1 Dec 2001
By CHRIS HARRIS
Taking a leaf from the successful Echo, the 2001 Corolla’s reinvention showed Toyota was serious about conquering the whole world.
Built on a revised ’99 Celica platform, the small car stalwart was new from the ground up – although its basic torsion beam rear suspension set-up adhered completely to front-wheel drive orthodoxy.
Introduced in European-style five-door hatchback, four-door sedan and boxy four-door wagon shapes, all models – from base Ascent through to Conquest, sporty Levin and luxury Ultima – were powered by a new 100kW/171Nm 1.8-litre DOHC 16V VVT-i four-cylinder engine engaged to a slick five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox.
All models included power steering, central locking, power steering, power mirrors and a driver’s airbag. By October 2002 that also included a CD player and keyless entry.
From May 2003 production moved to from Japan to South Africa – and the giveaway is the new trim and larger (15-inch) wheels on the Ascent and dual-airbags from Conquest up.
It also marked the arrival of the 141kW/180Nm Corolla Sportivo, featuring the wide-angle 1.8-litre VVTL-i four-cylinder 2ZZ-GE unit reserved for the Celica.
Toyota also added anti-roll bars, anti-lock brakes, side skirts, fatter alloy wheels and a six-speed manual gearbox.
But the Sportivo highlighted the Corolla platform’s inability to properly handle all that power.
A special edition TTR was added to the Ascent range from early 2004, featuring sportier wheels and stripes.
The sedan and Sportivo Corolla Series-I remained on sale for a few months after the Series II hatch and wagon were introduced because the South African plant hadn’t caught up with the Japanese ones.
Meanwhile, Australians took this Corolla to their hearts, as it easily outsold the Holden Astra.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
5th of August 2003
Toyota 2003 Corolla Sportivo 5-dr hatch
Toyota gives Corolla the Sportivo treatment, but this time there's no turbo
When it was new
E160 MkII Corolla
AE95 Corolla 4WD Wagon
KE55 Series II Corolla
KE70 Series II Corolla
AE80/2 Series II Corolla
AE112 Series II Corolla
AE90/2 Series II Corolla
ZZE122R Corolla Series II
150 series Corolla
AE102 Series II Corolla