1996 Toyota Corolla

The Good:
– Reliable and solidly built
– Low running costs
– Smooth manual shifter
The Bad:
– Too many abused ones
– High used prices
– Base model has few features

The Toyota Corolla is a best-seller in the United Arab Emirates. It built up a reputation for being reliable and has good resale value. The 1993 generation of the Corolla was revolutionary when it first came out, with sleek styling and spacious interior. The model received a minor facelift in 1996 before being replaced by the despised 1998 bug-eyed model. Corolla is the longest-running nameplate in the Toyota line-up.

Offered with either a weak 1.3-litre, slightly better 1.6-litre and 1.8-litre motors, and all four-cylinder engines rev smoothly and deliver good fuel economy. Both the manual and the automatic transmissions offer smooth shifting, and the manual is easy to move through the gears.

The Toyota Corolla comes in two body styles, a four-door sedan and a station wagon. Corollas come with either a 1.3-litre or a 1.8-litre four-cylinder 16-valve engine and a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. Three trim levels are available: XL, XLi and high-level GLi.

The basic model came standard with a 1.3-litre engine, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette stereo system, digital clock and a manual gearbox. It also gets 14-inch steel wheels and cloth interior. Automatic gearbox and power steering were optional.

The upscale trims got either a 1.6-litre engine in the XLi or 1.8-litre engine in the GLi. Power windows, power steering, full wheel covers, and rear spoiler were available. A smooth manual gearbox was also standard here, but an automatic was optional.

The 1.3-litre engine is just adequate to move the lightweight car, so the engine to go for is the 1.6-litre or the 1.8-litre engine. It is very hard to find a 1.8-litre model with a manual gearbox, as most people who spent the money for the top model also spent the extra money for an automatic gearbox. There are a few 1.6-litre cars around with a manual, but a large number of the 1.3-litre cars had been sold with a manual and few optional features.

The all-independent suspension features MacPherson struts at all four corners. With a relatively long wheelbase and its independent suspension, the Corolla offers good ride quality. Acceleration is not a strong point of any of the models, and an automatic gearbox bogs down these cars even more. The lightness of these cars help though, and an aggressive driver with a manual gearbox can end up with screeching tires when the clutch is released at too-high rpms.

Handling is not a strong point of this or any other recent generation of the Corolla. The front-wheel-drive chassis is competent at low speeds but can only bear a limited amount of aggression when going into a corner fast. Combined with the thin stock tyres and the soft suspension tuning, the Corolla starts to squeal its tyres and understeer at even moderate speeds going around a tight bend. Roundabouts become a low speed affair and sudden lane changes are not recommended. High speed ride quality is fairly good on the highway, but there may be vibrations at speeds over 120 kph.

Interior styling is conservative and functional, yet designed for ergonomic or operating efficiency. The climate controls and radio/tape functions are easily read at a glance and well within reach of the driver for use. The instrument package isn’t cluttered, but lower models are missing a tachometer. The a/c works fairly well, but make sure it works when you buy a used one. Seat fabric have interesting patterns and the carpeting and upholstery have proven to be durable.

This is a relatively quiet car compared to a Honda Civic from the same year, which is a bonus. Also make sure you have power steering, as some models came without it, making them annoyingly hard to drive.

Look for one in good shape and avoid cars used as abused taxis. Rust is hardly an issue with Toyotas, but one which has been in an accident could still suffer from brown rust spots. Since these cars are so common, parts are also easy to find. A good investment in any sense, the Corolla comes at higher-than-average used prices. All Corollas are likely to be a completely painless car. Just get in, turn the key and go as long as regular service has been maintained. You can reasonably expect 200,000 to 300,000 km of relatively trouble-free life from this model of the Corolla.

Thanks to Toyota’s amazing build quality, a Corolla owner can expect a long trouble-free service life, and a satisfactory ownership experience for those looking for a simple commuter car.

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