Now into its tenth generation, the redesigned 2009 Toyota Corolla is all-new and marks the return of the sporty Corolla XRS. The new Corolla rides on the same wheelbase as before, and is an almost imperceptible 10 mm longer, but it’s wider, has a wider front and rear track, and a lower overall height than its predecessor, for improved stability and better stance. The 2009 Corolla has a new, rigid body structure, new suspension system, the model’s first use of electric power steering, and new exterior and interior styling.
Two new engines are used: a 1.8-litre four-cylinder that makes 132 horsepower (up from 126 in 2008) and 128 lb-ft of torque (up from 122 in 2008), and in the XRS, a new 2.4-litre four-cylinder with 158 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. Both engines base with a five-speed manual; the 1.8-litre options to a four-speed automatic, the 2.4-litre to a five-speed automatic.
Corolla 2009 are anti-lock brakes, active head restraints and six airbags on all trim lines as standard equipment.
Features on the base CE include 15-inch steel wheels, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack and four speakers, fabric bucket seats, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, dual vanity mirrors, tilt and telescopic wheel, illuminated entry, carpet floor mats, digital clock, and intermittent wipers.
The LE adds 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack and six speakers, power locks, Optitron gauges, power windows with driver’s side auto-down, cruise control, tire pressure monitoring system, variable intermittent wipers and fog lamps. Unique to the LE are Smart Key system with push button start, woodgrain trim and automatic climate control; it is also only available with the four-speed automatic transmission.
The S adds wheel-mounted audio controls, sport fabric seat material, leather-wrapped steering wheel, stainless steel scuff plates, and rear spoiler.
The XRS adds 17-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, stability and traction control, sport seats, metallic dash accents, anti-theft system and power sunroof.
Having sold 33 million copies of the Corolla since 1966, Toyota plays it safe with this newest makeover: more evolution that complete redesign, the Corolla is familiar enough to keep fans happy, while adding refinements and long-overdue standard safety features. Its sleeker styling is mindful of a scaled-down Camry, and its interior is elegantly styled for the segment. As before, the Corolla also lends its platform and drivetrain to the Matrix hatchback, and from there to that model’s Pontiac Vibe sibling.
The XRS is the fun machine here, especially with the European-feeling clutch and shifter, although it’s puzzling why the independent rear suspension offered on the Matrix XRS isn’t also used on the Corolla XRS. Nevertheless, this is a well-done generation that should help to keep this perennial bestseller near the top of the charts.