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EXPERT RATING
6.0

Likes

  • More cabin room than previous model(s)
  • Quieter cabin than previous model(s)
  • Reliable and well built

Dislikes

  • Need to check for recall servicing
  • Older models will likely have done high km
  • Only four ANCAP stars

Graham Smith reviews the 2001-2007 Toyota Corolla as a used buy.

The 9th generation Toyota Corolla arrived late in 2001. It was an all-new model, but followed closely in the wheel tracks of its predecessors.

A conventional front-wheel drive small car, the Corolla was available as a four door sedan, a five door hatch, and a four door wagon, making it an attractive option for small car buyers, whatever their needs and wants.









Models

The model line-up consisted of the entry-level Ascent, then climbed through the Conquest, Levin and Ultima at the top of the range.

Forget touch screens and new-fangled tech like park assist. When you bought the Ascent you got a radio cassette sound system with four speakers, and a tilt-adjustable steering column, central locking, power mirrors, pair of cupholders in the centre console and intermittent wipers, but that was about it. Air-conditioning was available, but as an option.

A CD player and remote central locking became standard in 2002.

Air-conditioning and a CD stacker were added to the list in 2004.

The Conquest was a little better equipped from the get-go, with standard air conditioning, a CD player, and power front windows.

Being larger than the outgoing model with a taller body, the new Corolla's cabin was quite roomy.

In the Levin you also got remote keyless central locking and sports front seats.

As its name suggests the Ultima had the most of all, including velour trim, woodgrain, a CD stacker and six speakers, power windows front and rear, fog lamps, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Sat nav was an optional extra.

A sporty version, the Sportivo, was added to the choices in 2003. It too was feature-laden, with 16-inch alloy wheels, CD stacker with six speakers, climate control air con, fog lamps, leather sports seats, leather steering wheel, leather gear knob, power windows and mirrors, and a sports body kit. A sunroof was optional.

No Parking sensors or reversing camera were offered, nor was Bluetooth for syncing your iPhone or Android device.



Roomy Cabin

Being larger than the outgoing model with a taller body, the new Corolla's cabin was quite roomy; the occupants sat more upright for decent front and rear legroom.

It was rated to seat five, but getting three in the rear seat was a bit of a squeeze. Four was more comfortable with two adults in the rear seat.

The sedan boasted a good sized boot, the hatch offered more flexibility with its split-fold rear seat, while the wagon delivered the most of all with its boxy shape.

There were plenty of storage options with a glove box, console, and cup holders.

Engine

The Ascent, Conquest, Levin and Ultima used a 1.8-litre fuel-injected four-cylinder petrol engine that boasted 100 kW (134 horsepower) and 171 Nm of torque.

With a spread of torque across the rev range it had enough zip to make it an easy driver in all situations, and also deliver good fuel economy.

Thanks to the sporty suspension tuning the handling was quite agile and responsive.

The power and torque of the engine was reduced slightly in 2004 when it was retuned to meet new emission standards, but its performance was largely undiminished.

The Sportivo had a more highly tuned version of the engine with 141 kW (189 horsepower) and 180 Nm of torque.

The gearbox options varied depending on the model. The Ascent, Conquest and Levin had the option of a four-speed automatic transmission and a five-speed manual, the Ultima came only with the four-speed auto, the Sportivo was only available with a six-speed manual.



Driving

The performance was not exhilarating, but it was sufficiently zippy with a modest kerb weight and good response to make it a comfortable and easy driver around town and out on the highway.

With improved NVH the Corolla was quieter than its predecessor with reduced road noise and general mechanical noises to bother those inside.

While firmish, the ride was still comfortable, and thanks to the sporty suspension tuning the handling was quite agile and responsive.

Safety

If safety is a priority it's important to know that the Ascent and Conquest were only equipped with a driver's airbag as standard. To get the full safety kit in those models you had to stump up more for the optional Safety Pack.

An update in 2004 saw the Conquest get a passenger airbag.

The Levin was better equipped in that regard, in that it also had a passenger airbag and side front airbags, ABS braking, Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), seat belt pre-tensioners and load limiters.

It was the Ultima that had all of the safety gear standard, including front driver and passenger airbags, front side airbags, ABS braking, Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), seat belt pre-tensioners and load limiters.

Like the Ultima, the Sportivo was also blessed with a comprehensive array of safety gear. Included were driver and passenger front airbags, ABS antilock braking, Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), seat belt pre-tensioners and load limiters. Missing from the Sportivo were side front airbags.

ANCAP rated this model Corolla at four stars.

It was too early for electronic stability control, likewise for ISOFIX baby car seat location points (legal in Australia from 2014).

Any common issues?

Toyota has a well-earned reputation for reliability and the Corolla was as soundly engineered, well built and reliable as any other in the brand.

That doesn't mean things don't, or won't go wrong with it, they do, particularly now that on average the earliest examples could well have done 350,000km or more and even the last of the line could have racked up as much as 250,000km.

With that in mind it's important to shop around and look for a car with low kilometres that's in tip-top shape and has been serviced by the book.

Toyota recommended servicing every 10,000 km, with major services every 40,000 km. Service costs are modest, and to ensure a long and reliable life it's important that the servicing has been done as per the recommendation. This generation Corolla pre-dates eligibility for any current capped price servicing program.

