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2009-2012 Toyota Corolla
Short on flair, long on reliability

?Boredom is rage spread thin,? theologian and existentialist Paul Tillich once pointed out.

It helps to explain the sentiment behind this Toyota Corolla owner?s earnest post: ?I hate driving this car. The engine is lifeless, and the steering and handling are non-existent. Boring, boring, boring, boring!!?

It may be the world?s most popular automobile ? with close to 40 million units produced since 1966 and counting ? but the Corolla has been cost-managed to the extent that, critics bleat, it?s barely distinguishable from a four-door refrigerator.

Then there?s this, by a reader with 233,000 km on a Corolla: ?By far the most reliable car I have ever owned in almost 40 years of driving.?

Maybe boredom is durability ladled on thick.

CONFIGURATION

The 10th-generation Corolla arrived very early in 2008 as a 2009 model, although it was hardly all-new.

It rode on the same-length wheelbase, made wider by 6 cm and slightly lower and longer overall than the outgoing model. Toyota even carried over the 50-litre fuel tank, presumably to keep costs down.

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One significant change was the switch to electric power steering in place of the old belt-driven hydraulic assist to reduce drag on the engine. The new styling was reminiscent of the popular mid-size Camry ? a good thing, maybe.

The cabin materials were roundly criticized for feeling cheap and cheerless, considered a step backward from the previous model?s Lexus-lite furnishings.

?The dash is made up of outdated-looking ovular shapes injection-moulded in hard, shiny gray plastic. Rolling mediocrity,? reads a blunt post by a Zipcar user.

Austerity wasn?t all bad. Even base models had seat-height adjustment, a tilting-and-telescoping steering wheel, two glove boxes, a centre armrest and cup holders.

The floor was flat in the back and the bench seat could sit three reasonably well. All models have 60/40-split rear seatbacks that collapse to extend trunk capacity.

The familiar DOHC 1.8 L four-cylinder powered most models as before, but with 132 hp on tap, up from 126. The improvement was attributed to variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust sides, instead of the intake only.

Toyota saw fit to bring back the XRS model, transplanting the Camry?s 158-hp 2.4 L four for a little more spunk. A five-speed manual transmission was standard issue, while a four-speed automatic was optional (the Camry?s five-speed autobox was reserved for the XRS).

The Corolla was tweaked for 2011 with revised front and rear fascias, new wheel designs and a refreshed interior that included new upholstery and metallic trim.

ON THE ROAD

The Corolla is not exactly built for speed. The 1.8 L four propelled it to highway velocity in 8.6 seconds with a stick. Add almost a full second for the old slushbox. The 2.4 L XRS is not a whole bunch faster, taking 7.9 seconds to hit 96 km/h.

The ride is hushed for an econobox, however, and it tends to float over bumps like a larger car (say, a Camry). Handling is reasonably secure, save for one serious faux pas ? its steering system can be vague and lifeless to the point of being disconcerting.

?The electric power steering is atrocious. It?s been 30 years since I?ve driven a car that required so many steering corrections,? on the highway, one owner posted.

Where the Corolla does excel is in passing gas stations. Drivers report the compact largely delivers on its promise of impressive fuel savings, typically garnering 8 L/100 km in mixed driving.

WHAT OWNERS SAY

Corolla drivers are largely enamoured with Toyota?s most enduring nameplate, citing its refined and economical drivetrains, roomy cabin and legendary durability as deal closers.

Negatives include the wonky steering, poor-wearing interior bits, some visible cost-cutting (the four-speed automatic and rear drum brakes) and dowdy styling.

The Corolla shines brightly in terms of reliability, although there are a few noted weaknesses. There are reports of oil consumption by the 1.8 L engine, in small numbers, enough to remind owners to be vigilant.

Early examples used a short-lived water pump; Toyota has an improved pump available. In addition, there are a few reports of leaking struts, easily chipped paint, vibration at speed and annoying interior rattles.

The last word goes to a perennial buyer: ?The Corolla hasn?t improved much in 13 years, but I know I can trust this car. It delivers exactly what you expect.?

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Dodge Avenger, Jaguar XF and Suzuki Kizashi. Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.

2009-?12 Toyota Corolla

What?s best: Made in Canada, genuine gas sipper, Lexus on an allowance.

What?s Worst: Blunt cost cutting, utterly invisible, spooky steering feel.

Typical GTA prices: 2009: $12,000, 2012: $15,000

  • 2009-2012 Toyota CorollaShort on flair, long on reliability 2011 Toyota Corolla sedan
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