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1999 Toyota Corolla Review
  • Toyota reliability, Low purchase price, Low maintenance costs, Good fuel economy
  • Will remind you of its age, No mod cons for the tech-minded, Will be as old as some prospective buyers

by Glen S

There’s something about pre-tech cars that makes you smile. There’s also things that make you only spend a short time with these cars before hopping back in something modern. Back in the day, sat nav was something in sci fi movies, and CD players where something people had only in their lounge rooms. Cars were for transport, and things like Bluetooth and Siri were just pipe-dreams.

It’s weird to think that this Corolla wasn’t manufactured that long ago, but looks prehistoric when lined up against modern cars. This car is a 1999 model; uncomplicated 1.6 litre engine with five speed manual transmission; no power windows, mirrors or seats, just simple, reliable transportation. This has been Toyota’s mantra for decades. Sure, Toyotas don’t look the greatest – you have enough hard plastic to fill one hundred Tupperware orders – but these cars, generally, don’t give you any trouble. For a car of this age, servicing intervals are approximately six monthly, but the servicing cost is so low that you have enough change left over to go out and buy a CD player, if you’re so inclined. Fuel economy is good; a full 40 litre tank will drive you between 450 and 550 km. I can hear the naysayers out there starting already; why would you bother, they say, why don’t you just buy something newer? You know what, this is a good point. When you look at cars of this age, inclusive of those that are of very good condition, it’s hard to go past new cars. The advent of capped price servicing across all major brands and low-to-no finance offers is smashing older cars into the wrecking yard. It’s sad, but true.

But like anything other than near new things, there are people out there who need cars like this; reliable, goes alright, cheap to purchase, and cheap running costs. Corollas of this vintage are likely to have anywhere between 130,000 and 250,000 km on the clock, so you want to be sure about service history. There are ones that have sat in someone’s garage for the last fifteen years and done less than 10,000 km per year. There are also cars that have had that history, then been sold to a very spirited driver, so checking for regular oil changes, for example, is important.

For a large part, though, this is stress-free motoring. You drive, and the car does what’s required with minimum fuss. The engine is free revving and provides good power delivery. The manual transmission is notchy, but not too dissimilar from others of the same era and reminds you that you are actually driving something! There are times where the car can really show its age, but there are other times where it just drives easy and adjusting the electronic mirrors is the last thing on your mind. However, applying the ‘Car Park Challenge’ to this car is a bit of an eye-opener. The steering is heavy, making getting around a bit more of a workout than expected. Also, the range for the manual gearbox is low, which means that you are constantly adjusting up or down to keep power to the engine. Not bad if you fancy yourself as an everyday rally driver, but infuriating for the general population. The rest of the ‘features’ of the car are not going to make your head spin. The seats are comfortable, but nothing fantastic; the sound system is primitive; and, before you ask, there are no bi-Xenon headlights. Despite the lack of mod-cons, there is a driver’s side airbag, which, at the time was probably heralded as a coupe de safety.

It is interesting how the decision to purchase fifteen year old cars is always lined up against the decision to purchase new cars. I’ve always been of the impression that you buy what you can afford. Now, that’s a general statement, but when boiled down it means that you’ll come face-to-face with a car of a certain make and model and, yep, that’s the one you’ll stick with for a bit. Now this Corolla has nothing on modern cars and is left for dead when lined up the current models. It drives okay, but a lot of your time with this car will be forgiving its distance from modern day cousins. For some it will be too much, and the call of the modern day car will be too strong, but for other it will be an easy way to get from A to B.

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1999 Toyota Corolla Review Review
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