2009 Toyota Corolla

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Key Specs

of the 2009 Toyota Corolla. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    26-31 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    132-hp, 1.8-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    5-speed manual w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Gas mileage
  • Interior storage
  • Safety features
  • No hump in rear floor
  • Straightforward controls
  • Upscale options

The Bad

  • Handling and braking (non-XRS)
  • Highway acceleration w/base engine
  • Some trim levels meagerly equipped
  • Anonymous styling
  • Clumsy A/C dials
  • Trunk volume

Notable Features of the 2009 Toyota Corolla

  • Redesigned for 2009
  • 1.8-liter or 2.4-liter four-cylinder
  • Manual or automatic
  • Six airbags and ABS standard
  • Optional stability control
  • Available navigation system

2009 Toyota Corolla Road Test

David Thomas

Next to the larger Camry, the Corolla is the most important car in Toyota's lineup, but its redesign last year left most of us here at Cars.com flat. The exterior is beyond conservative, the interior doesn't compare well to rivals from Honda and Mazda, and its base engine is anemic.

Enter the more powerful XRS trim level. The previous generation of the XRS was a fun-to-drive favorite of mine. Some of that joy is felt here, but with a $18,860 starting price — my test car's sticker hovered near $23,000, and that didn't include navigation — it doesn't come close to the experience of driving a performance-oriented model like the Honda Civic Si or Mazda3 s, and it barely manages to hold its own against its competitors' non-performance base models.

The test car was a 2009, but the 2010 — already on sale — features no significant changes. Most pricing is also unchanged. Compare the two here. You can read our review of the 2009 base model

 

Performance
The biggest upgrade to this more expensive trim comes with the engine. The base Toyota Corolla's 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder is replaced with a 158-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, and the larger engine can be teamed with a smoother five-speed automatic transmission rather than the base model's somewhat-outdated four-speed. A five-speed manual is standard for both engines. The new engine translates to a much more enjoyable driving experience compared with the re...

Next to the larger Camry, the Corolla is the most important car in Toyota's lineup, but its redesign last year left most of us here at Cars.com flat. The exterior is beyond conservative, the interior doesn't compare well to rivals from Honda and Mazda, and its base engine is anemic.

Enter the more powerful XRS trim level. The previous generation of the XRS was a fun-to-drive favorite of mine. Some of that joy is felt here, but with a $18,860 starting price — my test car's sticker hovered near $23,000, and that didn't include navigation — it doesn't come close to the experience of driving a performance-oriented model like the Honda Civic Si or Mazda3 s, and it barely manages to hold its own against its competitors' non-performance base models.

The test car was a 2009, but the 2010 — already on sale — features no significant changes. Most pricing is also unchanged. Compare the two here. You can read our review of the 2009 base model

 

Performance
The biggest upgrade to this more expensive trim comes with the engine. The base Toyota Corolla's 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder is replaced with a 158-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, and the larger engine can be teamed with a smoother five-speed automatic transmission rather than the base model's somewhat-outdated four-speed. A five-speed manual is standard for both engines. The new engine translates to a much more enjoyable driving experience compared with the rest of the Corolla lineup, but that's like saying a Big Mac is more impressive than a 59-cent hamburger. It should be.

What shoppers should consider is how the XRS stacks up against the competition. I'd rate it far behind the 197-hp Honda Civic Si in terms of thrills, and behind the redesigned 167-hp Mazda3 s in terms of all-around performance. I'd also say the base Mazda3 sedan, with its smaller 148-hp engine, is on par with the XRS. Even a base Civic and its trademark high-revving, 140-hp engine would fare well against the pricier XRS.

The XRS' braking is also much improved over the standard Toyota Corolla, but again, that's because the baseline is so inadequate.

Mileage obviously takes a hit because of the upgraded power. The XRS gets 22 city mpg and 30 hwy mpg, compared with an extremely frugal 26/35 mpg for the base model with the manual transmission. The Civic Si gets 21/29 mpg but has nearly 40 hp more than the XRS (actual mileage may vary).