While Toyota's reputation for reliability is generally impeccable the Corolla was caught up in a number of recalls.

The Corolla engines in this model used a cam timing chain, not a belt, eliminating the need for servicing.

While Toyota's reputation for reliability is generally impeccable the Corolla was caught up in a number of recalls that somewhat tarnished the company's image.

The most concerning recall related to the airbag inflators, which could malfunction in a crash.

Another related to the headlight dimmer switch, which could overheat and stop the headlights from working.

Cars fitted with a sunroof were recalled because the sunroof could be operated with the ignition turned on, which contravened the ADR.

To ensure the relevant reworks have been done check with a Toyota dealer.

MORE: If anything crops up, you'll probably find it on our Toyota Corolla problems page.

The original new car warranty was for 3 years or 100,000km.

Toyota Corolla 2001: Ascent Seca

Safety Rating
Engine Type Inline 4, 1.8L
Fuel Type Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency 7.8L/100km (combined)
Seating 5
Price From $2,860 - $4,510

Verdict

Owner's views

Glenys Evans: I drive a 2006 Ascent, which is fine for a town runabout, but not so good for long distance trips. The cabin is cramped, noisy and uncomfortable, but it has been reliable.

Helen Wells: Mine is a 2006 Conquest, which does everything I ask of it. It runs well, fits four adults in comfort, the boot is big, and it's reliable.

Trevor Billson: My 2002 Ascent has done 50,000 km. It has enough power, the cabin is roomy, and nothing goes wrong with it.

Warren White: I bought a 2002 Ascent in 2007 with 42,000 km on it. It's just what I wanted, pleasant to drive and easy on fuel. It's now done 180,000 km and I've only had one or two very minor problems.

Rivals

Hyundai Elantra – 2001-2007
Good all-rounder, but check for a service record to ensure good maintenance. Pay $1000-$7500.
3 stars.

Ford Focus – 2002-2007
Safe and sound small car with good driving manners. Pay $1250-$7500.
3 stars.

Mitsubishi Lancer – 2001-2007
Good to drive, well built and reliable, hard to ignore. Pay $1500-$6900.
3 stars.

Verdict

Sound and reliable, but approaching the end of its useful life. Buy with care.

Current resale value

$2200 to $7810 for the Ascent
$2640 to $7920 for the Ascent Sport
$2530 to $7150 for the Conquest
$2860 to $8030 for the Levin
$2860 to $7920 for the Ultima

Specifications

Built: Japan
Body: 4-door sedan, 5-door hatch, 4-door wagon
Models: Ascent, Ascent Seca, Ascent Sport, Ascent Sport Seca, Conquest, Conquest Seca, Levin, Levin Seca, Sportivo, Ultima, Ultima Seca.
Seats: 5
Engine: 1.8-litre 4-cylinder, 100 kW/171 Nm; 1.8-litre 4-cylinder, 141 kW/180 Nm; 1.8-litre 4-cyo8nder, 93 kW/161 Nm
Gearbox: 4-speed automatic, 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual.
Drive: front-wheel drive
0-100 km/h: 11.4s
Fuel Consumption: 7.7-8.1 L/100 km
Fuel: 91-octane regular unleaded
Fuel tank capacity: 55 litres
Oil: 5W-30
Front suspension: MacPherson strut independent
Rear suspension: Trailing arm, torsion bar
Turning circle: 10.2 m
Safety rating: 4-star ANCAP
Spare: Full-size spare wheel
Kerb weight: 1055 kg
Towing capacity: 500 kg (without trailer brakes)/950 (with trailer brakes)
Ground clearance: 160 mm

Got a 2001-2007 Corolla? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$8,987
Based on 174 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months.
LOWEST PRICE
$3,495
HIGHEST PRICE
$20,000

Range and Specs

Vehicle Specs Price*
Ascent 1.8L, Unleaded Petrol, 4 SPEED AUTOMATIC $4,840 - $7,040
Ascent Seca 1.8L, Unleaded Petrol, 4 SPEED AUTOMATIC $3,410 - $5,390
Ascent Sport Seca 1.8L, Unleaded Petrol, 4 SPEED AUTOMATIC $2,420 - $3,740
See all 2007 Toyota Corolla in the Range
*Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist
With a passion for cars dating back to his childhood and having a qualification in mechanical engineering, Graham couldn’t believe his good fortune when he was offered a job in the Engineering Department at General Motors-Holden’s in the late-1960s when the Kingswood was king and Toyota was an upstart newcomer. It was a dream come true. Over the next 20 years Graham worked in a range of test and development roles within GMH’s Experimental Engineering Department, at the Lang Lang Proving Ground, and the Engine Development Group where he predominantly worked on the six-cylinder and V8 engines. If working for Holden wasn’t exciting enough he also spent two years studying General Motors Institute in America, with work stints with the Chassis Engineering section at Pontiac, and later took up the post of Holden’s liaison engineer at Opel in Germany. But the lure of working in the media saw him become a fulltime motorsport reporter and photographer in the late-1980s following the Grand Prix trail around the world and covering major world motor racing events from bases first in Germany and then London. After returning home to Australia in the late-1980s Graham worked on numerous motoring magazines and newspapers writing about new and used cars, and issues concerning car owners. These days, Graham is CarsGuide's longest standing contributor.
About Author
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