For some 40 years, the Toyota Corolla has served the purpose of providing affordable transportation. Luckily for consumers, that doesn't change with the arrival of the 2011 Toyota Corolla.
With a suggested entry price of $16,630 (includes a requisite $760 delivery, processing, and handling fee), the Corolla isn't the cheapest offering on the market. Yet years of sales success have propelled the car to the top of new-vehicle shopping lists around the nation, and for good reason. For 2011, a revised front grille and front and rear bumpers put it closer in looks to the other familial vehicles in Toyota's contemporary lineup.
Three trim levels give customers some choices. Opt for the entry-level Base model and you'll receive Toyota's comprehensive Star Safety System. Stability control, traction control, anti-lock braking, Brake Assist -- you name the safety feature, it has it. Six front and side airbags are set to deploy as quickly as possible. Plus, the steering wheel with a tilt/telescopic feature makes it easier for drivers of all heights to get comfortable.
The sporty-looking Corolla S gets 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and bigger 205/55/16 tires. An appearance package consisting of a body kit and rear spoiler helps it appear to ride lower to the ground, while the interior is lightly retouched with metallic trim, sport cloth fabric, and sport instrumentation.
The well-equipped LE is the popular trim. It builds on the Base model with more standard equipment. You'll find cruise control, a six-speaker sound system with auxiliary input, variable intermittent windshield wipers, and more. The big option is the Premium Package, which adds a moonroof, upgraded sound system, and the 16-inch wheels from the Corolla S.
There's just one engine installed beneath the hood of all 2011 Corollas, and that's a 1.8-liter four-cylinder. The engine makes 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. Toyota's Variable Valve Timing with intelligence, otherwise known as VVT-i, helps the four-cylinder operate more efficiently by minimizing fuel consumption and maximizing power delivery as needed. It's punchy and there's always a sense of eagerness whenever the little five-seater gets moving. There are two transmissions -- a five-speed stick and four-speed automatic -- and both are easy to work.
A popular choice for commuters, students, and new drivers alike, the Corolla has long been easy to drive. One of the car's greatest strengths is its visibility. Those with freshly stamped driver licenses in hand will appreciate the clear sightlines at all angles from the driver's seat, along with the well-designed rearview and side mirrors. You may think the Corolla looks plain Jane at the dealership but the conservative styling will ultimately help you keep eye contact with your surroundings.
Step inside the Corolla and you're greeted with a long, tall center stack. At the very bottom is a digital clock; directly above are the rotary knobs for the climate control. The LE Premium Package's radio headunit is quite pleasing to the eyes. There's nothing particularly thrilling about the gauge cluster, but you do get the usual vehicle information like instant mpg, average mpg, and outside temperature.
Strap in for the drive and you'll be greeted a comfortable seating position even if you're over 6 feet tall. The electric power steering ensures effort stays low, making parallel parking a snap. You could call the ride quality comfortable, as the Corolla is plenty soft. If you're in an automatic-equipped car, the sequential shift function offers a little extra control -- perfect if you happen to be descending a very steep hill.
The Corolla's EPA-rated fuel economy isn't setting the small-car segment ablaze, but remains passable even as gas prices exceed $4/gallon. The mechanically-less-complex manual transmission earns 28 city/35 highway mpg. Select the automatic and fuel economy drops to 26 city/34 highway mpg. Regular 87-octane fuel will keep the 13.2-gallon gas tank happy.
The Toyota Care complimentary maintenance plan will cover the factory maintenance schedule for the Corolla for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. The plan includes engine oil and oil filter changes, tire rotations, and inspections with each service stop. Free 24-hour roadside assistance is also thrown in for the first two years, along with your standard 3-year/36,000-mile comprehensive warranty.
The Toyota Corolla has years of experience getting the basic transportation job done. No, it's not flashy or a monument to automotive technology. But after loyally serving millions of drivers worldwide for over 40 years, it's still a prime candidate to bring another million drivers onto the roads of today and tomorrow.