Home Travel Stories Gas Logs 1997 TOYOTA Corolla Plus 98 EFI MPG= 20.3 City/ 25.5 Hwy
1997 TOYOTA Corolla Plus 98 EFI MPG= 20.3 City/ 25.5 Hwy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 15:05

1997 TOYOTA Corolla Plus 98 EFI MPG= 20.3 City/ 25.5 Hwy


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown


Metric= 1.6 L engine- 12 L/100km City, 8.9 L/100km Hwy

This is the second 1997 Corolla profiled in our GAS LOGS. The other one is filed directly above this story. This particular Corolla is a 'Corolla Plus'. It may have been intended to suggest that it is something special to buyers. The "Plus' status seems to consist of the word 'Plus' painted on the back of the trunk lid and not much more than that to justify the name. The car is a spartan bare bones economy vehicle. The Plus featured in this log had none of the optionally available power door locks, power windows, electric sunroof, security system, cruise control, tachometer, dual airbags, fold down rear seats, air conditioning, tilt steering, overdrive switch on transmission selector, map lights, and power rear view mirror control.

The Plus does supply power steering, non overdrive automatic 3 speed transaxle, power brakes, driver front airbag, dual folding rear view mirrors with remote manual adjustment controls, digital clock, cup holder, remote gas tank and trunk releases, speedometer, gas gauge and temperature gauge.

At the time this Corolla Plus came out the Toyota Camry was reigning supreme as the new King of family cars. Back in the 1960s when that title was held by the Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet offered gradual steps down from the Impala in price and size. The next step down from an Impala was the very popular 'intermediate' Chevelle which rode on a smaller wheelbase. Most of the shorter length of the Chevelle was due to less trunk space which enabled it to nearly duplicate the interior room of the Impala. The ride and build quality were a few notches down the totem pole but not so much as to provoke displeasure. The next step down was the Chevy II (later named the Nova). The Chevy II was a noticeably rougher car than the Impala but just a few grades below the Chevelle.

Now 30 years later when the Toyota Camry displaced Impala as the number one sedan the descent from Camry to Corolla could reasonably be expected to mimic the gentle drop Chevrolet made from Impala to Chevelle back in the 1960s. The drop from Camry to Corolla is not a step down but rather equivalent to being dropped down the elevator shaft. While the Camry is smooth and well sealed the Corolla is rough, noisy and tinny. Where the interior of the Camry is comfortable and well appointed, the Corolla is tight and bare bones.

The biggest let down is in the engine department. The smaller engine in the Corolla is gutless without providing gas mileage to justify this. The Camry engine is larger and smoother and despite much more power it managed to wring out more MPG while hefting the larger Camry around and powering the extra amenities standard in a Camry. Besides punching a larger hole in the atmosphere, the Camry also hauls more weight. Granted, the OOCC Camry in these GAS LOGS was a 5 speed manual and the Corolla Plus was outfitted with a 3 speed automatic, but the contrast leaves the Corolla looking quite dismal.

The Corolla Plus was built at the Cambridge, Ontario, Canada factory in May, 1997. The car was sold new from a dealer named Toyota St-Eusttache located at 160 Rue Dubois, Saint-Eustache, Quebec which is slightly west of Montreal. The temperatures are freezing cold in winter. Massive amounts of metal eating salt is piled on the roads here. This Toyota didn't have visible rust although light penetrates a pinhole in the driver's side of the rear quarter panel and trunk floor seam.

The 1.6 L (98 c.i.) Electronic Fuel Injection engine doesn't have a big problem with oil leaks like the prior Corolla profiled in the GAS LOGS. This Corolla Plus has exceeded the average mileage for age, just shy of 170,000 miles. The odometer hasn't been checked on this car for accuracy but it shows every sign of having run all of those miles. The worn out driver's side windshield wiper arm has a spacer installed to increase tension needed to provide a non streaking wipe. The remote trunk release lever is snapped off from use, the passenger door lock drops down into lock position when bumps are encountered, the rear door locks are almost seized. The console lid is missing and the driver's seat back has 1 inch of loose play in it. The interior is dirty and worn out as are the original factory mats whose rubber is cracked and torn.

The title of the car states that it is a salvage vehicle. The trunk lid doesn't fit straight and there is a gap between the rear seat and the package shelf. The steering wheel is mounted one inch to the left of straight although the car does track straight and true. Presumably a result of whatever the accident the car was in there is a problem with the car fogging up ridiculously in any wet weather due to poor weather sealing.

Similarly to the 1986 Tercel profiled in the GAS LOGS, this car is unpleasant and harsh riding. Neither car produces decent enough MPG figures to justify the primitive grittiness of the driving experience. In its defense it must be noted that the car is reliable starting and stopping and turning which in the end is what a car needs to do. This car would be best compared to a VW bug from the 1960s rather than the Chevelle.



The EPA came up with 25 MPG City, 29 MPG Hwy and 27 MPG combined when they tested a 1997 Corolla with the 1.6 L base engine. The new EPA system translates to 22 City, 27 Hwy and 27 overall. 28.1 was the overall MPG average of two real life users who contributed data to the EPA site.

The optional 1.8 L engine came with a 4 speed automatic and got better MPG than its smaller cousin possibly due to a better match of power to weight or perhaps overdrive is the source. A 2004 Corolla profiled in these GAS LOGS ran the 1.8 coupled to 4 speed auto and had decent power and excellent mileage which bears out these theories. Of course, 7 years of technological advances built into that 2004 will also account for much improvement.

