We bought this car new in May 2001, we now have 135K miles on it and still love it! The only issues we have had to deal with was replacing the clutch at 95K (driver fault) and simple maintenance. The front brake pads lasted until 120K (I check them regularly). I still average about 31mpg when its all city driving and 36 when I commute on the highway. We could afford a new car, but I will drive this one until it's last mile, and would not hesitate to buy another. With that said it is not perfect and there are drawbacks like interior size, road noise, etc.. But I am a believer that those are little things while reliability and affordability are the things that are harder to come by.
UPDATE 2/29/2016: Still love this car, but recently had some transmission issue (manual). Had to have it rebuilt and continue to have issue with a seal. Partly my fault because I neglected to change the trans fluid and maybe just a fluke. We are going to part ways with it because of my 500 mile/week commute otherwise I would keep it as my main driver.
Bought used, now has 240,000km. Still has the original brakes, not a spot of rust anywhere (Canadian car) and in the winter it gets cold started twice a day every day as this is a commuter car. Haven't had a single problem with it. A little underpowered but hey its an economy car. Fuel consumption is 6l/100km in the summer and about 8l/100km in the winter.
bought the car with 75k miles on it. 9 months later the engine blew. replaced the engine and 3k miles later while driving home it caught fire in the engine area car was awsome fun to drive very cool interior but man i had bad luck
I haven't had this car very long yet but bought it because of it's reputation as a solid reliable car. And that's exactly what it is. I'm very very happy with it, just recently took it on a 11 hour drive, and it performed great. Has enough power to pass on the highway no prob...just drop it into 3rd and it's gone. I suggest the manual though, I don't think it would be so great in an automatic, but that's just me. The gas mileage is awesome! It's fun to drive for a 4 door economy car, and looks good too. The A/C works great, but really robs the engine of power. But yeah, great choice if you're looking for a reliable cheap to own car. Can't go wrong with a Toyota.
Uh, the reliability! There's also just little things that I noticed that I thought were cool, like the in dash thermometer, and all the cubby spaces. Oh and the cup-holders do a great job. I love it's exterior styling (especially the "S", like mine), and the trunk is nice and big.
Back seat leg room is pretty lame, but I rarely have rear passengers so I dont really care. That's about it! I'm sure that fixed this issue on the newer Corollas.