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 Lily on Tuesday, March 31, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,975overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, fun to drive"
Cons: "interior could use a little work in their material"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"It is a decent car, especially for someone who is starting out to drive. Its a fun car to drive! Exterior is good looking and I love the sporty look and the body kit in the front and the rear deck spoiler. All in all the car was a good buy just wish the inside had better materials such as the dash and seats. The interior looks a little cheap and plastic looking. But other than that comfortable to drive and a good size trunk."
By Court on Saturday, March 28, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 180,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price, reliable, no mechanical problems"
Cons: "plain interior, not much "zoom zoom""
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Hi! I own a 2009 Toyota Corolla LE. I purchased it in the summer of 2008, my first brand new car! I wanted something sportier, however I needed something affordable, reliable with good gas mileage, so I bought the Corolla. Nothing fancy here, however Petunia has treated me very well over the past 7 years, I have a long commute to work, so I have racked up many miles (180,000), I have never had a problem with my car's functions. I have been very diligent regarding maintenance of Petunia as well. I chose the light beige interior, which was the standard, it is not very attractive like the black interior, and it shows dirt and stains easily. There is really no "get up and go" with Petunia, she takes her time when the light turns green, this can be frustrating, but then again I knew she wasn't a particularly sporty car. She has reliably taken me from point A to point B for 7 years and I am very grateful for her! I am dreaming of purchasing a new vehicle soon, I have my eyes on the Hyundai Elantra, purely for the body design…who knows? :) No matter what, Petunia is a dear to me and has transported me faithfully through the ups and downs of my life over the past 7 years. All in all, I recommend this vehicle…after all, it is a Toyota! :)"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Natnat on Thursday, March 19, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've owned this car since 2008 when it was brand new. A friend and my niece were Corolla owners and they raved about theirs. This is the most reliable, trouble free car I've ever owned. I have the bright blue color and at the time of purchase, there weren't many of that color on the road. That sure has changed. The seats are comfortable and because of the fold down back seats cargo room is generous. The only complaint is that the shape of the back doors prohibit putting items in the back seats that would fit in there otherwise. I will always go for a Toyota. Hopefully a Camry next time."
By Snickers Eater on Monday, March 02, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 83,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "It has been fun as I enjoy driving a manual trans"
Cons: "The car is a little small for long trips."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This Corolla has been very dependable. I have not had any problems with it at all. I went with a 5 speed as previously I had a 2002 Rav4 which had computer problems that affected the transmission. So with a manual, I believe this eliminates the computer and transmission problem. The miles per gallon has been really satisfying especially if you can drive 60 mph or less. I have traveled to Chicago, about 180 miles, drove 60-65 mph and the estimated mpg was 43. It has the Sport package with lower front and rear bumpers which make it look very nice. It has a blue tooth option for the phone which makes it legal to talk and drive. A few drawbacks are the ride is like a small car because it is but it is not really terrible. The clock is in the sequence with the mpg est, range for fuel, engine run time, o/s temp, so you have to scroll through all these to just get to the time and only the driver can see it. Over all it has been a great car. Gas tank is only 12 gals so it does not break the bank when you fill up and range is almost always close to 400 miles per tank unless you only drive around town in the winter. RPMs are at about 3000 at 70 mph. This might be a little higher than the automatic. I assume this is so the engine will have enough power if driving on interstates in the mountains. Going up the hills an automatic will shift down a gear if needed but a manual will need enough power to go up the hill without shifting if the driver does not downshift. But I have never experienced any problems with this car when driving in mountains. It seems to be geared very well for the 4 cylinder that comes in a Corolla."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By KB on Friday, February 27, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great car"
Cons: "everything you'll ever need in a car"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"serviced for oil change tire rotation and check up twice a year from the dealer purchased from, Dealer installed remote start and undercoating."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By SCQTT on Tuesday, February 24, 2015
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Traded for newer version
Pros: "Cheap to own & operate. Practical, & reliable"
Cons: "Possible finish issues, stereo glitches"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I did nothing but change the oil and rotate the tires in the 60K miles I owned this car. It delivered good gas mileage (hand calculated)even if the computer was a little optimistic. Mid 30's were normal on road trips with the car dipping down to 30 or so in town. I once got 41mpg on a 200 mile run on the Natchez Trace Parkway between Tupelo & Nashville. (no stopping, steady 50mph, no wind, no air conditioning) The car did have two little problems. When the car was brand new I could see rust forming behind the chrome plastic trim on the trunk. I assume one of the clips that hold the trim had not been properly coated. After two salty Ohio winters this caused rust to form UNDER the paint in the area. any rust in two years is unacceptable. The stereo started acting wonky. the funny thing is it seems like the simplest part. From time to time I would hear a loud buzzing while listening to FM. Sometimes the radio would cut off after the buzzing and would not recover until I turned off the car. The car did get lots of paint chips in 60K, but I am sure it is mostly due to the water based paint. The car had great resale value (perfectly in line with KBB) and I was not upside down even with 60K miles. I did not put down a down payment because I qualified for 0% I would have kept this car, but the incentives for the newer version were just to great to pass up & I am sure I was getting close to needing wear items like brakes & tires (yes, even the OE tires went for 60K)"
2 people out of 4 found this review helpful