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Is the Toyota Corolla your Prefect New Car Match?

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

With a hot Barcelona Red paint job, color-keyed spoilers and a redesigned grille, the Corolla transforms from your typical compact commuter sedan to a much sportier machine – but with the same great gas estimations of 29 miles-per-gallon combined.

I drove a 2011 Toyota Corolla with a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine featuring Dual Variable Value Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) and a four-speed automatic transmission. This four-door five passenger compact sedan is available in three trims: Base, LE and S. The standard features on my sportier S trim included: fog lamps; unique “S” badge; rear mudguards; 16-inch wheels; color-keyed body parts; multi-information display; sportier fabric seat design; USB and auxiliary in put jacks; and a sportier instrument panel. With optional packages like the $520 upgrade audio system (Bluetooth or hands-free phone and music capabilities), $359 car alarm and $79 rear bumper protector, total price came to $20,218.

Commuter cars – the old Stalwarts of the road – are getting sportier, and the Corolla keeps up with the trend very nicely by offering technological conveniences and a more athletic attitude for under $20k. But more freebies need to be thrown in, like Bluetooth and steering wheel controls, if the Corolla is going to remain competitive.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Inside you’ll find a nicely arranged cabin with a center console that is easy to understand and useable small spaces. The seats are average in comfort and need manual arranging. The backseat is big enough to fit a car seat, although your front passenger will be squished in the process. Cargo space is limited with a challenging entry design – stick to medium-sized objects or bags here.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2011 Corolla is a Top Safety Pick by The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for having ratings of “Good” in frontal, side impact and rollover tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2011 Corolla an overall rating of four-stars in its testing.

Cost Issues: The Corolla starts out with a base price of $15,900, which is nice. What I really like is getting the S trim I had – and all the sporty fixings – for under $20k. This includes an upgraded audio system. But no standard Bluetooth or a moonroof – features I’ve seen on similar competitors for around the same price.

Activity & Performance Ability: Performance is not as lively as what I’ve experienced recently on the Ford Focus, but I find it on par with the Honda Civic. The engine is smooth and quite, while the suspension handles the road bumps well – enough to keep your commute stress-free and comfortable which is what most women are looking for in a reliable, everyday drive. The Corolla also does well at quick stops and cornering, completely eliminating the feeling you are being tossed about in a tin can. These commuter cars are taking on a touch of refinement with the powertrain and interior, so expect to be impressed by the Corolla.

The Green Concern: Corolla keeps things affordable and green with 26 miles-per-gallon city and 34 highway for a combined fuel economy of 29. While a hybrid or a compact hatchback might get do you better, the Corolla is really about holding onto decent style while saving bucks and the environment.

Affordable with touches of fun, the Corolla keeps up with the small car trend by offering a sportier version for under $20k with excellent 29 miles-per-gallon combined fuel economy. However, this compact sedan segment is growing increasingly hot and competitors like Hyundai are offering faster turbo engines and more interior features for around the same price.

2011 Katrina Ramser