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2009 Toyota Corolla Review – The unrecognized middle-class champion of the world

Monday December 8th, 2008 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: Derek

It has been six years since the Corolla has been redesigned. Being the world’s most popular passenger car, Toyota was very careful with redesigning their best selling model. The new 2009 Toyota Corolla features more standard safety features, a redesigned exterior, and revamped interior. For 2009, Toyota will offer the Corolla in five different trim levels: Standard, LE, XLE, S and the performance-oriented XRS model. Standard, LE, XLE, and S models will be equipped with Toyota’s 1.8L Dual VVT-i four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque and will return an EPA estimated 27/35 mpg city/highway. Transmission choices will include a four-speed automatic and a five-speed manual. More power is found in the XRS trim with the 158 hp 2.4L VVT-i four cylinder engine and five-speed (manual or automatic) transmission. Of course, the larger engine isn’t as thrifty with fuel. EPA estimates are 22 city and 30 for the highway. Observed fuel economy with the 1.8 liter four cylinder engine was 30 mpg after a week of driving the San Francisco bay area.

2009 Toyota Corolla

Driving Impressions
Toyota really has the new Corolla dialed in for the masses. The ride is comfortable and has just enough power so as not to feel like a wimpy economy car. The interior is comfortable and abolishes the rental car persona.

One of the few things to nit-pick on was the steering response. I found it was not quite sharp enough to initiate surprise avoidance maneuvers or quick lane changes with precision. The electric power steering is almost numb enough to put you asleep at the wheel. At the other end, gripping the thick, padded steering wheel of the Corolla S was like hanging onto an expensive Italian Momo wheel with just the right amount of thickness and padding. While the steering wheel may feel like an expensive sports car, the driving experience quickly brings you back to reality of muddling through afternoon commuter traffic.

Performance
The 2.4-liter, which is the Camry’s standard four, comes only with the XRS package, features sport seats, leather-trimmed shift knob, some blackout trim, a tailpipe diffuser and finisher, spoilers, and rocker cladding. Toyota estimates 0-to-60-mph time is 8.8 seconds for the big 2.4-liter four with five-speed automatic. The XRS is the only trim level available with a five-speed automatic.

Don’t try racing for “pinks” Saturday night on the boulevard with the smaller engine. Not without a visit to the TRD catalog and some select parts from Injen. Toyota’s estimated 0 – 60 time is 10.3 seconds for the 1.8-liter with four-speed automatic and a tick under 10 seconds for the 1.8 with a five-speed manual.

2009 Toyota Corolla

Handling
The body kit that is standard with the S and XRS models attempts to make the Corolla look aggressive and set it apart from the plane-Jane economy class, but the Corolla is just a poseur. Like most front-drive cars, the Corolla can feel nose-heavy in turns. Moderate understeer comes in early and predictably. While small-car tossable, its handling doesn’t prompt you to seek out twisty roads or get it loose sliding around on- and off-ramps.

The Corolla could use thicker anti-roll bars and more damping. As it is, the S exhibits prevalent body roll and houses a traction control system more zealous than a Utah Congressman. Not helping is the new electric power steering which doesn’t find dead-center, is slow to react to input, and about as effective as Enzyte.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Best thing about both 1.8- and 2.4-liter models is how big-car quiet and refined they are. The Corolla body is stiff and rigid, with high-strength steel, gussets, and crossmembers. It has a five-layer acoustic glass windshield, a vibration control structure for side glass, and modified carpeting for better sound absorption. The result is what must be the quietest car in its class, with less wind noise than many luxury cars. It’s the perfect carpool-commuter and ideal for small families willing to ride in an efficient alternative to SUVs and minivans.

The instruments and controls are logically arranged and easy to use. There’s plenty of hard plastic on the dash and doors, but it has attractive textures that keep it from looking cheap.

Behind the wheel, the new Corolla feels far more upscale than previous models. Interior storage is good, with lots of pockets and compartments to stash the stuff that Americans like to haul around. There is even a storage bin above the glovebox. All passengers can stay hydrated since they each get a cupholder. With two in the front big enough to hold 20 ounce bottles and two located in the rear, there shouldn’t be any excuses for being thirsty.

The rear bench seat offers space and comfort for three adults. Changing the exhaust system routing contributed to a near-flat rear floor, enhancing comfort for the middle passenger. The 60/40 split fold-down rear seats help extend the trunk’s cargo space. I had no problem sliding my bike and gear into the back.

Safety
Front, side and head-curtain air bags are all standard, as are active head restraints that move up and forward in a crash to protect against whiplash. Antilock brakes are standard on all models. Stability control, which helps to keep the car from skidding out of control, is standard only on the XRS. It is a stand-alone $250 option on other models.

In crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the Corolla received four of five possible stars in front crash protection for both driver and passenger. In the side crash tests, the Corolla got five stars for protecting the driver but only four stars for rear passengers.

In more severe frontal tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Corolla received the highest rating of “good.”

Value / Who should buy it?
The Corolla remains a solid economy sedan that combines Toyota’s legendary reputation for quality with astounding fuel economy.
There is no question that the new Corolla appeals to drivers who want comfort and reliability.

2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

Conclusion
The Corolla is in its tenth generation and its maturity shows. The car is well mannered on the road, has an over-abundance of useful conveniences, and the engineering and ergonomics work better than my parent’s grandfather clock. The 2009 Corolla may not be the Buzz Lightyear in your toy box, but it will bring you safely home again and again and again without any drama.

Build Interior Performance Handling Styling Value Overall
Rating 5.0 4.5 3.5 3.0 4.0 4.75 4.1/B-


Toyota Corolla Photo Gallery

Toyota Corolla Specs

Toyota Corolla Specs

ToyotaThe official website of Toyota – www.toyota.com

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7 Responses to 2009 Toyota Corolla Review – The unrecognized middle-class champion of the world

  1. Pingback: Table of Contents – Expert Reviews - suzuki 125

  2. Hank says:

    When our ’98 Saturn gave up the ghost in January 2008, we picked up a brand new 2008 Corolla. It was bargain priced because the 2009 Corollas were being introduced early and would be on the dealer’s lot in less than a week. Sometimes it is indeed better to be lucky than smart!

  3. hal3003 says:

    I work at a lawfirm that is investigating this steering problem. We are interested in finding out specifics of exactly how this is happening and what Toyota is doing to resolve this problem. If you could email me at Hal3003@aol.com I would like to find out more on this issue.

  4. Randy Long says:

    Stop complaining about the steering. Everyone knows about the over sensitive response. You just need to use both hands to stay on the road. We can only wait for a recall on it.

  5. Jason Lee says:

    I too have had driving issues with my powersteering in my 2009 Corolla. They found nothing wrong. Someone down the block had problem as well.

  6. Derek says:

    Need more data and background info. This is the first time I’ve heard there were dangerous issues associated with Toyota’s EPS. And EPS is used in Toyota’s new Venza.

  7. Bill Austin says:

    The new Electric steering wheel is DANGEROUS. I will not drive straight and not always recover when you make a turn. I urge anyone that have steering issues to add it to nhtsa.gov for defects as others have.





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