The 2008 Toyota Corolla is a vice-free economy car with decades of good reliability. Unfortunately, it costs too much and has all the personality of an almond white Frigidaire.
The Jeopardy! category is \Car Pourri,\ and the answer is \This is the best-selling nameplate in automotive history.\ If you replied \What is the Beetle?\ then you just lost $400. Meanwhile, the 9th-grade English teacher from Dubuque, Iowa, successfully answered, \What is the Toyota Corolla?\
That's right, the 2008 Toyota Corolla is the latest incarnation of the world's number-one nameplate of all time. While it doesn't have the cultural or historic significance of previous record-holders, the VW Beetle and Ford Model T, the Corolla has quietly been an automotive phenomenon. Despite selling about 200,000 units every year in the United States, the Corolla nevertheless manages to blend into the automotive background with plain-Jane styling and personality. This Toyota economy car is about getting from point A to B reliably, year after year, with little worry and minimal spectacle. Sort of like that trusty Frigidaire in the kitchen.
Yet this appliance personality that has proved so successful is also what keeps the 2008 Toyota Corolla far from being our top choice in the economy sedan segment. (Its relatively high price is another big factor.) Although 2003 doesn't seem like that long ago, all of the Corolla's competitors have been replaced since then and it's rapidly feeling long in the tooth. Specifically, the recently redesigned Honda Civic has differing model styles, cutting-edge styling, more available convenience features and more power, while offering nearly equal fuel economy and reliability.
An all-new Corolla was delayed after its initial design was apparently deemed too plain in contrast to the Civic. The re-penned version is supposed to arrive for the 2009 model year. We would suggest waiting for this 10th generation to arrive if you're one of the 30 million people who have purchased a Toyota Corolla since 1967 and must have a new one. Otherwise, taking a close look at its many impressive competitors is a smart move.
The 2008 Toyota Corolla economy sedan is available in three trim levels: CE, S and LE. The base CE comes with 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a CD player, power mirrors, a height-adjustable driver seat, an outside temperature gauge and a 60\/40-split folding rear seat. The S is similar but has a lower-body styling kit, a rear deck spoiler, foglights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Go with the Corolla LE to gain fake wood trim, Optitron gauges, power windows and locks, and remote keyless entry. You can get the power windows and locks as options on the CE and S. Other available options, depending on the trim level, include 16-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, upgraded audio systems and cruise control.
From a stop, the Corolla's acceleration is acceptable but nothing more. During highway driving, it's a quiet cruiser, with very little engine noise and even less wind noise. Though not as sporty as some competitors, this Toyota offers an appealing compromise between handling and comfort. It rides smoothly enough to be used as a commuter car, while maintaining its composure when occasionally pushed around the corners.
Power for all 2008 Corollas comes in the form of a 126-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy is at the very top of the economy sedan segment (neck and neck with the Civic) with 2008 EPA figures of 26 mpg city and 35 mpg highway with the automatic transmission.
The 2008 Toyota Corolla offers antilock brakes, full-length side curtain airbags and front-seat side airbags as optional features. A stability control system that also adds traction control and brake assist is optional on S and LE models equipped with an automatic transmission and ABS. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the Toyota Corolla earned five stars (the best score possible) for frontal-impact protection and four stars for side-impact protection. In 40 mph frontal-offset crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it received a \Good\ rating (the highest possible). The IIHS gave a worst rating of \Poor\ to the Corolla for the car's protection in side-impact crashes. That rating rises to \Acceptable\ if the car is equipped with the optional side and side curtain airbags.
The Corolla's interior is furnished with high-quality materials and user-friendly controls that wouldn't seem out of place in a more expensive car. In fact, its build quality is better than the latest Camry -- especially in uplevel LE trim. However, unlike the Civic or Mazda 3, no one will ever call the Corolla's design particularly dynamic or interesting. Even with the car's tall cabin, room in the front seats is only average, with a somewhat awkward seating position for the driver. On the plus side, two adults can sit comfortably in the backseat without ducked heads or pulled-up legs. Trunk capacity measures a generous 13.6 cubic feet.
Spacious interior, excellent fuel economy, good interior quality, illustrious reliability record.
Bland on-road personality, awkward driving position, major safety features are optional, lack of upscale convenience features, pricey even when equipped with just the basics.