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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Good build quality, smooth petrol engines, reliability

Against Early diesel is sluggish and noisy, limited rear room

Verdict It’ll get you from A to B reliably and reasonably safely

Go for… 1.6 GLS

Avoid… Early 2.0-litre diesel

Toyota Corolla Hatchback
  • 1. Ensure that the cambelt has been changed every 60,000 miles
  • 2. The front wheel bearings have been known to give trouble
  • 3. Faulty engine electronic control units can lead to poor performance
  • 4. The cabin is roomy enough, but the dull plastic makes it thoroughly unattractive
  • 5. The boot space is no more than reasonably good
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Toyota Corolla Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The Corolla has always sold in vast numbers around the world, but has had to endure something of a bland reputation. This model, introduced in 1997 and face-lifted in 2000, was designed to up the tempo a little, but neither version will go down in history as handsome.

The good, but not that good story continues on the road. Although the petrol engines are impressive, the Corolla’s drive is not on the pace of the equivalent Ford Focus or VW Golf. The ride feels too hard and the light steering too lifeless for the Corolla to sit in that company.

Similarly, although they're durable and hardwearing, the shiny plastics in the cabin aren’t quite up to the mark either.

However boot space is reasonable, and the Corolla’s safety features are impressive for a car launched in 1997. With twin airbags as standard it merited a three-star Euro NCAP safety rating at a time when the maximum possible score was four.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Reliable commuter. 1.3/1.4 are the best. 1.9 diesel clanky and unrefined. Forget rare saloon

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Which hatch you choose depends on what you want from it. The three-door is arguably the most stylish, but the five-door offers more practicality than it or the four-door saloon. Early cars had single round headlamps, while post-February 2000 cars, with their restyled front ends, feature twin headlamps.

Avoid the original 2.0-litre 71bhp diesel engine; it’s noisy and slow, and better diesels followed with a 68bhp 1.9-litre unit and a 109bhp 2.0 D-4D turbodiesel. Of the four petrol engines – 1.3, 1.4, 1.6 and 1.8-litre – our favourite is the punchy, variable-valve-timing-equipped 109bhp 1.6-litre.

Although far from quick, the six-speed 1.3 G6 boasts a body-kit, six-speed gearbox, sports seats a CD player and air-con, but was discontinued in February 2000.

From all the various combinations, the post-Feb 2000 1.6 GLS is our choice, and comes with twin airbags, anti-lock brakes, air-con, CD-multi-changer, alloy-wheels, electric windows and an electric sunroof.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Ugly pre-2000 models difficult to retail, later decent spec SRs better

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Like most Toyotas of this generation, the Corolla enjoys a reputation for being fairly easy on the pocket. For a start, insurance is very reasonable. The highest rating is admittedly group 11, but the base 1.3, 1.4, 1.6-litre petrol and the entry-level 2.0-litre diesel all have a group 5 insurance rating.

Fuel economy is reasonable right across the range, too, with the 2.0-litre D4-D returning an official 48mpg. With 20,000-mile service intervals, this engine doesn’t need to see the inside of a garage too often.

Toyota dealers may not be quite as cheap to pay per hour as a Skoda franchise, but the Japanese company’s hourly rate is on a par with Ford’s, Vauxhall’s and Peugeot’s. However, setting servicing costs aside, average repair rates will work out more expensive for the Toyota driver if the car is involved in an accident.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Reliable commuter. 1.3/1.4 are the best. 1.9 diesel clanky and unrefined. Forget rare saloon

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The Toyota Corolla enjoys a reputation for good, solid reliability and it’s been well proven with strong results in the JD Power Reliability Survey. The Warranty Direct Reliability index paints a positive picture, too, with an exceptionally low fault rate.

Despite all this, there are still things to look out for, and also a number of recall issues that you need to make sure have been addressed.

Models built between November 2001 and April 2002 were recalled because of possible faults with the rear brakes. Cars built between March and May 2002 have had brake pedal problems, while cars built between February and October 2002 have suffered faulty automatic gearboxes.

If you are looking at a high-mileage car, make sure that the cambelt has been changed every 60,000 miles. Front wheel bearings can also give trouble as the miles mount and faulty engine electronic control units can lead to a drop-off in performance.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Ugly pre-2000 models difficult to retail, later decent spec SRs better

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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