1997 TOYOTA COROLLA DX
Used Car - 1997 Toyota Corolla DX in Everett, Wa
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1997 Toyota Corolla ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Fun, functional and affordable.
You hear a lot about value when car companies are selling you their flavor of the month, but what does value mean? It isn't just price, of course, but green dollars American on the barrelhead obviously play a big part in it. For many buyers, though, value is best described not by price but by what the dollars actually buy. With the 1997 Toyota Corolla line, those green dollars American go impressively far.
Did you know the Corolla has an American lineage? Toyota has long shared an assembly plant in Fremont, California with Chevrolet. Corollas and the Geo Prizm (largely based on Toyota mechanicals) are built there, but Toyota has also imported some Corollas to meet market demand. Now, however, all 1997 Corollas will be built in North American factories, with Toyota's Ontario, Canada plant supplementing the output from California.
The car has a long history of popularity, so it must be doing something good. Corolla is the longest-running nameplate in the Toyota line-up, in fact. After spending quality time in a new Corolla DX model, we're convinced the '97s are positioned to continue that success.
No one is going to accuse this car of making a wild fashion statement, because it has the sound, functional appearance of a well-made piece of clothing. It shines in this role. The Corolla is an unpretentious yet attractive car that won't go out of style in the next model year, and won't look boring or old-fashioned before its time.
It may be a more formal look than key competitors like the Dodge/Plymouth Neon twins and the Ford Escort, with more sharply folded sheetmetal than some trendier products. This isn't because of a shortage of artistic talent at Toyota's design hive, but to provide a better interior peoplescape. Corolla's formal roofline promotes head room superior to designs that slope fashionably into the rear decklid, especially in the all-important rear passenger seats. Consequently, the Corolla's design is well-tooled for its family-car mission.
Changes for the '97 model are subtle. Corollas get new door trim and enhancements to side-impact protection. Safety is a big shopping point for family buyers, and though it's a small car, the Corolla does very well in this area.
Three-point safety belts are provided for front seat and outboard rear seat riders (with a lap belt for the middle rear position). Dual airbags are standard equipment. For those interested in stepping up to the option of anti-lock brakes, which we recommend, they are available for all three Corolla models. Power steering is standard on CE and DX models. Certain popular amenities, such as cruise control, split-folding rear seat, tachometer, power sunroof and tilt wheel, are options that can only be checked for the DX.
The three-model line includes a base or standard Corolla and a Corolla CE, both standard-equipped with Toyota's 1.6-liter twin-cam 4-cylinder powerplant of 100 horsepower. The uplevel engine provided in our Corolla DX tester is a slightly larger 1.8-liter twin-cam 4-cyl. that produces 105 hp, and 117 lb.-ft. of torque versus the base engine's 105 lb.-ft.
The standard transmissions for both four-bangers are specific five-speed manuals. The optional automatic for the base engine is a three-speed, while the upgrade path for the larger engine features a smooth-running four-speed automatic.
The all-independent suspension features MacPherson struts at all four corners. With a relatively long wheelbase and its independent suspension, the Corolla offers excellent ride quality and competent handling.
A family car must offer interior roominess, and the Corolla provides plenty. With comfortable bucket seats in front and a three-place bench seat in the rear, Corolla is a congenial car for families with young children. Even your sprouting basketball stars will find enough head room in the rear.
Interior styling is conservative and functional, yet designed for ergonomic or operating efficiency. The climate controls and radio/tape functions are easily read at a glance and well within reach of the driver for use. The instrument package isn't cluttered up with what, in this purposeful mount, would be some unnecessary gauges, so the principal read-outs of a speedometer and tachometer (DX only) are quickly scanned for essential information.
To our mild surprise, the Corolla's seating comfort was better than expected. The front buckets offer adequate support at the thighs and in the lumbar region for long-distance comfort, as we discovered during a weekend run from Detroit to Chicago and back. Corolla shows that it's thinking about safety in smaller ways, too, by offering standard child-protector rear door locks on all models as well as an optional integrated rear child restraint seat. And all Corollas come with full interior carpeting, dual cupholders, remote hood and trunk releases, trip odometer, coinholder and a center console box big enough to corral those give-aways from the fast-food restaurants.
A small car has a harder time managing ride quality than a larger car, in part because the wheelbase is comparatively short. Annoyingly, a shorter-wheelbase car may do a rocking-horse thing over road imperfections that a larger car would just absorb.
Corolla's 97-inch wheelbase is long enough, and its suspension so well-tuned, that it offers the ride quality of a much larger, more expensive automobile, which can be said for the Geo Prizm as well. The ride quality is impressively comfortable without descending into floaty or uncontrolled motions. Steering is crisp and linear, adding to confidence behind the wheel.
This is a relatively quiet car, too, as we found during the long road trip. The bonus of a quieter car is reduced fatigue for the driver and an atmosphere obviously more conducive to conversation.
Some small cars can be a chore to drive if they're more work than fun. Not so here. Although the Corolla and Prizm aren't in the same horsepower league as the Neons, they're surprisingly agile and enthusiastic performers, even with an automatic transmission. The standard five-speed manual would infuse it with more fun for some, maybe, but every person in a given household may not want to drive a stick. This Corolla is designed to provide good performance to all family members across multi-mission roles, and it succeeds.
Because Toyota's fabled build quality means a Corolla owner can expect a long and typically trouble-free service life, you can expect the ownership experience to be a very satisfactory one. This fact offsets the car's modestly higher sticker price, and it's further reduced by a $400 factory value-package discount, right on the sticker, for a group of the most popular options.
There is less expensive competition out there, and more stylish, too, but there are the usual trade-offs; less-expensive may mean less equipment, ultrafashionable design might mean less interior room. The Corolla is a good compromise. You'll discover a well-made, fun-to-drive little four-door that will provide many years of service--and then your child can take it away to college.
Options As Tested
Air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette audio, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, cruise control, tilt steering, carpeted floor mats, color-keyed door handles body-side molding.
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