THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2009 Toyota Corolla XLE sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: Redesigned for 2009, this 10th-generation car gets a sportier look, plus a slight horsepower boost (up 6) from its predecessor. Irrespective of the trim you select from five options, the Corolla offers reliable transportation with adequate acceleration and safe handling.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: An all-new 1.8-liter inline-4 cylinder engine develops 132 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 128 pounds-feet of torque at 4200 rpm. The front-wheel-drive car is mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission, which is sufficient for shifting lanes in peak-hour traffic. Up front is a MacPherson strut with a torsion beam in the rear. The suspension system also gets stabilizer bars at both ends. Electric power steering replaces a conventional hydraulic system, made up of pumps and hoses, thereby saving fuel. Braking duties are handled aptly by10.8-inch ventilated disc in the front and a 9-inch rear drum. We averaged about 30 mpg in a mix of city/highway driving. Now, that's significant as gasoline prices hover around $4 a gallon.
LOOK & FEEL: It's a T! Well, at least looks like one, specifically referring to the mesh grille with a lower air intake and multi-reflector halogen headlights. Color-keyed exterior door handles and power mirrors convey a simple but neat touch. The cabin is sizeable with numerous standard amenities such as air-conditioning, power steering, tilt and telescopic three-spoke steering wheel, 60/40-split rear seat, and wood grain trim on the center console, doors and shifter knob. A double-browsed bezel instrument cluster of analog tachometer, speedometer, temperature and fuel gauges greets the driver. The digital trip computer is conveniently located at the bottom of the tachometer.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, front-seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are a few of the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $17,550, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P205/55 R16; wheelbase, 102.4 inches; length, 178.7 inches; weight, 2,811 pounds; fuel capacity, 13.2 gallons; highway, 35 mpg; city, 27 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: Impressive mileage figures of 35 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in the city, according to EPA. That's a no-brainer in these days of high gasoline prices. Plus, the Toyota brand of reliability and durability makes the Corolla a winner in our eyes.