Exterior
A highlight of the XRS trim is its appearance. The somewhat boring look of the standard Toyota Corolla is tarted up here with more aggressive body moldings, larger wheels — 17-inchers replace standard 15-inch wheels — and a rear spoiler. My front-wheel-drive red test car did indeed look sharp, and a little less like the economy box it is than does the base Toyota Corolla.

Interior
My XRS tester had an optional Leather Package. The leather-wrapped 
seats themselves were quite comfortable, and seemed to be of fairly top-of-the-line black leather. But that's where the highlights end. One of the Corolla's big disappointments is its bland, somewhat roughshod interior. While Toyota has always been one of the leaders in terms of interior quality no matter the segment, the Toyota Corolla's plastics look and feel cheap, and the controls are awkward. In short, nothing impressed.


The XRS doesn't get an altered interior, although my test car's all-black interior hid some of the flaws I noticed in other Corollas. Quality isn't on par with the Civic, and the new Mazda3 has both beat in terms of interior design, with its swooping lines and innovative locations for displays and controls.

The Toyota Corolla's backseat is also tight. Even though rear legroom and headroom numbers are close to the competition, hip room in back is significantly less than in the Civic or Mazda3. I didn't have a problem placing a convertible child seat in the Civic or the last-generation Mazda3, yet in the Toyota Corolla my 15-month-old son's feet were dangling between the bucket seats, pretty close to the front occupants.

At 12.3 cubic feet, the trunk is more than adequate; it's larger than the Honda's and Mazda's.


 

Features
Toyota offers a number of a la carte options, which in theory lets you pick and choose the ones you want. Most dealers, though, only order cars that have the packages with the most popular options, beyond the six standard airbags. My test car's heated leather seats were $1,490, a Power Package was $635 and the automatic transmission was $1,190, bringing the total with destination charge to $22,925.

Corolla XRS in the Market
With its significant price tag, it's clear that the XRS falls well behind in the competitive compact body-type segment. I would compare it closely with Nissan's SE-R, but even that car features more handling prowess.

However, the XRS was never designed to be the best performance compact; it's just a step up from the base Toyota Corolla, or even the Toyota Corolla LE and Toyota Corolla S. In that it does well, but when you think of all the fun-to-drive compacts with superior interiors that can be had for the same money — like a Civic, Subaru Impreza or Mazda3 — the Corolla quickly becomes an afterthought.

None of this seems to have deterred car buyers, though. The Toyota Corolla remains the most popular compact car in the country and is consistently one of the best-selling vehicles of any type.

Send David an email  

 


2009 Corolla Video

Cars.com's Dave Thomas takes a look at four compact cars: the 2010 Kia Forte, 2009 Ford Focus, 2009 Toyota Corolla, and 2010 Mazda Mazda3 to see which of these vehicles can easily tackle a trip to the local discount club.

Latest 2009 Corolla Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.2)
Performance
(4.1)
Interior Design
(4.0)
Comfort
(4.2)
Reliability
(4.6)
Value For The Money
(4.5)

Latest Reviews

(5.0)

Enjoyable!

by Joe from Mendota heights on July 6, 2018

Test drove this car, buying a gift for my daughter. The ride was smooth and confortable. Thus car has great pick up and response very well. My daughter is going to be very excited ! Read full review

(5.0)

One of the best vehicles I own.

by Izzy Josephs from CA. on July 5, 2018

Perfect mid-size. Hasn't given me any issues since I got it 3 years ago. Responds perfectly when I'm in the city and good for long distance journeys which I do a lot of. I run a routine check on all ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2009 Toyota Corolla currently has 12 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2009 Toyota Corolla Base

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
acceptable
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
acceptable
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / 36,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Toyota

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, trip-interruption services, Carfax vehicle history report, travel protection and toll-free assistance line

  • Limited Warranty

    1 year / 12,000 miles

    Comprehensive: 12 months/12,000 miles from date of purchase. Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date ($50 deductible) Note: In AL, FL, GA, NC and SC, 7-year/100,000 mile limited warranty coverage begins Jan. 1 of the vehicle's model year and zero (0) odometer miles and expires at the earlier of seven years or 100,000 odometer miles. Hybrid: 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on Factory HV Battery for Toyota Hybrid Vehicles.
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 85,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 160 point inspection and reconditioning.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Corolla received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker