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2003 Toyota Corolla Ascent Road Test

For Those Who Don't Want Too Much Excitement!

The Corolla is a car with quite a good record. As such, it commands respect as a new car and as a used car. The latest Corolla came along in December 2001. This is the ninth generation of the Corolla, a name-plate which first appeared in Japan, in 1966. For 35 continuous years, Australians have enjoyed the Corolla and have justifiable respect for the model range.

Before assessing the new model, let's quickly look at the previous model, the eighth generation Corolla models. In Australia, we had the sedan and hatchback (Seca) models. If you've experienced this model, you probably recognise this model as an excellent example of a small car. It was a reasonable size, with good interior space and a decent size luggage compartment. It was a fine car to drive as well, as it offered good handling, a comfortable ride and respectable performance. Whilst not outstanding, it just had a habit of doing everything right. Resale values suggest there is concensus about the attributes possessed by this 8th generation Corolla.

So how does this new model (the ninth generation) stack up?

There are sedans, hatchbacks and wagons in various versions in the current (ninth generation) range. The subject of this report, though, is the base model hatchback, the Corolla Ascent Seca. The car comes standard with a 1.8 litre 4 cylinder motor. The test car was fitted with the optional 4 speed automatic transmission. This combination is quite adequate for everyone other than those seeking high performance, as it gets along quite well with a 100kW motor, despite carrying two on board, together with their luggage. The transmission is smooth and the motor ticks along quietly. There is a block-out switch for the overdrive, so you can drive comfortably in lower speed limit areas. Some more expensive cars have no block-out, hence they can labour in overdrive at 60 kph when, obviously, they would be happier in 3rd gear. For this block-out feature, Toyota are to be commended. It's a great feature. Sadly, though, there is one unwelcome feature.... there is too much road noise. But other than that, the Corolla is a happy little car on the road. It brakes well, it handles well and it's entirely predictable. It's comfortable for both front seat occupants. Entry and egress is easy enough for average size adults, but as the dash protrudes well into the passenger compartment, (copyright image)

I can foresee tall adults banging the odd knee every now and then. Headroom seems quite adequate though.

The car was driven 1,140 kms over a 4 day period in Perth and Denmark, Western Australia and along the Albany Highway which provided the link between the two areas.

The test car was coloured "Silver Glaze". There are seven other colours from which to choose. Above, you see the test car pictured in South Perth looking towards Perth across the Swan River.

To summarise, it seems to me that Toyota took their eyes off the ball when planning the ninth generation Corolla. The previous model was a particularly good model, but whilst the new model updates the styling, the overall packaging isn't as pleasing as the model it supersedes. Despite that, the car is a stylish and comfortable product, just as it has been in past years.

Stephen Walker
July 2003

  • A good reputation
  • Undynamic to drive
  • Too much road noise for a modern car

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