Toyota Corolla T Sport | Shed of the Week

Toyota has now made 50 million Corolla since 1966; not many of those have revved beyond 8,000rpm…

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, August 27, 2021 / Loading comments

As some of you noticed last week, Shed is too mean to pay for damage checks on cars he buys, sells, or writes about. He passionately believes that information on the crash damage status of a car should be freely available in the public domain, just as MOT test information is. Or, to put it another way, he’s too stingy to pay for data.

To be fair, he has always preferred to go off gut instinct, not just when buying villagers’ cars without a shred of service history but also when it comes to fixing any problems. More often than not, this approach serves him well, but sometimes even Shed is stumped.

One of Shed’s oldest pals is a wizened old druid who, like Shed, dabbles in used motors. An odd sounding combination, but then again, not all druids have the ability to teleport or possess a bus pass. One mystical piece of problem-fixing advice this ancient beardy gave Shed to help him deal with especially difficult cars was to remove his underpants, attach them to a hazel twig and twirl them vigorously above the engine bay, ten times clockwise followed by ten times anti-clockwise. Shed tried the technique on a stubborn Allegro he was helping the postmistress to get rid of. It didn’t fix the car, but the underpant-twirling led to a day that wasn’t a total loss for Shed.

When Toyota launched its gen-nine Corollas in 2000, mending them wasn’t high on the agenda. Not because they had a cavalier attitude towards their customers but because the Corolla had by then acquired a thick reputational shell for reliability. The Corolla 1.8 VVTL-i T Sport’s name was so long Toyota didn’t bother representing it in badge form. Instead, they settled for gluing the Toyota Sport badge to one side of the tailgate and writing their company name in red on the other.

The 2ZZ-GE engine was the same one that Lotus used to good effect in their 860kg Elise. The Corolla was around 350kg heavier than that, but if you used the engine in the correct manner, it would deliver a 0-60 time in the low eights and a 140mph top end. That was a big ‘if’, though. The 189hp maximum didn’t arrive until 7,800rpm, which was just 200rpm off the redline. Although the maximum torque did come along 1,000rpm earlier, it was hardly worth waiting for at 133lb ft. To keep the T Sport moving, you really had to row it along on the variable valve timing plateau above 6,200rpm, using a gearbox that wasn’t massively satisfying with a less than precise shift and long top ratios. A short shifter kit fixed half of that. Combine it with a mild suspension drop and the aforementioned driving style and you had a EP3 Type R worrier on your hands.

The pre-facelift T Sport’s conventionally unlowered suspension and barely touched interior did make you wonder who the car was aimed at. The 2005 facelifts with firmer suspension and strut braces as standard were noticeably better to drive than pre-facelifters like our 2003 car, their VSC stability control systems being less inclined to go off in corners than on PFL cars.

Officially, the supercharged TTE Compressor model was launched in that same facelift year of 2005 to get the 2ZZ-GE through the Euro 4 emissions regs, rather than to enhance its sporting credentials. You got a 35hp hike in power but an even longer wait for maximum power at 8,200rpm – 4,000rpm after the torque peak.

Shed has no doubt that this T Sport will drive well, or as well as any 150,000-mile car might anyway, and probably better than most carrying that sort of mileage. These Corollas are tough little blighters. Externally, despite the Corolla’s reputation for thin paint, the sheet metal appears to be in excellent nick. The MOT advisories have been limited to normal wear and tear on the brakes and tyres. A non-excessive oil leak was picked up in last February’s test, but MOT testers are obliged to make a note of the sort of things that the vast majority of owners wouldn’t give a twopenny hoot about.

If you fancy a taste of the high-rpm lifestyle and have given up on the idea of finding an affordable and unthrashed EP3, a T Sport might tick your box. Your options are diminishing fast, though: the TTE Compressor was only on sale for a year, so it was never a common sight, but the number of Comps registered on British roads has gone down from over 130 a little over two years ago, to fewer than 90 today. The T Sport was more numerous but if they follow the same rate of attrition, they won’t be around much longer. Get yours while they’re not not here.

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