If it weren’t for the all-new accord that arrived at the same time as this Corolla SR-5 Liftback, it would have likely made a bigger impression. It was another well thought-out extension of the increasingly popular Corolla line, offering up a body style that was really best described as a shooting brake, given its low headroom and quite modest back seat.
Having had a bit of seat time in one of these as well as an early Accord, the Honda’s packaging was drastically better. As R&T pointed out: if you were 6′ or under, it was reasonably comfortable. I’m not. It was like riding in a…Volvo 1800ES sportswagon. Cramped, but all the solid and proven Corolla elements were there, along with the slickest-shifting 5 speed in the world at the time and pretty decent handling.
My brother in law picked up a used yellow one of these, the color some 80% seemed to be. He had it seemingly forever, as he kept it as a DD because he didn’t want to put too much wear on the newer Jetta he also had. he was anal about washing it, and it looked like new by the time it was almost 15 years old. Of course this was in the Bay Area, where rust wasn’t an issue.
There’s still one or two of these around here, although I haven’t run into one lately. I’m a big fan of RWD Corollas of this vintage and the next generation, but I’ll pass on the chop-top Liftback, thank you. Make mine a two-door sedan or wagon.
R&T noted that Toyota was increasingly tailoring their cars for the American market, and it showed in a number of ways including softening the SR-5 suspension. It didn’t hurt handling; it actually improved it somewhat. Toyota’s efforts to please Americans was just getting underway, and the rest is history.