Shed of the Week: Toyota Corolla T-Sport

These days, operating on the spider principle, Shed no longer sleeps in the same room as Mrs Shed. Before the Challenger tank rumble of her snoring kicks in, Shed often hears two other noises coming from Mrs Shed's room. One is some sort of buzzing noise, the other is Mrs Shed shouting. As the frequency of the buzz increases, so does the shouting. Shed has always assumed this is her expressing her frustration at not being able to tune into Radio Luxembourg on her Grundig radio.

This nightly crescendo reminds Shed of a time when you really had to rev a car to get the best out of it. Today, even a 1.0 litre produces roughly the same amount of torque as a Massey-Ferguson, and making good progress is in no way conditional on venturing into the dark zone above 3000rpm.

But it wasn't like that back in 2004, when this week's Shed was built. Depending on how interested you are in cars, the word Corolla will either conjure up a vision of perfect tedium or, more excitingly, of Carlos Sainz hurling his crash helmet through the back window of his MoviStar WRC Corolla that had caught fire half a kilometer short of the winning line in Margam Park, robbing him of the 1998 WRC title.

The disconnect between Toyota's competition and showroom Corollas was never greater than it was back then. Sainz's 4WD rally weapon had 300bhp and 500Nm, making it nearly three times pokier than the most powerful Corolla you could buy in Britain at the time, the 109bhp 1.6. If that was too thrilling, you could calm things way the hell down by opting for an 85bhp 1.3 or a 71bhp 2.0 diesel.

That gap between road and race was closed somewhat when the new shape ninth-gen Corolla - or the T-Sport you see here, anyway - arrived in the early 2000s. The T's 1.8-litre 16-valve VVTi engine was great at pushing the 860kg Lotus Elise along, but it made heavier weather of the 1210kg Corolla.

On paper, the low-eight second 0-60 time and 140mph top speed stacked up. Unfortunately, nobody was driving on paper. The motor span up to 8000rpm, which was just as well because the peak power of 189hp didn't arrive until a bonkers 7800rpm. Waiting for the tacho needle to crawl round there demanded a degree of patience that, without wishing to stereotype, was often out of kilter with the personality of your typical hot hatch driver.

In 2005, Toyota had a brainwave. They could fill in the T-Sport's low- and midrange power void and dodge tougher Euro4 emissions regs at the same time by adding a supercharger. Thus was born the T-Sport Compressor. The killing two birds with one stone idea was good, the result less so. Somehow the Compressor's engine turned out to be even peakier than the T-Sport's, its 215bhp peak power figure coming at a dog-whistle 8200rpm, a full 4000rpm after the blower had uncorked peak torque. Odd.

So, although potential T-Sport buyers of today don't get the Compressor's 15mm lower (and stiffer) springs, or its blower whine, nor do they get its misprint dyno graph. They also benefit from considerably lower prices and, given that there are fewer than 140 Compressors left on UK roads, much greater availability.

This particular T-Sport doesn't seem to have had much in the way of tender loving care lavished on it. It passed the MOT last July with advisories on cut and worn front tyres, imbalanced front brakes and a cracked front number plate. Shed may be wrong, as ever, but there are no obvious signs from the pics that any of those areas have been addressed, so the next owner might need to spend a bit of cash. Not that much, thankfully, as it's only a lickle car with 16in wheels.

A full set of 195/55 Toyo Proxes will be £280 or so fitted, plus let's say £150 for some brake work. Add that to the £999 asking price and you're creeping up towards the right sort of money for a T-Sport of this age and mileage. You'll still have some cosmetic work to do, clearly, but then again any other T-Sport you buy at the 'correct' money is also likely to need money spending on it.

In the end it might come down to your interest in the colour, which Shed thinks is dark blue mica pearl and which should respond very nicely to a machine polish, and in keeping another T-Sport on the road. Now that we're in the era of the £25k Corolla, a price that sounds wrong on many levels - and that's before a performance version comes out - a £1k Corolla combining performance (ish) and practicality doesn't sound so bad.

Here's the ad

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (92) Join the discussion on the forum

  • soad 05 Apr 2019

    Hmm, the actual ad hardly states anything.

    Amusing Mr and Mrs Shed "story" as always. And that short WRC clip was alright too. biggrin

  • Cambs_Stuart 05 Apr 2019

    I've got one of these on my watch list as I'm after a decent low cost runabout. It looks like a cheap way of getting a reasonably reliable warm-ish hatch.
    Sightly put off by the reviews say they need some modifications to make them handle, that the gearbox action is poor (which is a shame when you have to work it to get to the power), and that they're surprisingly thirsty.

    Edited by Cambs_Stuart on Friday 5th April 06:27

  • Welshbeef 05 Apr 2019

    I test drive one of the (non compresspr) at the time and I thought the carpet was holding up the throttle it’s was nothin nothing nothing nothing here we go change up

    You couldn’t drive it in the power zone in anything but 1st and 2nd within the U.K. speed limits. As such it felt really really slow

  • sgtBerbatov 05 Apr 2019

    A 1.3 Corolla is a nippy little thing, especially on semi-racing/street-racing tyres, and oddly fun to drive too.

  • soad 05 Apr 2019

    Probably quite dull to drive? Especially if unable to rev it properly in and around the city streets - far too many traffic lights/cameras/jams/roadworks. scratchchin

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