By KBB.com Editors
The original Toyota Corolla, a small rear-drive subcompact, arrived in the United States in the late 1960s; by the 1970s the second-generation version was the best-selling import in the country and new Corollas have followed every four or five years since. This stylish tenth-generation Corolla arrives for 2009 as slightly longer, lower and wider and with significant engineering improvements. The Corolla has grown over time, both in size and in features, with each generation being better than the one that went before, and the 2009 model certainly maintains that standard. But it's in a market segment with some very tough, excellent competition, from Japan, Korea and the United States, and smart buyers have lots of choices for their automotive dollars. As with many Toyota products, expected strengths of the Corolla should be long-term reliability, great fuel economy, a pleasant ownership experience and excellent resale value.
If your vehicular preference is for a modest but fuel-efficient and (presumably) reliable compact sedan from a trusted Japanese brand, this may be an excellent choice.
If you want efficiency and practicality combined with a touch more style and driving excitement, you may prefer a somewhat livelier competitor such as Honda's Civic, Nissan's Sentra, Chevrolet's Cobalt or Ford's new Focus. There are also less expensive compacts available, especially from Korean makers Hyundai and Kia.
This new Corolla sedan, available in five "grades" from base to sporty and the more powerful XRS, is a better-looking car than the plain-Jane previous generation. It's also quieter and slightly roomier, achieves better fuel economy with its standard 1.8-liter engine and offers better performance and handling in 2.4-liter XRS trim.
Driving Impressions We found the lesser Corolla models to be perfectly acceptable if not outstanding. Their performance is adequate with the five-speed manual, less so with the automatic. Their brakes are strong...and fade-free, their ride is good and their handling better than previous Corollas but not up to some of the best of the competition. We would prefer more feel than is transmitted through the electric power steering, and a higher level of interior materials. The top-of-the-line XRS has much more in the way of sporty looks, handling dynamics and get-up-and-go performance. With larger tires and wheels, structural enhancements and more tightly-tuned steering, it gets around corners more smartly without much sacrifice in ride and will accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in just less than nine seconds. It's sprightly, but not as quick as some of the higher-performing small cars, such as the Honda Civic Si or Chevrolet Cobalt SS.
Tilt/Telescopic Steering Wheel
This much-appreciated standard feature, rare in this class, helps drivers of all sizes find a comfortable position.
This better-looking, better-performing handling-oriented sport model is the highest-priced and least fuel-efficient Corolla but provides a substantial boost in driving enjoyment over the other four, including the semi-sporty S.
The inside objectives were perceived roominess and improved comfort. The added width provides more shoulder and hip room in front, and leg room is increased a half-inch in front and nearly an inch in back, though front head room is down a half-inch due to the lower roofline. Much emphasis was put on seat comfort for occupants of almost any height, and the steering column tilts and telescopes to optimize driver comfort. The instrument panel offers speedometer, tachometer, fuel and coolant-temperature gauges and an optional multi-information display that offers a clock, outside temperature, fuel economy, range, average speed and elapsed time.Exterior
The Corolla exterior designers' objectives were a lower, wider, sportier look to compete with Honda's Civic and others in this increasingly popular class, plus increased interior room and improved aerodynamic smoothness for enhanced fuel efficiency and interior quietness. Those objectives were met with a lower roofline with sleeker windshield and rear glass and careful attention to detail, especially at the corners. A trio of character lines run along the door handles to the rear fenders, from the hood to the front pillars and from the front bumpers to the front fender flares, while a low front air intake adds visual width below the Toyota signature mesh grille.
The base Corolla comes with 15-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, power steering, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 60/40-split folding rear seat, power mirrors, AM/FM/CD (XM satellite-ready) radio, outside temperature gauge, a driver's-seat height adjuster and driver and passenger front, seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags. The LE adds power windows, locks and color-keyed mirrors; the XLE 16-inch tires and wheels, variable intermittent wipers, a sliding center console with card holder, remote keyless entry and wood-grain trim; and the S has fog lamps, front and rear spoilers, sport seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. Only the XRS gets the 2.4-liter engine, rear disc brakes and standard cruise control.
