Toyota Corolla Overview

toyota corolla grillThe Toyota Corolla small sedan is available in five trim levels: base, LE, S, XLE and XRS. Base models are reasonably well-equipped but lack power accessories, which the LE model adds. The S model has only the base model's convenience features as standard but gains various sporty touches. The XLE is the most luxurious Corolla, while the XRS is less luxurious but features a larger engine and a sport-tuned suspension. Fuel economy has always been a Corolla hallmark. To this end, all Corollas but the XRS model employ an updated version of Toyota's venerable 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, which is renowned for its efficiency. This 132-horsepower power plant manages to make the current Corolla a hair faster than its predecessor while still returning comparable gas mileage. The XRS employs a 158-hp, 2.4-liter inline-4, which makes the car reasonably quick, with a predictable penalty at the pump.

Like its predecessors, the Toyota Corolla mostly aims to please the average consumer. Ride quality is smooth and quiet, while the car's handling is adequate but uninspired. This trend continues in the cabin, where there's nothing flashy about the design. Materials quality is average for this class; however, the control layout is as simple and organized as they come. There's ample room in the backseat, and the awkward driving position of past models has been largely rectified by a telescoping steering column. Still, the Corolla's cabin isn't comparatively as nice as it once was. In reviews, we've been disappointed with the current Toyota Corolla. Competitors from Honda, Hyundai and Mazda outdo it in most regards, specifically in the areas of interior quality, value and driving pleasure/confidence. In a consumer comparison Corolla finished dead last and was deemed a disappointment by most.

toyota corolla tail lightsThe current Toyota Corolla represents the 10th generation, which debuted for the 2009 model year. It's not longer or taller than the previous-generation Corolla, but it is a little wider, which creates additional hip- and shoulder room. The only notable change so far is that the debut-year model lacked standard stability control. The ninth-generation Toyota Corolla was produced from 2003-'08 and came in CE, S, LE and XRS trim levels. The CE was a basic economy car but came with Toyota Corolla accessories available like air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat and a CD player. The Corolla S offered a few more conveniences, while adding a lower body kit, rear spoiler and smoked headlamps for a faux sport sedan look. The LE did away with the sporty add-ons in favor of a more upscale feel -- it was the one to get if you wanted faux wood interior trim.

Finally, there was the XRS, the only truly sporty member of the Toyota Corolla family. In addition to all the cosmetic touches from the S model, the XRS had a more powerful engine, a firmer suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and alloy wheels. For power, the CE, S and LE had a 1.8-liter four-cylinder rated for 126 hp. This doesn't sound like a lot, but the ninth-generation Corolla got around well for a car in this class, providing solid highway acceleration. The XRS, which was only produced for 2004 and '05, had a higher-revving 1.8-liter four good for 164 hp. Acceleration was definitely quicker, but many consumers would probably find the engine's peaky power delivery annoying in everyday traffic. Additionally, the XRS was only available with a manual transmission, whereas other Corollas could be equipped with a manual or automatic.

toyota corolla headlightsChanges to the ninth-generation Corolla were limited but possibly significant for used-car shoppers. Notably, side curtain airbags, stability control and a JBL audio system were all newly available for the '05 model year. In reviews at the time, we noted that this Corolla offered a smooth and quiet ride but uninspiring handling. There was nothing flashy about the cabin's design, but materials quality was very high for this class of car. There was ample room in the backseat, but the driving position was awkward. The eighth-generation Toyota Corolla was sold from 1998-2002. Besides being a good choice from a reliability and fuel-economy standpoint, this Corolla is an excellent used-car buy if safety is a priority -- it was the first low-priced compact sedan to offer side airbags as an option back in 1998. All Corollas from this era were sedans, and all had a 1.8-liter four-cylinder.

Acceleration was solid, though we'd advise you to avoid base models equipped with the archaic three-speed automatic transmission (either VE or CE, depending on the model year). Ride comfort and materials quality were also strengths; a cramped backseat was the major negative. The seventh generation covers the years 1993-'97. Similar in size and personality to its successor, this Corolla was powered by a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine. Horsepower output was anywhere from 100 to 115, depending on the model year and emissions equipment. Dual front airbags were standard in all years, except 1993. A wagon version was available from 1993-'96. In addition to the plain-Jane sedan, there was a sporty GTS coupe with a high-revving four-cylinder rated for as much as 130 hp (an impressive number at the time). An all-wheel-drive "All-Trac" wagon was also available.