Corolla 121 can be introduced as one of the most popular cars in TYPICAL SRI LANKAN vehicle market. Even being aged closed to 20 years they still sell around 3 million.
So still most buyers are interested about this car, and I planned to share my 7 years of experience in this blog. I used a 2000 manufactured G Grade one which has a 1500cc engine.
What it really is?
Just a compact car designed for A to B transportation with good fuel economy and realiability.
So I’m going to start from how it is like to drive. When compared to the other cars in the same category the acceleration is really good for a 1.5L motor. The car is comparatively lighter than the 110 and Axio, so for me I’m yet to experience a better acceleration from a newer car with the same engine. It has good kick down acceleration due to 4 speed automatic transmission. For me the engine performance is better than the Civic ES5(1.5l), Mazda Axela 2004-2009, Lancer CS series and Nissan Tiida.
Handling is a bit sharper than the newer Axios,Allions and Premios, but not sharp as a Honda or a Mazda. Steering is really light with a very little amount of feedback from the road. Due to the rear torsion beam setup the car is not steady in corners when compared to the older 110 and Carinas(which has independent rear suspension). But it is comparatively better in corners than the Axio.Braking is ok. Neither great nor bad. When it comes to handling Hondas and Mazdas are better.
On the highways the car is steady for speeds around 100-120. After 120 there was a slight vibration(due to the resonance of the engine) but when you accelerate further around 140 the vibration goes away. There is a noticable change in stability after 140 as you can feel the car is well planted than before. You can go all the way upto 180 without any issue ONLY IF YOUR CAR IS IN PERFECT CONDITION(TIRES, ALIGNMENT,BRAKES AND SUSPENSION). I’ve tested twice and really impressed.
For day to day driving around the town the car is good due to reduced length and good ground clearance. Ground clearance is really good when compared to other cars from the same class and even with never Fit,Grace and Prius. The light steering really helps for easy manouvering.
Visibility is okay, but sometimes the thick front A pillars are a bit disturbing. Also there is a problem about visibility when the dashboards is reflected from the windscreen during direct sunlight.
Driving position is pretty higher like most other Toyotas and not sporty at all. Feels like you are sitting on a chair.
When I bought the car it was running on its original shock absorbers. But in 2015 I changed them using Japan made KYB Excel G and it reduced the the comfort level by a considerable amount. But the car is more comfortable than Mazda Axela, Honda Fit GP1 and GP5, Civic FD3, Honda Grace and Vezel, Toyota Aqua. I can really handle potholes well, but bumps can make the car wavy due to the rear torsion beam setup.
The refinement levels are really good when compared to the above mentioned set of cars and it is another field that the 121 really excels. Under lightfooted driving the engine noise can’t be heard, and road noise levels are much lower. After long journeys I felt less tired than the Gp5 and Gp1.
Seats are really comfortable and are a bit firmer than 110,FB15 N16s, but not firm as the Allion Premio 260 2007-2012 F grade and Hondas and Mazdas. One thing that I noticed was the rear seat thigh support is better than the Premios and Allions. Seat space is okay of you are under 6ft. Front seats feel a bit cramped due to the dashboard design beacause I’m 6ft. I always felt that Front seats are less spacious for me when compared to the other cars, even the GP1 is better.
Another area that this car excels. Based on my personal experienced around the town it does only about 9-10 kmpl with full time ac on 92 octane(because I live in a really hilly area). For trips like Colombo to Kandy it car return around 14-15kmpl with full time AC. It returned well over 18kmpl when travelled through highway to matara and longer trips with less traffic with 3-4 adults on borad. Also note that driving pattern hugely affects the economy level. Slow driving will never return good fuel figures. Maintaining a speed level around 70-80 will return really good fuel figures. After the first few months I never calculated fuel figures since it is much less expensive to run.
This is the car which made me a Toyota fan. It never broke down. Never even had to touch the spare tire. I had done 60,000km (93,000km to 153,000km). I only had to do the running repairs and replacements. Did the tuneups and changed the ATF fluid once for every 40,000km. Used only Toyota oils.Did the services on time and never let the “makabasses” touch the car. Changed the AC cooler. Changed one hub razor. Only the running repairs. But remember that most of the cars up for sale have been through much abuse and therefore don’t expect the same level of reliability from every car. Make sure to set aside about Rs.100,000 for the repairs when you are buying a car. Also note that some cars have manufacturing defects, eventhough the car model is proven reliable. I know a guy who sold his 2010 personally imported Allion after doing 60,000kms due to excessive repairs. That depends on your luck.
Has a good amount of options considering it’s age. Always go for a G, G limited or a Luxel grade if you buy one. I will do another entry explaining about all the grades and options.
Interior is really good with soft touch materials on the dashboard and upper doors. All trim pieces are solidly fixed so I never experienced any “creeks”. Interior material quality is better than the 141 Axio and 2nd and 3rd gen Prius. Good when compared with the cars of the same category.
Notable Faults with the car
-The steering rack is issue is famous with these Toyotas. It gives no problem except for the “duk duk” noise when travelling on bad roads. I repaired it but again after 3-4 months the noise came. Best thing is to replace it with a good reconditioned part.
-As mentioned before the dashboard’s reflection on the windscreen reduces the visibility during direct sunlight(only when the sunlight falls directly on the dash)
-The center console has a small compartment, just over the ash tray and the lid of it was broken from the begining and in most 121’s I’ve seen it broken.
-Discoloration of the headlights is pretty fast due to the shape of the headlights
The car was sold over a month ago keeping me a 150,000 profit even after 7 years of usage. Remember that if the price is right you can easily sell it. I was quoting a really high price earlier and got a chance to sell it keeping 275,000 profit. But at that time I had no car to move on so gave up the idea(3 months ago). I advertised the car on a not-that-much-famous site on internet and next day morning two boys came for inspection and in the evening gave the advance. He still calls me due to satisfaction.😃
Really I loved the car throughout it’s stay with me for 7 years. Really a good car which is suited well for the Sri Lankan conditions and Typical Sri Lankan car buyer’s requirements. Make sure to look after the car well and it returns you with good reliability. Always use japanese parts and good mechanics for the repairs.
Hope to do another entry to this blog about the Grades available in 121. This review is based purely on my experience and some details might differ from car to car. Please inform me if there is something inappropriate or wrong and welcome for all comments. I triend my best to provide and unbiased review.Thank you for reading👍