March 2009. The 2009 Toyota Corolla is redesigned, with slightly revised styling, more power and more standard safety features, including six airbags, front-seat active head restraints and antilock brakes. Electronic stability control is optional. The new Toyota Corolla's good crash test scores earn it a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Reviewers praise the Toyota Corolla's safety record and excellent reputation for reliability, but say Toyota played it too safe in the styling department. Base-level power comes from a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder with a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic. Fuel economy is outstanding, with EPA ratings of 26-27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, and real-life averages very close to those figures. The new, sportier Toyota Corolla XRS (*est. $18,860) comes with a 158-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a five-speed manual gearbox. (A five-speed automatic is offered, but it pushes the car's price up to $20,050.) Fuel mileage ratings with the XRS' zippier powerplant drop substantially to 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with either transmission.
The new Toyota Corolla collects many recommendations from car reviewers, who say it's a well-built small sedan that goes about its business effectively and efficiently, like a quality appliance. But that also seems to be the problem with the Toyota Corolla. Lukewarm reviews reveal that many auto writers and consumers want more than a mere appliance in their driveway. Reviews point out that other small cars, such as the 2009 Honda Civic (*est. $15,305 to $25,190) and 2009 Mazda3 (*est. $14,690 to $20,895) are similarly well-engineered, but they're more fun to drive and exhibit more compelling design overall. The 2009 Hyundai Elantra (*est. $14,120 to $17,020) is frequently mentioned as having a nicer interior than the Toyota Corolla, along with a longer warranty and a lower price.
Car and Driver evaluates eight economy cars in an in-depth comparison test and the Toyota Corolla finishes third. Motor Trend also has a thorough four-car comparison test in which the Toyota Corolla places last. Cars.com names the Corolla sedan a Best Bet, providing a lengthy evaluation with plenty of references to competitors and links to several additional reviews from newspaper auto writers. Edmunds.com has four Toyota Corolla reviews, including a well-balanced XLE-trim road test and an enlightening three-car comparison with a panel of six consumers. Additional non-car-expert opinions come from MotherProof.com, which weighs in with a regular mom's point of view. About.com has an excellent one-car review, and both Consumer Reports and ConsumerGuide.com provide their usual comprehensive coverage.
1. Car and Driver
This head-to-head comparison pits eight popular compact cars against each other in a comprehensive road evaluation. The new Toyota Corolla finishes third, behind the Subaru Impreza and top-finishing Volkswagen Rabbit. Of the Toyota Corolla, editors say, "Competence is the only flavor we detected."
Review: 2009 Toyota Corolla vs. Ford Focus, VW Rabbit, Subaru Impreza and Four More Economy Cars, Patrick Bedard, May 2008
2. Motor Trend
This comparative review measures the 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS against three similarly equipped competitors: the 2008 Honda Civic EX, 2008 Mazda3 and 2008 Subaru Impreza, each of which has few changes for 2009. The last-place finisher is the Corolla, although it was the quickest of the group, running 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds with its 2.4-liter engine. But editors say the Toyota Corolla "comes across half-baked," and was "the biggest disappointment."
Review: Comparison: 2008 Honda Civic vs. 2008 Mazda3 vs. 2008 Subaru Impreza vs. 2009 Toyota Corolla, Ron Kiino, May 2008
Cars.com provides both an overview summary and a detailed test-drive evaluation of the Toyota Corolla, named as a Cars.com Best Bet. However, despite the Toyota's many practical qualities, writer Kelsey Mays says "its overall appeal is missing something." The review makes comparisons to other subcompacts that offer "compelling styling and fun-to-drive appeal," attributes that are in short supply in the Toyota Corolla, Mays suggests.
Review: 2009 Toyota Corolla, Kelsey Mays, Apr. 23, 2008
Edmunds.com has four reviews of 2009 Toyota Corolla sedans -- a summary review, test drives of XLE and S models, and a consumer-panel comparison test. In the XLE Toyota Corolla evaluation, writer James Riswick says there are better small cars available, namely the Honda Civic, Mazda3 and Hyundai Elantra.
Review: Test Drive: 2009 Toyota Corolla XLE, James Riswick
5. Edmunds Inside Line
Edmunds.com's Inside Line invites six "regular consumers" to evaluate three popular economy cars: a 2009 Toyota Corolla XLE, 2008 Mazda3 Touring Value Edition and 2008 Honda Civic LX, each priced around $18,000 as tested. After test driving on public roads and on a racetrack, consumers ranked the cars and provided feedback. The Toyota Corolla placed last with five of the six test drivers. One said that the Corolla had "the cheapest feel."
Review: Consumer Comparison Test: 2008 Economy Sedans, James Riswick, Jun. 3, 2008
About.com's guide to cars, Aaron Gold, test drives a Toyota Corolla and says it "offers Camry-grade trim in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package." He is pleased with engine performance, and he finds the car's handling "predictable but not particularly enjoyable." Although he says the Corolla is "not my cup of tea," and he prefers the Nissan Sentra, he "wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Corolla." (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: 2009 Toyota Corolla Test Drive, Aaron Gold
Editors of Consumer Reports provide a good summary review of the Toyota Corolla based on comprehensive road testing and the publication's reliability data, which it collects in large annual reader surveys. You must be a subscriber to access this report.
Review: 2009 Toyota Corolla, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
ConsumerGuide.com refrains from awarding the Toyota Corolla either its Best Buy or Recommended ratings. The Toyota Corolla has many attributes, such as a soft ride, good fuel economy and reputation for reliability, editors say. But they don't like the "unnatural" feel of the electric power steering, which reacts "sluggishly to rapid turns of the wheel." Of the three test vehicles, an XLE averaged 31.8 mpg, while an XRS averaged 29.2 mpg.
Review: 2009 Toyota Corolla Full Review, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com, Feb. 11, 2009
9. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Top-rated vehicles in crash tests are honored by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety with a Top Safety Pick award. Each of the vehicles must earn Good ratings in frontal, side-impact crash tests, plus evaluations of head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. In addition, each winning vehicle must offer electronic stability control. The 2009 Toyota Corolla is one of the few small cars to earn this honor.
Review: Top Safety Picks 2009, Editors of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
MotherProof.com reviews vehicles with an eye toward how they perform in the context of family use with kids. Written from a non-car-expert, regular mom's point of view, Sara Lacey reviews the 2009 Toyota Corolla. Mostly, she calls the car "nice," with pleasant and functional features. She has little to criticize, other than saying that the doors "sound tinny when they close, lending to a cheap feel." Unfortunately, she doesn't give an overall rating of the Toyota Corolla.
Review: 2009 Toyota Corolla -- Simple, Straightforward Corolla Delivers, Sara Lacey, July 17, 2008