket Seca sedan and hatchback with both 1.6-litre and 1.8-litre engines available. All models were made at Toyota's plant in Altona, Victoria, until Australian production ceased in 1999.
The 1.6-litre engine is renown for its smoothness and reliability and is upgraded from previous models with acceleration times reduced more than 10 per cent. It drives the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission or five-speed manual - specifications which are almost universal in the class. Suspension is by MacPherson struts and coil springs front and rear, with both front and rear systems mounted on sub-frames to improve handling. Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion with an exceptionally small turning circle. Vacuum boosted ventilated front disc brakes are fitted, with drums on the rear.
Both externally and internally, the 1994 model Corolla is significantly larger than the previous model and is mid-way to being a medium-sized car. Styling is curvy/conservative. It provides comfortable accommodation for four to five adults with good leg room in the rear. The interior is neat and tidy with the console containing heater controls and a radio angled towards the driver. The fairly basic instrumentation is in a binnacle in front of the driver. The front doors have slim pockets for storage while the boot is quite deep but space is restricted by the intruding rear suspension towers. Central locking and a four-speaker radio/cassette are standard. Air-conditioning became standard in September, 1998. A driver's airbag is an option.
The Corolla is pleasing to drive. Its upgraded engine and Australian-developed suspension combine to give good performance, ride comfort and handling. Toyota claims the Corolla is the only model in the class to be fully developed in Australia for local road conditions. Turn-in response is good, understeer only developing if the car is pushed hard into corners. The brakes are responsive and adequate.
The Corolla has always been good value for money, a fact reflected in its excellent resale value, but increasing competition and price increases forced by the value of the Japanese yen have caused the model to lose some of its former popularity. This is reflected in its used pricing compared to its main rivals.