2009 Toyota Corolla

Basic Transportation Done Right

2009 Toyota Corolla


1. All-new 2009 Corolla gets complete exterior redesign.

2. Familiar 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine gets slight upgrade in power to 132hp and 128 ft-lbs of torque.

If Martians came down to earth today and asked you what a car is, you might try to explain to them that it has four doors and wheels and an engine. Or you could just show them a Toyota Corolla.

For 40 years now Toyota has been building the Corolla and with all the success it has had doing so, we’re likely to see Corollas on the road for another 40 years. The reason is that the Corolla defines the term “car.”

This point was made all the more obvious when we tested a base model 2009 Corolla. The only real option on this model was the automatic transmission, which brings the asking price from $15,350 up to $16,150.

All-new for ‘09, we thought this would be a great way to really tell what improvements have been made to the car without any distractions from the optional bells and whistles.


As is most obvious (or perhaps not) the 2009 all-new Corolla features a completely redesigned body. The new look isn’t breathtaking, or offensive, it’s just sort of there – although with our tester’s red paint we could upgrade our aesthetic evaluation to “pleasing.”

Surprisingly, this new body is actually smaller than the outgoing model. The ’09 Corolla is half an inch less in length and 2.5-inches thinner. It is, however, half an inch taller.

Under the hood, there are no big changes. The familiar 1.8-liter Toyota powerplant makes 132hp at 6000 rpm and 128 ft-lbs of torque at 4400 rpm – a modest increase of both six hp and torque. A more powerful engine is offered, but only in the $18,860 XRS model, which comes with a 2.4-liter four cylinder that makes 158hp and 162 ft-lbs of torque. It also comes with a five-speed automatic, as opposed to the four-speed auto available on the other trim levels.

The 2.4 is a good optional engine but if you’re looking for a sporty and fast econobox we suggest looking at manufacturers other than Toyota. Even with 160-ish horsepower the car engine has nowhere near the output of performance versions of the Civic, Sentra or Cobalt. To be fair, however, it is also priced accordingly.

Also new for ’09 are some suspension upgrades and they certainly make a difference. The car now has a more sporty demeanor than in the past. It’s no Honda Civic but it’s a marked improvement.


For 2009 the Corolla is, for the first time, a world car – meaning that it was designed with all markets in mind and not created for the Japanese market and then adapted for Europe or North America afterwards.

This is a part of the reason for the improved handling says Toyota. Of note, the ‘09 Corolla gets, for the first time, electronic steering and the Toyota seems to have got the responsiveness right on the first try.


When it comes to the interior, there are immediate pros and cons. On the base model the materials are decent and the build quality is superb. Annoyingly, however, is the fact that the shift knob is coated in leather but the steering wheel isn’t – and considering how much time you spend with your hands on the wheel, this small upgrade could make a big difference in the tactile appeal of the car. Alternatively, Toyota, could just forget the leather on the gear stick and you’d never even think of it.

What really makes the Corolla’s interior a step above what it could be is the two-tone dash. And with the faux-brushed aluminum bars that run on both sides of the center stack, it looks significantly more premium level than a base model.

One complaint about the center stack, however, is that the radio controls are at the top with the climate controls at the bottom. That isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s just that this places the audio controls far away from the shifter – and means you can’t rest your hand on the shifter while you scroll through your presets as you sit in traffic. For the record, the base Corolla comes equipped with an AM/FM/CD player with MP3 capability – that actually produces decent quality sound despite just four speakers.

Impressively, the steering wheel is both tilt and telescopic – the latter option being something that is often forgotten on far more expensive vehicles.

The gauges are easy to read and while there is an information display for things like fuel economy and fuel range, it is very small. This display also houses the digital clock which just isn’t an ideal location.

Behind the wheel, it’s amazing how high-up the seating position is. In the Corolla you are high enough to look through the windows of minivans and SUVs so you can tell what is beyond them. The down side is that the command seating is inherently less sporty – but that isn’t likely to matter to anyone serious about buying a Corolla.


The cabin of the Corolla is surprisingly quiet for an economy car and the ride quality is excellent. As we mentioned, it handles better than you might expect.

The four-speed automatic is actually very good and power is sufficient. As for fuel economy, it is impressive with an EPA rating of 26/35 mpg (city/highway). Our tester achieved a real-world 32 mpg. That being said, we can’t help but wonder how incredible that number might be with a five-gear tranny.

Arguably the four-speed is one of the reasons Toyota is able to keep the Corolla so competitively priced – another reason is the use of drum brakes in the rear.


In term of safety features the base Corolla comes with six airbags, including dual-stage river and passenger airbags as well as front and rear side/curtain airbags. Unfortunately vehicle stability control and traction control are an option.


The 2009 Corolla in base trim does the job of an A-to-B-type car while offering a nicer interior and better ride than it has to. We’re still not taken with the styling but that is par for the course when it comes to Corollas. This may be the first Corolla world car, but Toyota has long designed its popular compact car to be as widely accepted as possible by employing a design principle of blandness.

If you’re shopping for basic transportation, the Corolla is easily the top of the list. If you’re looking for more, however, models from other manufacturers become increasingly attractive as you move up the scale.

What is truly amazing about the Corolla is that it is a testament to its heritage. The car is a top seller for Toyota despite the fact that the company offers other products that might suit many buyers’ needs better. Those who really just want basic transportation could go with the Yaris and those who need more space could chose a Matrix. And yet the Corolla thrives.

The ’09 Corolla does what all past Corollas have done, namely, to be a car in the most general sense of the term and to do so particularly well.


Fuel economy Interior design (and telescopic steering) Command seating


4-speed auto Hard to find clock Exterior design

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked