By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 2/21/2011
The Toyota Corolla is one of the best known and best loved cars in America. It's not a stellar beauty, nor is it lightening fast; it doesn't even have a third-row seat or all-wheel drive. What the Corolla does have collectively is millions of trouble-free miles, millions more loyal fans and a resale record that has the competition green with envy. Not wanting to mess with success, the 2011 Corolla arrives with some minor cosmetic changes and more standard equipment. Still, the small-car market has heated up dramatically since the Corolla first appeared, and it – along with long-time rival the Honda Civic – must now do battle with newer, sleeker and better-equipped cars such as the new Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze and Kia Forte. Along with its new styling, the Corolla will rely on its time-tested strengths, a formula that combines great fuel economy, a pleasant ownership experience and a no-nonsense design.
If you're looking for a car that is as modest in appearance and performance as it is affordable, the 2011 Toyota Corolla will probably fit nicely into your life (and your garage).
If you don't think a small price tag should mean a small road presence, you'll find alternatives, such as the new Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra, that offer much more modern designs both inside and out as well as cutting edge audio, suspension and drivetrain technology.
For 2011, the Corolla receives new front and rear fascias, an upgraded interior, standard Smart Stop technology (a brake-override system) and the Toyota Care Complimentary Maintenance Program as standard. The XLE and XRS trims have been dropped.
Of the three trims, we found driving the S model to be the most enjoyable. With its larger tire and wheel package and available manual transmission, the S just feels more fun. We found that all the Corolla models feature a good ride and competent handling, with brakes that are strong and fade resistant, although we would prefer more feel than is transmitted through the electric power steering and more horsepower under the hood. The bottom line is this: The Corolla is a good, solid commuter car geared toward those whose automotive choices are made with a more pragmatic viewpoint. Those who demand more from their ride than just solid transportation, however, will likely find more to like from the Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic Si or VW Golf.Favorite Features
Tilt/Telescopic Steering Wheel
This much-appreciated standard feature, rare in this class, helps drivers of all sizes find a comfortable position.
USB iPod Input
Optional on the LE and S, this feature allows for control of your iPod via the car's steering-wheel controls.
The 2011 Toyota Corolla features a spacious and comfortable cabin that belies its compact car status. Though the rear seat is still a bit tight for the long legged, hip and shoulder room is impressive. The lowered roof line, however, somewhat cuts into head room, especially for those sitting in the rear seat. Attention to interior details includes new gauges with easier-to-read fonts, more color-contrasting materials on the doors and seats and a sporty new steering wheel on S trims. The instrument panel offers speedometer, tachometer, fuel and coolant-temperature gauges and an optional multi-information display that includes a clock, outside temperature, fuel economy, range, average speed and elapsed time. Storage bins and cup holders abound, and the glove box features a split upper and lower bin design. Cargo volume in the trunk is a generous 12.3 cubic feet, but can be expanded thanks to the 60/40-split folding rear seat.
For a Corolla, the new exterior is really quite edgy. Looking somewhat like a miniature Camry with Scion-inspired front and rear styling, the four-door 2011 Corolla is sporty and sleek, but still a bit stale when viewed from the side. 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 bumper to the front fender flares, while a low front-air intake adds visual width below the Toyota signature grille. The entire package is designed not only to look good, but reduce exterior drag, thus helping to quiet the interior and improve fuel economy. Those seeking the most extreme Corolla will likely be drawn to the S model, which features front and rear spoilers and rocker moldings.
The base 2011 Toyota 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, traction and stability controls and driver and passenger front, seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags. The LE adds an automatic transmission, MP3-compatible CD player, power windows and locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry and color-keyed heated side mirrors. The S has fog lamps, front and rear spoilers, sport seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
The base Corolla offers no options this year, so if you want power windows and cruise control, you'll just have to move up to the LE trim. Individual options for the S are limited to a power glass moonroof and an audio package that adds a USB port with iPod connectivity and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and music streaming. The LE can be equipped with the Premium Package, which combines the power moonroof and upgraded audio option with 16-inch five-spoke wheels and fog lamps.
With the loss the XRS trim, there is only one engine offered on the 2011 Corolla: A 1.8-liter four-cylinder good for 132 horsepower. This engine is great for reliability and fuel economy but, as would be expected, is only so-so for performance. Driving through a choice of either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission, it delivers an excellent 26 city, 34 highway and 30 combined EPA-rated miles per gallon (automatic model).
1.8-liter in-line 4
132 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
128 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/35 (manual), 26/34 (automatic)
The 2011 Toyota Corolla starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of just over $16,300, and the Fair Purchase Price, which represent what people in your area are paying for their Corolla, should hold very close to MSRP. An automatic transmission adds about $800 to the Corolla's base price. At nearly $17,000, the Chevrolet Cruze is a bit pricier, but the Kia Forte is nearly $800 less than the base Corolla. The S trim starts just over $18,000. On the resale side, the Corolla should hold an above-average value after five years, similar to the Honda Civic but substantially better than the Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan Sentra.