April 1, 2008

Road test: 1991 Toyota Corolla


A couple of summer ago, I needed a car and ended up buying a 1991 Toyota Corolla from a friend. Having never owned a Japanese car before, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Wow, what a surprise.

The interior is very well built and holds up well. You'll never see torn seats or cracked dashes in these. The plastic used inside is durable and will never break (especially not the door handles or the window cranks), you can tell Toyota designed and built this car to last a long time.

The free revving 1500cc 4-cylinder provides all the passing power you could ever want and enables the car to keep up with even the most high end cars on the market today. The five-speed manual is precise and geared just right. Alternatively, you can opt for the sporty automatic with its quick shifts.

It's pure bliss to drive. You really feel in touch with the road. It's glued to the road at freeway speeds and especially if it's raining outside. It corners beautifully thanks to the fine-tuned suspension. It never gets stuck or loses traction in the snow.

Toyota went the extra mile when it comes to rustproofing. I have never seen a spot of rust on a Corolla, or any Toyota of that era.

The downside to owning a Corolla is that since they're so well built, they're very rare to find in junkyards if you need spare parts. But that's cancelled out by the fact that the chance of having to replace something is slim to none.

I sold this car in December 2006 and I regret that decision to this day. Due to it's rarity, values will skyrocket and it's sure to one day become a very valuable classic car that loads of people will lust after.

6 comments:

Ian Scott said...

I saw a Corolla wagon for the first time this past Saturday. Though I've been interested in getting a station wagon, till now, Asian cars have been invisible to me. A bit ironic that you made a blog entry about one!

Ronan said...

Haha, I wrote the post for April Fool's Day. I did have the car for about six months. If you just want a beater to get you from point A to point B (and fill up with Italian car parts), go for it. If you want anything else, pass.

It was good on gas and roomy, that's about it. It was as rusty as hell, despite it being a Toyota I had issues with it, the interior was falling apart at 112,000 miles - the dash looked like the grand canyon, the door panels were ripping off, one of the door handles broke off and one of the window cranks did too - it was horrifying to drive on the freeway (despite that I took it on several trips), etc.

But yeah, the whole thing was written as a joke, that was one of my least favorite cars, though I'll admit it was economical to run.

The junkyard comment was also sarcastic, they're everywhere in junkyards which comes in handy when you hit a curb in a snow storm and need to replace the rim. When I sold it, the front left rim didn't match the others.

If you want a station wagon, I would recommend a Volvo 240DL. Roomier and it'll last you longer.

Ronan said...

Or hell, try finding a Mercedes 300TD. They're not as common as Volvos but they're just as reliable. (Me? Partial to Mercedes products? Naaah..)

I. R. Rothwell said...

Hahahhaha, I must say, you had me going for a moment till I saw the april fools tag at the bottom. Good show ol' bean.

Ian Scott said...

I forgot all about April fools haha. Given the choice, I'd probably always opt for a European car. However, my lady wants a Subaru wagon :/

Are they, the 240 and 300TD, roughly similar to that of the C900 as far as maintenance costs go?

p.s. I've been really happy with the Saab, outliving American cars and more desirable than Asian cars of the era.

Ronan said...

Well, it's very subjective. I am inclined to tell you that the W123s last longer. I think Ian would tell you the opposite and we both have our reasons. A lot of it is maintenance. In both cases, you often find cars that have been passed down from generation to generation and finally to a 16 year old who's abused it and never kept it up. Avoid those.

A big issue with the 300Ds is that godforsaken automatic.. some 240Ds came with a stick which lasts longer but automatics can slip, flare, shift late, shift early, etc. A lot of it you can fix by messing with the vacuum but you'll get to a point where a new transmission is the answer. Though from what Ian tells me, 900 transmissions aren't bulletproof either.

Being a diesel, obviously, you've got no spark plugs, wires, distributor, etc to worry about. The timing chains are good for about 250,000. The valves need to be adjusted every 15,000 miles and if you want any chance of getting to school when it's -5 outside, you better have a block heater and/or a good charging system and/or a motor with good compression.

It gets better gas mileage than a 900. I don't know much diesel costs in the United States but here it's cheaper than gas.

Refer to the test drive I wrote about my old W123, should give you an idea of what they're like.

As for the 900, you and/or Ian R. will compare it to the points I made above.

And, I've got nothing against Saabs, I love Saabs, I've owned several, I just had bad luck with my last one and that put me off of them for a while.