With its arrival on the scene in early ’08, the new 2009 Corolla represents the 10th generation of this venerable Toyota nameplate, which was first introduced to the world in 1966. Some 33 million people have bought one since then, making it the world’s most popular car.
So, with that kind of public acceptance, it’s not hard to believe Toyota would tread carefully in any redesign throughout its generational changes.
Its mandate for this 10th iteration was more sportiness, so witness the swoopier styling, which was co-developed by studios in Japan and Italy. Bearing some resemblance to a smaller-scale Camry, the ’09 Corolla is fractionally longer overall than the previous model but sits on an unchanged wheelbase. The big change lies in the Corolla’s width, however, which increases by 60 mm to help provide a little more shoulder space inside. The car’s height has also been shaved slightly and a wider track (the distance between the wheels on front and rear axles) gives this new Corolla a solid-looking stance and noticeably improved stability.
Interior room is essentially unchanged, but much appreciated is the new tilt/telescopic steering wheel (standard equipment on all models that enables driving positions to be customized to suit individual height and body type) and the airier confines of the surprisingly well-appointed cabin.
A new suspension design and electric power steering help contribute to a much sportier drive, even in the base Corolla CE model.
With its neat combination of value, verve, style and substance, the $14,565 CE delivers more for less. An enviable list of standard features include: Satellite-ready AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA capability, the already mentioned tilt/telescopic steering and electric power steering, as well as six airbags and an anti-lock braking system.
The step-up Corolla LE — $19,900 and available only with a four-speed automatic transmission — brings a bit more refinement, delivering a moveable feast of upscale features such as 16-inch alloy wheels (15-inch on the CE), push-button start, Optitron gauges, automatic climate control, and woodgrain trim.
The $18,930 Corolla S shifts gears with its sport-inspired side skirt and rear spoiler add-ons, fog lamps, tinted headlamp housings, leather-wrapped steering wheel and an audio system that features six speakers and steering wheel-mounted controls. Opting for a four-speed automatic rather than the standard five-speed manual transmission adds $1,045.
The CE, LE and S models draw their power from a new 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower — up six from before. It’s an engine that’s up to the task of everyday driving, with decent acceleration and good fuel economy.
For those aspiring to even more sportiness, a new Corolla XRS addition packs a 158-hp four-cylinder engine mated with a five-speed manual. The $21,655 XRS also adds 17-inch wheels, standard stability control, leather trim, sport seats, chrome exhaust tips and the same aero body bits as the S.
Any way you look at it, the Corolla has something for everyone.