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A "sporty" Corolla? That's a surprise

Jim Kenzie welcomes a new used car to the family: A 2005 Corolla XRS four-door sedan — the sporty version. Here's what he thinks of the car.

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We are now officially a two-Toy family.


In addition to the 1996 Corolla that Number Three daughter “inherited” some years ago (eleventy billion km on it; the engine still runs like a top but everything else is very dubious …) we have acquired a 2005 Corolla four-door sedan.


It is the so-called XRS model — the “sporty” one.


A sporty Corolla? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?


I didn’t even know Toyota ever made something like this, but it has the “2ZZ” engine which apparently was also used in the contemporary Celica, with something like 180 horsepower and a red-line of 8,200 r.p.m.


In a COROLLA??!?


Yikes.


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This is the same engine (slightly different tuning) that Lotus uses in their Elise.


A Toyota-Lotus! Yeah, that’s the ticket …


And the engine was designed by Yamaha, using motorcycle principles.


A Toyota-Lotus-Yamaha!


Zowie …


We acquired the car in a very modern manner — same daughter spotted it on the Facebook page of a young woman with whom she used to go to school back when they were something like 10 years old.


It had became surplus-to-their-needs, it had 250,000 km on it (duck soup for a Corolla), the body was in good shape, and it was clean inside.


Done deal.


As you may know, in Ontario the HST on a used car is based on what you actually paid for the car, OR the wholesale book value, whichever is greater. Turns out that latter number for our car was two grand MORE than what we paid for it! Estimated retail was FOUR grand more — maybe we should have just washed the thing and flipped it …


Anyway, here it is.


The trunk lid spoiler, rocker panel skirts and black wheels (winter tires included) give the car a slightly sinister look (again, for a Corolla …). Nice seats too.


The engine fires right up, with a slightly rorty sound. I think there’s an exhaust shield or something adrift under there.


The cable-operated six-speed manual gearbox reminds me of how much these things have improved in a few short years — the throws on this car are clunky, and it’s hard to get it into second when it’s cold.


Sure, I cut it some slack for its mileage, but I remember manual ‘boxes like this when they were new and they weren’t much better than this.


The clutch engages right near the start of the pedal travel off the floor, so either the clutch itself is worn or the cable needs adjusting — either condition might help explain the lousy gear change.


When you engage reverse, the thing starts to beep. Not to warn people behind the car, like commercial vehicles do.


But INSIDE the car.


Um, I KNOW it’s in Reverse; I just put it there?


Massively irritating.


I’d have ripped that beeper/buzzer out by its roots by now, but Lady Leadfoot won’t let me start taking the dashboard apart. She’ll have “our Bill” (our mechanic) look into it.


The car is quite quick, but seems to rev fairly high on the highway — the six gear ratios seem to be spaced for acceleration rather than economy. We haven’t run through a full tank yet, so nothing to report there at this time.


The Daytime Running Lights are particularly obtuse. The instrument cluster lights up when the DRL are on, yet the HVAC and radio controls are NOT illuminated.


Now, somebody buried deep within Toyota City somewhere had to make a conscious decision to make this happen. I just can’t imagine what was going through his head when that decision was being made.


Um, they are DAYTIME running lights; why would the instrument cluster need to be lit up in the DAYTIME?? And why would you light THAT up and not the rest of the Instrument Panel?


Sigh …


In case you don’t get the point, Mr. Toyota Lighting Dude, don’t turn on ANY instrument lighting when the DRL is on. Otherwise people won’t have a clue they don’t have their real lights on once it gets dark.


The hinge for the centre console cubby bin is busted (anybody know where there’s a dead mid-00s Corolla? …) but everything else seems to work.


It drives OK, although there is some whirring up front under braking — I’m guessing brake pads, and a wheel bearing might be nearing the end of its life too.


OK, so it ain’t no Volkswagen, either in driving dynamics or interior quality. And with this hotshot engine, it isn’t likely to get anywhere near the mileage our 2003 Jetta TDI wagon does (the “new” Corolla is eventually headed for my son who is going to school up in Ottawa …).


The Corolla is also massively more expensive to insure than the POS Pontiac Sunfire he inherited from his eldest sister. I was told that’s because Corollas are frequently stolen, but they don’t show up on any “most wanted” lists I’ve come across.


But it probably won’t cost anywhere near what the VeeDub does to service, and if we’re clever enough to get around to oiling the undercarriage next winter (if there IS a next winter …) we expect it’ll give us at least five years of solid service.


Unless someone out there is DESPERATE for a “Collectors’ Edition” Corolla XRS!!!


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