I recently bought this car. I've already had to replace the timing chain and catalytic converter. This car does have great gas mileage, 30 miles per gallon. It has comfy seats and is higher off the ground than other sedans of this era. However the paint is peeling off and the engine is horrible. If you want a commuter car that gets good gas mileage and don't mind having repairs this is the car for you.
Ten years ago I bought my 2003 Corolla LE brand new, and it has been rock solid in terms of reliability. In the ten years I've owned this car (115,000 miles) I have had only one repair that was not usual wear-and-tear (air conditioner went out). Everything else has stood the test of time. So I give this car a 5 in terms of value, build quality, and reliability. As for performance, comfort, and fun to drive, the Corolla is admittedly not top-of-the-line (you're not going to win races with this thing or feel like you're sitting in a recliner), and gas mileage by today's standards isn't spectacular. But, I trust this thing just as much today as I did the day I bought it and that says something.
This car is a beast that just wants to keep going. 202,000 and I just had a number of wear & tear repairs but I think it's at the half life point roughly. Weather doesn't phase it and the rust is very minimal for a car I don't garage or baby in any way. Superb investment so glad I bought it new.
I bought this car brand new off the lot and 12 years, and 250,000 miles later, still running like new! Very very minimal maintenance required for this car! i have barely done oil changes and only other repairs were replacing sway bar, a sensor that went at about 180k, and thats it! Even mechanics have told me that this is one of the best cars that toyota has put out and i very much believe that.
Bought new in December 2002. Today (Feb 2013) the car is now 517,000 km. @ 420,000 km the strut was replaced. the right one started to leak. the other one is still ok but replaced as well as they needed to be replaced at the same time. @ 425,000 km. the front and rear wheel bearing on the driver's side were replaced. @ 475,000 km. the starter was replaced. @ 517,000 km. the sway bar link was replaced. others are just the normal maintenance like battery, oil changes, serpentine belt, transmission oil changes, air filter, cabin filters. The car drives like the day I drove it out of the dealership. The rest of the car is original...including the rotor. the car just starts and go in all weather