The facelifted 2005 Corolla Sportivo was the final hurrah of not only the Sportivo badge in the Corolla range, but also the 2ZZ-GE engine in the Australian market.
I bought the Corolla not long after driving a friend's pre-facelift model where my interest began in these little pocket rockets. From the moment I sat in the driver’s seat, I saw endless potential for not only a great daily driver, but also a car to have some fun with on the weekends.
What sets the 2005 model apart from the 2003 and 2004 model is not only the exterior updates with a newly designed front end, but also some smaller details inside.
All windows have auto up and down functions, fog light indicator on the dash cluster, updated centre console and window switch trim (updated to a silver carbon-fibre look, previously gloss silver), updated six-CD head unit with MP3 compatibility and lastly, a second compartment for storage above the centre console trimmed in leather.
The Corolla Sportivo, like other Corolla models, has loads of storage in not only the centre console compartment and glovebox, but additional storage under the climate control unit with a small storage unit and ashtray and also a small compartment under the mirror switch. The front doors only have minimal storage potential, with a small pocket not really blowing for larger items.
The in-car entertainment, although very simple and outdated by today's standards, works well for a factory sound system with the only drawback being the sound quality not the greatest.
Will the interior itself is very simple and bland, it is functional and very Toyota, with everything in easy arm's reach. All seats are trimmed in leather, setting the interior apart from other Corolla models.
There is surprisingly enough room to fit four adults comfortably, albeit impacting the performance greatly. Boot space is generous with plenty of room for any shopping or bags for holidays with the bonus of fold-down seats for any larger items.
Leading on to the exterior, the Sportivo model retains the 10-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome muffler tip from the pre-facelift along with the updated front end. There's also the updated front lip and side skirts making the Sportivo model standout from the Ascent and Levin in the Corolla range.
Although it makes the Sportivo model standout, it doesn't look to be the sporty car described on paper. It's not until you look under the bonnet you see what the Sportivo really has to offer.
Under the bonnet you will find Toyota's 1.8 litre 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i engine. It doesn't look to be much different from the engines within the range but you'll notice the larger intake manifold and air intake. It's not all too much to look at, until you get behind the wheel.
Driving the Corolla around town is exactly like driving any other Corolla. It feels very zippy to get around and very light off the mark. You'll begin to notice the lack of torque around the 2500-4000rpm mark which isn't all too bad when going about your day. The six-speed manual gearbox feels direct and smooth between gear shifts with some occasional notchyness felt.
It's not until you rev the Sportivo out past 6000rpm, you really see what it has to offer. Revving the Sportivo will engage the lift system putting down the full 141kW shown on paper.
This is not only heard with the noticeable change in engine note, but it can also be felt as you definitely notice the Sportivo pull along down the road as the engine will scream easily over 8200rpm mark.
Although the engine needs to be revved more than your average Corolla, it still retains excellent fuel economy with average economy of 6L/100km highway and 8L/100km driving around town in traffic.
Despite the Corolla's rev-happy nature, the handling department really doesn't back it up. From looking at the Sportivo, you'll notice it's not lower to the ground by any means and if anything it may sit higher than the Levin and Ascent models due to the larger diameter 16-inch alloys.
The ride is comfortable around town and on the highway but, coming into some tighter and more driver-focused roads and you'll soon find that the Sportivo doesn't exactly handle the best, feeling very soft as it rolls through corners.
When new, the Corolla Sportivo was priced extremely well with prices starting from $27,000 onwards. A wide range of options were available from reverse parking sensors, GPS head unit along with performance additions from Toyota’s TRD department consisting of a cold air induction system, suspension upgrade, front strut bar, rear strut bar, and rear torsion beam upgrade.
Although the Corolla Sportivo may have its drawbacks, it’s still a hell of a fun a car to drive. Not only is it a fantastic daily driver with its excellent fuel economy, comfort and Toyota's reliability and affordability with parts, it's also a good car to have some fun with on the weekend. Hearing that engine scream from 6000 all the way to the 8200rpm redline is worth the price of admission alone.
If improvements could be made, the main focus should be on the handling department, making the Sportivo model lower, firmer and able to take more technical corners with ease.
Although the Corolla Sportivo has been discontinued since 2005, they’re still extremely popular today not only with the younger generation, but also the Corolla enthusiast.