The base Corolla's option list offers just cruise control, stability control, a six-disc CD changer and an All-Weather Guard Package (heavy-duty heater, rear heating duct and heated outside mirrors), while the LE adds available remote keyless entry (RKE) and larger tires on 16-inch alloy wheels. XLE buyers can specify JBL audio and navigation, and the S offers an available Power Package (power windows, locks and remote keyless entry) and leather-trimmed seats and shifter. The well-equipped XRS is available with the All-Weather and Power Packages, JBL audio, navigation and leather. All Corollas except the base model are available with the optional moonroof.
Four of the five 2009 Corolla models offer only the base 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine; it's great for reliability and economy, but, as would be expected, only so-so for performance. Driving through a choice of either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, it delivers an excellent 27 city, 35 highway and 30 combined EPA-rated miles per gallon. The larger, more powerful 2.4-liter four, with either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic, is available in only the sportiest, top-of-the-line Corolla XRS.
1.8-liter in-line 4
132 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
128 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/35
158 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
162 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 (manual), 22/30 (automatic)
By Sam on Saturday, July 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,600overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "attractive car, love my moon roof"
Cons: "Terrible ride, tire whine, MPG inconsistent"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This is my 3rd Corolla to own. I had a 2002 Corolla S, a wonderful, pretty car, 36 MPG on highway, without fail. I drove it for 160K miles with no major problems. Only expense was normal upkeep, buying tires, etc. Then I sell it and buy a 2010 Corolla S, same options, etc, used with 12K miles. The MPG goes up and down. I mostly get 23 MPG in city driving and about 30-31 on highway. The ride is the roughest I have ever had in a car, the steering was a huge adjustment, the interior is hardest surfaces imaginable, the undercarriage spoilers are constantly scraping a curb and it had the most annoying whine, like a wheel bearing burned out. Of course, techs could not hear it when I took to 2 different dealers. After replacing the standard tires, the sound is much less. End Conclusion: I should have kept my 2002 a lot longer and bought a Nissan when I needed a replacement. Toyota has lost out with their redesign of the Corolla."
By LC on Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great value for your money."
Cons: "Not exciting as a sports car, but not as expensive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"It starts first time every time, getting 33.4 mpg. Change oil and filter as recommended, will need a set of tires soon. No other expenses except gas."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By mick on Monday, July 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 89,499overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great value. Very reliable."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought this car new. It has been completely reliable. So nice to own a car that the only thing you have to do to it is regular oil changes and recommended maintenance."
By Likemycar on Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 84,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handy storage pockets every door/double glove box"
Cons: "Need better rear seat cupholders."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Car does what it promises - provides excellent safety features and drives/handles well on the road. A tight, well-built car. Owned for 5 years with very few minor maintenance problems. I do take care of the car and do recommended upkeep as scheduled."
By pkjones on Wednesday, July 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Quality interior, heavy body, latest technology"
Cons: "slow take off into traffic, 4 clylinder"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my new car, it gets great gas mileage and can fit 4 people comfortably, it has the latest technology that corresponds with my iPhone, I have never been happier than I am with my new Toyota."
5 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By djljejm on Tuesday, July 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "cool seat fabric"
Cons: "Soft brakes, slow acceleration"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I really like the type of seat fabric. Not a fuzzy cloth but not leather. What I don't like is that I thought this would be a zippier car but it's acceleration isn't that fast. It also pulls to the left when stopping, which I've read from other reviews that it's common to this car; I took it in for an alignment and it didn't need one but still drives this way. Another thing typical with this car is how the trunk cable keeps coming off and I have to push it back in to get it to close. When the trunk is open, after about 30 seconds all the locks automatically lock. Not cool if you happen to close the trunk and don't have any doors ajar, and your keys are in the trunk. I took it to Toyota thinking it needed repair, but it's a standard feature. I'm just lucky I haven't left my purse in the car while loading groceries. The brakes are "soft",which bothers me; I prefer tight, touchier brakes. If you don't mind these things and want a small car (I'm trading up to a larger one since my kids can't buckle the belts in the back without major fights) it's a good car."
3 people out of 8 found this review helpful