Quick. What's the world's best-selling passenger car of all time? Here's a hint. The nameplate continues chugging along to this very day and is entering its tenth model generation. So far, this car has exceeded sales of more than 30 million units in 142 countries. It's not the Volkswagen Beetle or the Chevrolet Impala, but the venerable Corolla from Toyota.
While not flashy or supercharged, Corolla has developed a loyal following for its dependability and modest starting price. It's a four-cylinder compact that is well-respected in every country it's sold. In 2008, Corolla not only marks 40 years of sales in the United States, but debuts its 10-generation effort which reached dealers in February as a 2009 model year product.
Toyota doesn't wish to mess with success too much, and the 10th generation is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Corolla returns with an identical wheelbase length (distance between front and rear axle), but with a body that's two-and-a-half inches wider, a half-an-inch longer and one inch shorter in height. It's longer, lower and wider with a dignified, yet conservative look. It's quickly identified as a Corolla upon first glace.
During its early years, the front-wheel-drive Corolla got pegged as a subcompact. During the past couple of generations, it has grown in size, now reflected by its compact stature. Japan's largest automaker now markets the compact Corolla between the recently introduced subcompact Yaris and long-running mid-size Camry.
As with the 9th-generation Corolla, only a sedan body style is offered. No two-door body style is available. However, for those looking for extra flexibility, Toyota offers the compact five-door Matrix hatchback based on the Corolla platform.
Corolla offers two newly updated four- cylinder engines and five trim levels (Standard, LE, XLE, sporty S and performance XRS) in the 2009 model year.
A new 16-valve, double overhead cam, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine producing 132 horsepower comes in Standard, LE, S and XLE editions. A more potent, 2.4-liter, 158 horsepower engine is now available in the performance XRS grade and is similar to the four-cylinder engine found in the larger Camry sedan. This larger four-cylinder engine comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission while a five-speed automatic is optional. Unleaded regular fuel is recommended for both engines and the tank accommodates 13.2-gallons of petro. The 1.8-liter engine provides generous fuel economy figures of 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with five-speed manual and 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with four-speed automatic.
Corolla now offers more standard safety equipment than ever before with anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, child safety rear door locks front seat-mounted side air bags and side curtain air bags standard. Vehicle stability control/traction control is standard on XRS and optional on other trims.
A Standard edition starts at $15,250 with five-speed manual transmission and $16,050 with the optional four-speed automatic. The LE grade starts at $16,650 with automatic transmission. An XLE grade with automatic lists at $17,550. The S grade with manual transmission checks in at $16,320 and $17,150 with four-speed automatic. The high-grade XRS with the larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder lists for $18,760 with manual transmission and $19,950 with five-speed automatic. Prices exclude a $660 destination charge.
All trim levels come standard with air conditioning, compact disc player, rear-window defroster and finally a tilt steering wheel. The LE model adds power windows, locks and mirrors. For more ambiances, XLE has a center console with sliding arm rest, wood grain interior trim and MP3 compatible stereo. The sporty-looking S adds a chrome exhaust tip, leather trimmed steering wheel and fog lamps. The XRS with larger four-cylinder engine includes cruise control, rear deck spoiler and interior chrome accents. A navigation system is now optional in XLE, S and XRS trims.
Inside, headroom is not too impacted from the one-inch lower height. The wider width allows for more shoulder room. At 12.3 cubic feet of space, trunk space is average for a compact vehicle.
It's not the lowest-priced compact in its segment, but the Corolla, along with the Honda Civic, have great name recognition and solid reputations. This 10th-generation effort does what it's supposed to: provide a smooth ride in a dependable, front-wheel-drive package. Nothing fancy. No tricks up its sleeve. Corolla just delivers the goods. This latest Corolla effort does borrow some quiet cues from its larger Toyota siblings and Lexus cousins. Toyota also redesigned front 'A' pillars to decrease wind noise. Other compact competitors including the Mitsubishi Lancer, Mazda 3 and even Honda Civic have a bit more styling pizzazz; but the Corolla has one of the higher resale values in its segment. This is not a performance compact by any means.
Corolla's five-year, 60,000-mile (whichever comes first) powertrain warranty and three-year-30,000-mile comprehensive warranty are decent, but less in duration than several competitors including the Compact Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cobalt. Most Corollas sold in the United States are built in Fremont, California and Ontario, Canada.