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2009 Toyota Corolla XLE Review

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2009 Toyota Corolla

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2009 Toyota Corolla XLE
Engine: 1.8- liter DOHC I4
Horsepower/Torque: 132 hp @ 6,000 rpm/128 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase (in.):102.4
Length/Width/Height (in.): 178.7 x 69.3 x 57.7
Tires: P205/55R16
Cargo volume (cu. ft.): 16.6
Fuel economy (mpg): 27 city/35 highway/35.3 test
Fuel capacity (gal.): 13.2
Sticker: $20,970 (includes $660 delivery charge and $2,760 in options
The Bottom Line: There's a reason the Corolla is the world's best-selling car. It has value, ride quality, economy and simplicity. It isn't intended to impress you with its technology or hot design. It's a basic car, and as such it does a great job.

It's a story constant readers have heard many times; my wife and I were traveling to Virginia to visit our daughter and her family and we had a lot of stuff to bring home and didn't know if the car we had would hold it all.

The car this time was a Toyota Corolla, one of Toyota's smallest cars, but still the biggest selling car in the world. The Corolla outstripped the Model T years ago and has more than 20 million examples worldwide, in various iterations of course. Still, we wondered.

By the time we had finished packing, we had stored in the trunk and back seat - six full garbage bags (chosen because o f their flexibility), three smaller bags, one box, one duffel bag, a small suitcase and a briefcase/computer case. We still had room for hanging clothes.

Well, we've sort of proven that the Corolla can carry cargo, but how is it as a long-distance traveler? I was impressed by the incredible ride quality on both Interstates and back roads. The engine was mostly quiet, although it growls a bit when provoked. The front seats were comfortable with minimal side support.

Under the hood is a 1.8-liter double overhead cam inline four that's rated at 132 horsepower and 128 lb.-ft. of torque. This was plenty for the small Corolla. I could cruise at 75-80 mph all day and keep up with ambient traffic. I could even accelerate at those speeds to get out of trouble.

The Corolla even has decent rear seat leg and knee room with a small center hump that would allow a thin person to sit in the middle. Rear passengers can take advantage of a neat fold-out pair of cupholders at the rear of the center console plus water bottle holders in the doors.

I loved the audio system. It consisted of a simple two-button radio - one for volume and one for tuning - that had buttons to switch between AM or FM or Satellite or CD or AUX (with a clearly marked dash-mounted input jack). Sound quality is excellent.

There's a s mall center console/arm rest that has a 12-volt jack inside. There's also a small cell phone cubby by the driver's left knee and the door pulls have bottoms if you want to carry cell phones there. The clamshell dual glove box is very practical to store the necessary books that come with cars these days and standard glove box items.

We drove the Corolla on some back-country dirt roads in the dark. I was impressed by the high beams that are as efficient as any I have seen. No deer was safe with those headlights shining on her.

The appeal of the Corolla is its simplicity of design as well as its execution. The Yugo also had a simple design but didn't carry through with execution. The Corolla is economical, with a base price of $17,550 for the top-of-the-line XLE model. Options included a Weather Guard package that included a heavy duty heater ($150), the sound system ($1,060), 18-inch alloy wheels ($410), a power moonroof ($890) and Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control ($250).

I would not hesitate to recommend the Corolla to anyone, including relatives that I like.

MORE: Toyota Specs, Cpmparisons, Prices-Toyota Buyers Guide