Toyota Corolla 2003 sportivo
Owner Review

2003 Toyota Corolla Sportivo review

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Having been a die-hard Toyota LandCruiser owner for many years, driving an exciting performance car seemed like a distant memory, a memory that included Falcon GTs, Valiant Pacers et cetera. To say that I was astonished after driving a Corolla Sportivo VVTL-i for the first time would only be half of the description.

Grinning from ear to ear and already thinking of where I could drive it to next, the purchase was made (being eagerly encouraged by my 18-year-old son, of course). I hadn't had as much fun driving a car for years, and if I were to sum up the Corolla Sportivo in one word, that word would be fun.

It may not have the primal grunt of the big V8s and Hemi sixes of my younger days, but with the Corolla engine revving and pulling hard from 6000–8000rpm, and with go-kart-type handling, a winding twisting road would see the Sportivo leave the old GTs and Hemis way behind – all with the comfort of air-con and power steering (great for old farts like me).

At a second-hand price that would be less than the cost of a new interior for an old Falcon GT, the Sportivo really is a performance bargain. Cheap on fuel, easy to park, reasonably inconspicuous, and cheap to insure, there are not many cars that can do what the Sportivo does so well at the same price.

As a daily driver, it is easy to live with and doesn't seem so different from a standard Corolla, but get out on a winding road and it transforms into a fun factory. I found myself taking the long way home from everywhere, just to extend the grin-time and enjoy the drive.

Reliability seems as Toyota as usual, and I have seen examples with 380,000km on them that were still creating excitement. The only fault that I would have with the Sportivo is that the keys always seem to disappear whenever my sons are not studying or working. They absolutely love it, and fortunately for me, the fuel consumption is bugger all so it doesn't break the bank with their regular borrowings of the little rocket.

As much as I would love an old XT GT Falcon or VG Pacer coupe again, I could never justify (or afford) the huge prices. So if you want bang for your buck, the Corolla Sportivo wins hands down in my book. How could you not love a 200hp, 8000rpm go-kart that doubles as a shopping hack. Win-win!