I am the proud owner of a 2005 Toyota Corolla Sportivo. I fell in love with this car after my uncle and aunt bought one new from the factory. At the time I was driving another car (a 1975 Toyota Celica) which is also an awesome car in its own rights.
Whilst most Sportivos are not the most sporty of cars (when compared to Ford Focus, WRX or Astra Turbo, that is), they have lots of potential. Mine has the factory optioned TRD cold air intake, front/rear strut brace, torsion bar and TRD lowered suspension (all discontinued, unfortunately).
It also has sports exhaust and been ported and polished. Oh, and factory sat-nav too.
And I have to say, after owning a stock standard Sportivo previous to the one I now own, the difference these mods make is huge!
I also had a uni-chip installed (not cheap, but totally worth every cent) and I feel the car has a better torque curve, more usable torque between 2500-4000 rpm, better fuel economy (700km-plus per tank as opposed to 580-600km).
Now my Sporty is a pocket rocket and handles to boot. It's quite possibly the best handling car I have owned (up there with the Celica and my Datsun 1200 ute). If you don't mind a 2005 model car and want something with a bit more grunt than a standard Corolla, I highly recommend the Sportivo.
It's a shame Toyota discontinued making both the car and the TRD performance add-ons.
I have had absolutely no problems with my Sportivo, apart from replacing the alternator. As long as you service regularly, and car hasn't been thrashed or neglected, these are very reliable cars.
The six-speed gearbox is smooth (although I have heard they can get a bit cluncky if abused). I can't really think of many faults with this car so my review is more focussed on the positives, good performance, Toyota reliability, lots of spare second-hand parts available, comfortable seats, good amount of room in cabin, and decent sized boot.
Probably the only negative is the premium unleaded fuel required which can be expensive with today's current fuel costs but even if it cost $80 to fill you still get 600km on a tank.