What it Is
2009 Toyota Corolla Preview – SEMA Show: When “Toyota” and “SEMA” are paired together, most minds may drift to images of Supras, FJs, or jacked Tundras. They probably don’t dial in on Corollas, though since Toyota was the featured automaker at the 2007 SEMA Show, things took a different turn this year. Vegas played host to the unveiling of the redesigned 2009 Corolla, and in true SEMA fashion, a highly-modified version dubbed the S3 pimped by Street Image shared the stage. When the production Corolla goes on sale in February it will arrive without the C3’s add-ons, such as 20-inch wheels. (production note: normal)
By Thom Blackett
Photo credit: Staff, Toyota
Why it Matters
Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Corolla in the United States. Since 1968, the market has changed, buyers have changed, and right along with them the Corolla has changed. Such forward momentum has led the little Toyota to being named one of the world’s best-selling cars and trails only its sibling, the Toyota Camry, in terms of overall sales. But like any car, the Corolla has grown a bit long in the tooth over the past six years, and that coupled with introduction of totally redesigned models like the Honda Civic has created the need for a significant 2009 update.
What’s Under the Hood
Power output will depend on which Corolla you choose – Standard, LE, XLE, or XRS. The first three use a 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable-valve timing and crank out 132 horsepower and by 128 lb.-ft. of torque. The XRS bumps up to a 2.4-liter four-banger, also equipped with variable-valve timing, is good for 158 horses and 162 lb.-ft. of torque. All models are delivered with a standard five-speed manual transmission; the smaller engine can be mated to an optional four-speed automatic while the 2.4-liter is available only with a five-speed auto. Toyota estimates highway mileage up to 35 mpg.
What it Looks Like
Similar to the version it replaces, the 2009 Toyota Corolla carries a sleeker body with Italian inspiration, a very Camry-like front end, and a revised greenhouse. The front and rear pillars have been positioned at steeper angles. Sporty S and XRS models get a lower body kit and rear spoiler for a more aggressive look, while the XRS stands alone with standard 17-inch alloy wheels rolling on 214/45 rubber. The XRS also sits lower with a 5.3-inch ground clearance as opposed to all other models’ 5.8 inches.
If you’re looking for a busy interior, look elsewhere. However, if you seek a simple cabin with logical control placement in mind, the 2009 Corolla might fit the bill. Small cars are not known for extravagance, but designers have dressed things up a bit with attractive styling and desirable features including an available touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic information, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, XM satellite radio, and specific to S and XRS models, a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Buyers can also opt for a JBL sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, and leather upholstery. Interior room remains the same.
What Toyota Says
Toyota’s marketing manager, Tim Morrison, had this to say about the 2009 Corolla: "Nearly 40 years after the Corolla was introduced to American drivers, the 2009 Corolla will continue to offer the quality and value for which the brand has long been known. In style and substance, the tenth-generation Corolla will have a strong, new identity, all its own. It will be far more than merely the next-generation Corolla and will position itself perfectly above our entry-level Yaris and below our sales leader, the Camry."
What We Think
Styling updates are nice enough on the 2009 Corolla and the expected fuel economy is an obvious plus, two points that should hit home with a large number of buyers. That will help Corolla sales keep rolling, but there should be little argument about whether or not Toyota took the ultraconservative approach to updating one of its bread-and-butter models. Unlike its archrival, the Honda Civic, the new Corolla’s look is fairly bland and we’re honestly disappointed to learn of the sportiest XRS model getting only 158 horsepower.