Everyone has a Toyota Corolla story. It's either they possess (or have possessed) the compact sedan, or knows someone who did. And who can forget the fleet of Corolla taxis that used to be everywhere?
After all, the Corolla was Toyota's best-seller before it grew in size and price. That was also before the Vios took its place as a car with so many varieties, from a bare-bones car for fleets and taxis, to a feature-laden one for everyone else.
The eighth-generation "E110" Corolla sold here from 1998 to 2005 was once a car for everyone. The base XL trim had steel wheels and manual crank windows. Above the XL was the XE, which featured alloys and power windows.
After the XE, the GLi was offered, which wore body-colored door handles and airbags.
Around 1999, the 1.8 SEG Corolla Altis was introduced, which was positioned as the "luxurious" variety. It had leather seats and six speakers, and extended bumpers, rear parking sensors, and a different rear light design outside.
This Corolla was also marketed with Toyota's tagline back then, “I Love What You Do For Me,” which resulted in the model being nicknamed "love life." It also earned the moniker "Baby Altis," being the first Corolla to bear the name.
In the used market, the decent E110 Corolla examples go from P150,000 to P200,000, quite considerable for a 20-plus-year-old small car. So, why is still there love for the baby Altis?
Well, true to being a Toyota, the E110 is bulletproof. The car couldn't have been a best-seller and used as a taxi otherwise. Taxi or private owned, you'd still see one kicking around after all these years, a reflection of its reliability.
Under the hood of the XL and XE is a carbureted 1.3-liter, which is paired to a five-speed manual only. The GLi had a 1.6-liter fuel-injected unit which made 110hp, and can be paired to a four-speed auto in place of the standard manual.
The Corolla Altis was powered by a 1.8-liter mill that generated 116hp and 154Nm of torque. A four-speed auto was the only transmission choice.
Aside from being reliable, the Corolla Altis' running gear was also easy to maintain. The neighborhood talyer or the casa can perform routine maintenance and repairs. Parts are also easy to come by.
Another reason for its desirability is its potential for modification. If you browse through the classifieds, or look through photos of pre-pandemic motor shows, you'd see a lowered "love life," wearing snazzy wheels and the like. The aftermarket parts bin for this car is probably as expansive as the original kit.
Speaking of modified E110 Corollas, did you know that a TOM'S Corolla Turbo was sold in 1999? The model is basically a regular model which can be optioned with goodies from TOM'S Japan, a tuning firm that modifies Toyotas.
Poised as a rival to the Honda Civic SIR, the TOM'S Corolla packed a body kit and a tall rear wing. The car's performance enhancements included a turbo, intercooler, and a sports muffler. All of which contributed to the car's estimated 150hp.
Only a handful of those E110 Corolla cars were said to be sold. Race car versions of the car were probably seen more often, as they raced alongside other compact cars in the now-defunct Subic International Raceway in the '90s.
Today, the Vios has its own race series in Clark International Speedway. Didn't we say the 'Baby Altis' Corolla was just like the Vios of today?
Photos from Toyota