2005 Toyota Corolla CE before
Click image to enlarge

By Kelly Taylor
Photos by Mike Aporius, Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg, Manitoba – Can grandma’s grocery-getter be cool? Yes, if grandma can drive a stick and has the budget for enough Toyota Racing Development Parts to produce the first supercharged 2005 Corolla in North America.

At least, that’s what the Winnipeg Free Press hopes to prove with its second tuner project. It comes hot on the heels of our first, a 1988 Toyota Corolla SR5 that got a new engine and transaxle, new clutch, lowering springs, new brakes and new paint and bodywork before it was given away in November to a lucky Winnipeg driver.

But this time, we’re not starting with a 16-year-old coupe that’s seen better days. We’re starting with a brand-new 2005 Toyota Corolla CE. Complete with five-speed, it’s as basic as the Corolla gets, with a list price of $15,490.

As economy cars go, Toyota has nailed the Corolla. It may not have the spirited handling of a car like the Mazda3, but it’s quiet, handles well, has a perky engine even in base form and is comfortable to drive. And we’ve got a shopping list and Toyota’s credit card to go romping through the TRD store in search of parts to lower it, blower it, firm up the suspension and trick out the body.

Here’s what we have in our cart so far:

  • Supercharger and installation kit

  • Lowering springs
  • Front strut-tower brace
  • Body kit and door sill bling
  • Rear spoiler
  • Borla cat-back exhaust
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Sport pedals

Retail price on the parts is approximately $10,000, while installation costs are an additional $1,158.

2005 Toyota Corolla CE before
Click image to enlarge

The car and parts are coming from Toyota Canada, while the Free Press and Winnipeg-area Toyota dealers will install the performance and cosmetic upgrades to transform the conservative economy car into something slick, trick and sick.

Frontier Toyota, Sunshine Toyota, Woodhaven Toyota and McPhillips Toyota have all agreed to help with installation. We’re also going to partner with a local automotive audio company to kick up the sound system, and we’re working on custom paint and graphics as well.

Here’s the best part: you can own it!

After it’s toured the sport compact and audio shows, and we’ve written our last feature on the car’s progress, we’re going to auction it off and donate the entire proceeds to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Winnipeg.

In addition to the charity benefit, Toyota wants to demonstrate that the Corolla is a viable platform for sport-compact tuners.

Of course, the beauty of starting with this car is that the refinement is factory-supplied. In stock form, the Corolla may not be the most exciting small car on the market, but few others can touch it for reliability and refinement.

And while we’re starting with a base Corolla and adding TRD parts, Toyota will also gladly sell you a Corolla XRS. That comes “kicked up” right out of the box, with a slightly detuned version of the 1.8-litre engine from the Celica GT-S.

2005 Toyota Corolla CE before
Click image to enlarge

Our base 2005 Corolla CE comes with a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 130 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque, and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. With our supercharger installed, horsepower should rise to 166 at 6,800 rpm and with a nice torque boost to 145 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. That brings 18 lb-ft more than the Corolla XRS, which has a torque rating of 127 at 4,200 rpm and 170 hp at 7,600 rpm. Since it’s torque that provides launch, and since the power and torque both arrive earlier in the supercharged version, our modded Corolla is expected to have a faster 0-100 km/hr rating than the XRS.

2005 Toyota Corolla CE before
Click image to enlarge

The base suspension is a Macpherson gas strut and coil-spring arrangement up front with a torsion beam and coil-spring suspension out back. Front and rear are both equipped with stabilizer bars. Our mods here will lower the car and add the front strut tower brace normally found only on the XRS model. This will increase structural rigidity up front to aid handling. Of course, the XRS has four-wheel disc brakes and a bunch of accessories the base model doesn’t.

We’re also planning cosmetic and audio improvements that we’ll talk more about as the work progresses. Watch Dev.autos.ca in the coming months as work progresses on our car, and then see how it could be yours.

Read Part Two of this series
Read Part Three of this series
Read Part Four of this series

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