The Owner's Manual states that the 1997 Corolla rides on a 97 inch wheelbase and narrow track (front 57.5/ rear 57.1). The car is 172.0 inches long, 66.3 inches wide, and 53.4 inches high.

The base engine is 1,587 c.c. (96.8 c.i.) and the optional engine is 1,762 c.c. (107.5 c.i.). Tire sizes are either P175/65R14 or P185/65R14. Either way they are tiny. Recommended pressure is a mere 30 PSI.



The OOCC Corolla was driven in stop and go light traffic on a regular basis with no attempt made to economize. Weather was around 10 degrees C (40 degrees F) and rainy most of the time. The aftermarket stereo was on most of the time as were lights and windshield wipers and fan. This car wasn't well sealed necessitating frequent use of fan and rear defrost to keep the windows clear which drains some engine power. Tires were inflated to 35 PSI all around. Gas used was Husky or Chevron 87 octane. In keeping with the factory recommendation the car used thin 5W30 oil which theoretically should improve engine efficiency.

Trips were usually made with just the driver and the occasional passenger. Cargo of less than 50 pounds. 2,403 pounds curb weight plus an aftermarket trailer hitch means a starting curb weight of about 2,500 pounds. Adding one driver full time and a passenger one half time takes the load up to an overall average of 2,650 pounds. The Corolla Plus had an aftermarket large roof rack mounted creating noticeable wind noise over 40 MPH suggesting that it seriously affected the aerodynamics of the car at higher speeds. It is known that roof racks cut MPG on smaller vehicles more substantially than box shaped large SUVs which have already surrendered all gas mileage advantages right from the starting gate.

Kilometers Gal    Fill?   Octane         MPG

271,229   ?        X/     87 Oct        n.a.

271,232   5.7     Full/   87 Oct        n.a.

271,347   2.9     Full/   87 Oct        39.6 MPG -Hwy 40 degrees F (5 deg C)

271,454   2.6     Full/   87 Oct        25.5 MPG -Hwy 70 MPH

271,589   4.0     X/      87 Oct        n.a.

271,829   3.4     X/      87 Oct        n.a. (Empty)

271,970   2.6     X/      87 Oct        n.a. (Empty)

271,970   6.9     Full/   87 Oct         18.9 MPG -City driving

272,099   2.0     X/      87 Oct         n.a.

272,124   2.7     Full/   87 Oct         20.3 MPG -City driving

892 Kilometers (553 miles) used 27.1 gallons equals 20.4 MPG overall. This figure includes 200 km (160 miles) of highway miles inserted into the driving. Taking the figures from the first fill at 271,970 which was the first fill up made with no highway driving, the figure becomes 20.3 MPG City.

Much too quickly the 'Empty warning light' comes on. The 'E' light lit up at 271,829 km. Adding 13 liters (3.4 gallons) only lasted until 271,954 when it came on again. With no gas station in sight it was somewhat tense until the car made it till the next fill up at 271,970.

The 96 miles this Corolla traveled from E light to E light divided by 3.4 gallons equals a respectable 28.3 MPG city driving. The MPG figure is not accurate however because the gas tank holds a mere 50 L (13.2 gal= 11.0 Imperial gallons). With such a small tank you can see the fuel gauge needle drop while driving fairly short distances. The needle moves around in response to changes in car angle much more noticeably than cars with bigger tanks. The E light may have lit up sooner one time than the other simply due to the angle of the road the car was on. It will come on and off varying on the position the car is in. It also stands to reason that varying loads in the car will affect the car's angle relative to the ground more than in a larger car.



At a steady 70 MPH the Corolla posted a dismal 25.5 MPG. The Corolla ran standard sized tires at 35 PSI, carried all regular equipment and typical auto trans, 1.6 L engine. The road trip was made in 40 degree F cold, wet weather with one driver and cargo of about 50 pounds. 2,403 pounds curb weight plus an aftermarket trailer hitch sets the starting weight around 2,500 pounds. Adding driver and cargo takes weight to 2,650 pounds. No attempt was made to economize. The stereo was usually on along with windshield wipers, lights and fan which all create a drain on engine energy. Windows were rolled up. The aftermarket roof rack may have played an important role here since as speed increases so does wind resistance.

This Corolla didn't use engine oil but it wasn't a gas miser. Another issue of possible relevance was very low temperature gauge that never rises above 1/8th in the city and sits almost at the cold level, perhaps at the 1/16th level on the highway suggesting that the thermostat may be too 'cold' thus preventing thorough warm-up of the engine. The other 1997 Corolla profiled in these GAS LOGS usually had the temperature gauge sitting around the 1/3rd mark which is where the needle sits in a 1992 Camry profiled in these GAS LOGS. However, a 1999 Camry in these logs barely moved the temperature gauge needle off the cold mark. Perhaps some late 1990s Toyotas calibrate the temperature gauges 'low' or have a chronic thermostat issue.

At the end of the day the fact remains that the Corolla is an economy car in initial price and in reliability but not efficiency. It won't kill you on repairs but its is no gas mileage champion. The 2004 version of the Corolla profiled in these GAS LOGS achieved great improvement in mileage and although it, too is obviously a bare bones economy car it is better constructed for a superior ride and impression of quality.

Last Updated ( Monday, 27 April 2015 15:33 )