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2009 Toyota Corolla Base 4dr Sedan Man (SE)

2009 Toyota Corolla
Trim Info:
Front Wheel Drive, 4 Door Sedan, Compact
26 mpg city / 35 mpg hwy
Other Trims
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Expert Reviews

November 18, 2009 by Jon Alain Guzik

2009 Toyota Corolla 1
2009 Toyota Corolla

DriverSide Overview
Since its inception, the Toyota Corolla has been a benchmark of inexpensive, environmentally friendly, dependable transportation. Those attributes, combined with nearly unbeatable reliability, have made the car one of the most ubiquitous vehicles on the road, and the tenth generation has done nothing but uphold those traditions. Though earlier iterations were largely responsible for the pejorative “econo-box" moniker, the 2009 Corolla is blessed with styling derived from its big brother, the Camry, as well as its peppy four-cylinder powerplant (say that four times quickly). One of the most versatile vehicles in the Toyota line-up, the Corolla can go from a bare bones commuter to a luxury liner with any number of available options and packages. If you’re looking to replace your current car with a vehicle that has all the creature comforts of larger models but with much better fuel economy, you’re in luck.

What's to Like
With a four-cylinder under the hood, the Corolla can get up to 35 mpg highway. It looks great on the outside and has plenty of room inside – a bigger version of the economical Yaris. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine provides plenty of scoot on the interstate or in traffic.
What's Not to Like
The Corolla does show its roots as base transportation on some levels. The driver and passenger seats sit up higher than you might expect, and while the vantage delivers exceptional visibility, it feels hokey. Also, the steering, while adjustable, seems to jut from the dash, giving it a golf cart feel.
The Drive:
DriverSide Driving Impressions

Behind the wheel of a gas-sipping compact car, power expectations are always at a minimum, but the Corolla serves up a surprising amount of gusto. Handling is somewhat soft, but the steering is precise, making for a maneuverable little ride. While it’s no sports sedan, it does drive well enough in traffic to make driving a pleasure, not a chore. The interior is comfortable for long commutes and visibility is good enough that you can see what you’re about to rear-end from a good ways off.
Engine and Drivetrain
Corolla, LE, XLE and S trims come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine standard, producing 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. The XRS model ($18,760) dishes up a more beefy 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Corolla and S trims are available with either a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual. LE and XLE versions are only available with the four-speed automatic, while the XRS can be had with the five-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
The most deluxe of all the Corolla trims, the XRS model comes loaded with a more powerful engine, leather interior, power windows and locks and a six-speaker sound system for $18,760. A six-disc CD changer with Bluetooth hands-free calling is available, along with 16-inch alloy wheels for $3,154. For an extra $700, a power moonroof does much to lighten the interior.
Key Technology Evaluation
The optional Vehicle Stability Control, or VCS, offers up a little more sure-footedness in slippery conditions, which is a good option for buyers in wintery climates. The XLE model can be equipped with a remote keyless entry system and touch screen DVD navigation. The price tag on those options runs around $3,500. The Corolla’s stereo system can be bolstered with an optional JBL sound system, complete with eight speakers and MP3 capability.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
The Corolla’s fuel economy is one of the best in its class and, while that usually equates to a cramped interior, the Corolla dishes up an amazing amount of head and legroom, even for people in the backseat. If green is golden in your eyes, you can’t do much better than the Toyota Corolla. Equipped with the 1.8-liter four-cylinder and the four-speed automatic transmission, this little car gets 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Swap the auto for the five-speed manual and the figures are 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. The larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the XRS model gets 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway in either manual or automatic.
A Closer Look:  Vehicle Details

Surprisingly spacious inside, the Corolla offers plenty of head and legroom up front, with enough room inside for people over the six-foot mark. The backseat doesn’t skimp on space either, though taller people may wish to stick to calling shotgun. The seats are comfortable in either cloth or leather trim, and build quality is impressive for a vehicle at this price, but then again, it is a Toyota.
Shirking the cheap-looking economical stereotype, the Corolla has a strong design outside. Rounded corners compliment crisp lines along the nose of the car. It’s easy to spot the familial resemblance between this economical commuter and its bigger brother, the Camry. Exterior options like a spoiler and 16-inch aluminum wheels do much to add character to the car.
Market Segment and Pricing
Starting at $15,250 for the base Corolla model and reaching all the way to a still manageable XRS at $18,760, the Corolla is fighting it out with other compacts. Three trim levels fall between the base and the top of the line, including the LE at $16,650, XLE at $17,550, and S at $16,320. Competitors like archrival Honda Civic at $15,010, Ford Focus at $14,395 and the Chevrolet Cobalt at $15,070 keep the Corolla on its toes. Other kids on this block include the Nissan Sentra, starting at $16,040 and the Hyundai Elantra at $13,625.
What We Think
The Corolla offers up plenty to love out of a compact vehicle. The unbeatable reliability, stellar fuel economy and good amounts of power, even with the small 1.8-liter engine, make for a car that has all the hallmarks of an effective mode of transportation. First time drivers, daily commuters and folks just looking for great gas mileage at a good price can rejoice in a car that will serve them well for years to come, even with even higher gas prices looming in the distance. The many trim levels, engine and transmission combinations ensure that there’s a Corolla out there to fit just about any driving style, from bare bones to the lap of luxury.

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