In 2009 a new Corolla went on sale in North America. Not entirely “new,” the 10th generation Corolla feature carried over mechanics on a newly style body and interior. A staple in the compact car market, Toyota kept to the winning formula of offering a basic car with high reliability and dependable reliability.
Engine choices remained a 1.8-liter four cylinder making 132 hp as well as an optional 158 hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder found in the sporty XRS model. Both engines could be paired to a five-speed manual transmission or an automatic – four speeds for the 1.8-liter and five-speeds for the 2.4-liter.
Models from 2009 and 2010 were sold in Base, S, LE, XLE and XRS trims. In 2011, the XLE and XRS trims were dropped leaving just the base, S and LE trims. For 2012 the base trim was renamed L while 2013 saw the addition of the LE Special Edition.
- Reliability – Toyota built its reputation by offering reliable vehicles and the Corolla is an example of that. Although there are a few issues with the car, most are covered under warranty and/or were correct by Toyota in subsequent model years.
- Efficiency – The Corolla may not be the most powerful vehicle in the compact segment, but it is quite efficient. Even if the official ratings of 27 MPG city and 35 MPG highway don’t sound overly impressive, owners quite often claim to beat the advertised figures.
- Value – Even though the Corolla features a high resale value, owners still find it is well worth the price. All the features they want in a dependable car is worth a slight price premium over some other compact cars.
- Faulty Water Pumps – On early 10th generation Corollas, owners have been experiencing premature water pump failures. A redesigned water pump was used in later models and should be retrofitted to 2009-2010 Corollas as well.
- Cold Weather Start – Owners with Corollas from the 2009 to 2013 model years have complained of grinding, rattles and squeaks during cold weather starts. A TSB was issued and Toyota supposedly fixed the issue but some owners still report having problems.
- Steering – As we have found when evaluating the 10th generation Corolla, the steering on these cars feels loose and imprecise at highway speeds. Some owners have found this to be an issue while others have not.
Before You Buy
If it’s an early 10th generation Corolla that you’re looking considering, be sure the current owner has taken the car to have all the recalls addressed. The most important of those are the recalls that pertain to brake and airbag performance. It’s also important to take one for a test drive that includes a highway portion to ensure both acceleration and steering are adequate for your driving needs.
Other than that it’s just the usual used car checklist of obtaining service history, ensuring it’s accident-free and inspecting tire and brake wear.
Best Bang for Your Buck
Although 2009-2010 Corollas appear to have a high safety rating from the NHTSA, the crash test standards were changed for 2011 and the Corolla’s rating significantly dropped that year. For the 2012 model year the rating was much improved – specifically for side impact crashes – because of enhancements that Toyota implemented starting that model year.
The 2009-2011 Corollas have also had more issues reported to NHTSA as well as recalls issued. Unless you’re after the sportier XRS model, we recommend looking for a 2012 model, even if it is more expensive. By this year, the bugs seem to be worked out and safety had been improved.
Recall and Crash Test Database
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