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TOYOTA Corolla RXi

Potent 1600

TOYOTA Corolla RXiModel year: 2000
Odometre reading: 5000km
List Price: (Nov.2000) R151000

Engine:
1587ccm in-line 4 cylinder, DOHC-20 Valve engine
115kw @ 7800rpm
157Nm @ 5600rpm

When Honda released their crowd-wooing 8000rpm 1600ccm 16Valve engine, Toyota quickly followed in producing a 1600 engine that is out of this world. I haven't had a chance to test-drive a Honda yet, but the figures before me from the various automotive publications promise similar performance.

"So what's all the fuss about?", I hear you ask. Well, a 1600 4 cylinder engine has always been put to good use in small hatchback and sedan cars as a reliable, economical powerplant which doesn't exactly burn rubber, but delivers good performance for the money put down.
Honda and Toyota have both transformed the trusty 1600 into a fire-spitting leech from Hell which gives any impression BUT the one that it's a 1600 engine.
Both manufacturers have managed to churn 120kW (about 170 horsepower) out of an engine that usually delivers around 85kW (about 130hp).

But let's rather stick to the Toyota, which offers you 115kW of power in a car weighing just over a ton. This translates into seriously quick acceleration and an immensely illegal top speed. To be more specific, the RXi takes a mere 8 seconds to reach 100km/h from standstill, and only runs out of breath at an amazing 210km/h. Remember, we're talking about a Corolla here..!!!

Which is what makes it such an brilliant car: the Corolla is the best selling car in South Africa (has been for 10 years plus) and I've never driven a 'friendlier' car. By that I mean that the driving position, pedal movement and positioning, gearbox and shifter have all been honed to perfection. Get behind the wheel of any Corolla and within a minute the car has grown on you. The friendly Corolla is very, very easy to get used to, and does exactly what you tell it to do. No vague steering, no last-centimetre clutch bite, no initial accelerator dead spot. Now add a menacing engine to the above concept and you get a marvellous vehicle.

The RXi is not the car for Granma van Vuuren who's always had a Corolla, or for Accountant Bill who loves the ease of use or cheap maintenance of the vehicles. Rest assured, they'd both happily motor along (Gran would probably have trouble with the six gears, though) but this car would be an absolute waste on them. No doubt, Toyota is aiming straight for the younger market, the boy(or girl)-racers among us, the ones who inevitably end up with a picture of their numberplate in the postbox.

So there I was, waiting for the Dorp/Strand lights to turn green, the temperature needle just having reached its normal position. Green lights, engage first gear, ease away and perform the proverbial "Voet in die Hoek". Unfortunately, before my Voet even hit the Hoek, I had to change to second already. Oh, and I was doing 60.

On the open road I got a better chance to take the engine to its limit and experience the phenomenal 8000rpm redline. First gear, right foot planted and try not to hit the rev-limiter. 60km/h. Second gear, as above, change to third at 110km/h, ease her to 120km/h.

The engine is an absolute gem, pulling firmly to 5000rpm and morphing into a monster beyond that, the revs just climbing quicker and quicker towards 8000. Sixth gear is simply for cruising efforts, but if you're in sixth gear, you're not having fun.

It's an experience in itself to see 8000rpm registered on the tachometre, and so is the speed at which the needle reaches it. And that's the mind-blowing thing about an RXi, it performs better and better the higher the crank turns, at speeds that would have other cranks eating pistons and valvegear.

Stuck behind a lane-hogger on the N2 at 80km/h, it only takes a snick into third gear and full throttle to firmly press you into the leather seat and get you past the unwanted object in your path. If you ask me, this isn't a 1600 engine, or they've made a good job of hiding that turbo-charger, because performance like this doesn't come from anything below 2 litres.
In fact, the RXi will happily embarress cars with bigger engines and more cylinders.

The car feels solid, well assembled and the interior is also put together well. It's a Toyota, isn't that what you would expect? :-) The RXi comes with red-on-black dials in a carbon-fibre-look instrument cluster, a special centre console that houses the radio in the top of the dashboard, and a CD frontloader. The sound system comprises of four speakers and delivers lots of thump and good sound quality.
The ride feels a bit stiffer than a 160GL Corolla I drove, but it still rides very comfortably, even over that malicious Bird-street pedestrian crossing.

The RXi is marvellous to drive around town with, just like any Corolla would be, it can pull off in second gear and will even tolerate sixth gear 50km/h cruising in town. But let's not fool anybody, this car was made to go fast, and it does well at that. I've been told that 8000rpm in every gear but sixth is an absolute thrill, the car firmly pulling up to and beyond 200km/h in no time.

I do, however, plan to see tomorrow's sunrise, which is why I shall get back to the spine tingling, exilhirating world of websites.

For:
Amazing engine with phenominal revs
Driveability
Good brakes
Six gears are fun

Against:
It's "only" a Corolla
..and a pricey one at that
Speeding ticket magnet

Rivals:
Honda Civic V-Tec
Opel Astra Classic 2.0 16V CDX
Nissan Sentra 200STi

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