Skip to main content

2003 Toyota Corolla Review

More about the 2003 Toyota Corolla
More About This Model

Toyota says the Corolla is the world's all-time best-selling passenger car, with more than 25 million units sold in 142 countries. Yes sir, that's a lot of Corollas. Not that we've had much to do with that.

In our 2000 Economy Sedan Comparison Test we ranked the car seventh out of nine cars. We disliked the uncomfortable front seats, tepid styling, high price and soggy handling.

For the 2003 model year, Toyota has introduced an all-new Corolla that addresses many of the car's deficiencies. It's bigger, has more power, is more crisply styled and has higher levels of refinement.

Built utilizing an all-new platform (one that also serves the 2003 Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe), the '03 Corolla is longer, wider and taller. Overall length is now 178.3 inches, as compared to the '02's 174.0 inches. The wheelbase is also correspondingly longer at 102.4 inches.

While this super-sizing boosts curb weight (by about 50 pounds), it does provide more interior room. The big winner is rear legroom. It now measures 35.4 inches, a significant gain of 2.2 inches. Most of the remaining front-and-rear interior dimensions are either about the same, or slightly more. Sitting in back, we noticed the increased legroom immediately. The rear seat is nicely contoured, and two adults should be comfortable, though rear headroom is still less than some of the competition. Trunk space is up from 12.1 cubic feet to 13.6 cubic feet.

For the front passengers, Toyota updated the dashboard and controls for better ergonomics. The audio system is now on top of the center stack, a change from its previously low-mounted location. This was done to make it more accessible, though our initial impression is that it's still hard to reach. Entry and exit is improved thanks to higher-mounted seats, and those seats have additional bolstering for more support. As is typical of Toyota products, the controls and switches have a solid feel to them. The quality of the materials is nothing to get excited about, however, as most of the panels are hard plastic and there's no padding for the driver's armrest.

Of more importance is what you're getting for your money. On this front, the Corolla should certainly satisfy. As before, trim levels continue to be the base CE, the better-equipped LE and the sporty S. More features are standard this year, and even the lowly CE comes with air conditioning with micron filtration and rear floor ducts, a CD player, power steering, power mirrors, an outside temperature gauge, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and 15-inch wheels.

The LE comes with wider tires, variable intermittent windshield wipers, fake wood trim, color-keyed exterior trim, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, map lights and a driver-seat height adjuster. The S model includes "sporty" trim such as even more color-keyed exterior items, smoked headlights, foglights, special gauges and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Options include upgraded audio systems, ABS, side airbags, cruise control, leather seating and a sunroof. Compared to similarly equipped '02 models, Toyota says the '03 Corolla is actually less expensive.

In terms of its powertrain, the new Corolla is pretty much a carryover. Under the hood is a 130-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Thanks to a variable valve timing system (Toyota's VVT-i), this engine provides a broad torque output. It's also clean enough to allow the car to earn ULEV emissions status. Transmission choices are either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Last year's doggy three-speed automatic has been mercifully removed from the lineup, and fuel economy is rated at 32/40 mpg for the five-speed and 30/38 for the automatic.

On the road, the Corolla makes for comfortable and pleasant transportation. Despite Toyota's hype that the car is more exciting than before, it still offers little inspiration, even in S trim. Acceleration is certainly on par with or better than most other economy cars, and the ride is smooth. For 2003, the rear suspension has been changed to a non-independent torsion-beam design. While perhaps a step back on the technological scale, it's been tuned to a high degree with special shocks and bushings. MacPherson struts are used up front, just as before. Though our drive in the '03 car was brief, this Corolla did seem more stable. The steering is sharper, too, thanks to a relocated steering rack.

While we expect to have a full-road test available soon, our prediction is that the new Corolla will continue to sell to people looking for a safe and dependable economy car. Though the prices are higher than last year, the actual amount of stuff you get for the price is more. And what's wrong with extra stuff?

Used 2003 Toyota Corolla Overview

The Used 2003 Toyota Corolla is offered in the following submodels: Corolla Sedan. Available styles include LE 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 4A), CE 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 4A), S 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 4A), CE 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M), LE 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M), and S 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M). Pre-owned Toyota Corolla models are available with a 1.8 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 130 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2003 Toyota Corolla comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 4-speed automatic.

What's a good price on a Used 2003 Toyota Corolla?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2003 Toyota Corollas are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2003 Toyota Corolla for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2003 Toyota Corolla.

Can't find a used 2003 Toyota Corollas you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Toyota Corolla for sale.

Find a used Toyota for sale.

Find a used certified pre-owned Toyota Corolla for sale.

Find a used certified pre-owned Toyota for sale.

Should I lease or buy a 2003 Toyota Corolla?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Toyota lease specials
Check out Toyota Corolla lease specials