The 2011 Toyota Corolla compact sedan rides well and should be reliable, but is otherwise unremarkable in a segment full of more desirable choices.
The Toyota Corolla is the world's best-selling car of all time. More than 33 million have been sold in the last 35 years, which makes it mathematically assured that you know someone who either owns one or used to own one. This car owes much of its success to Toyota's reputation of dependability and it's hard to argue with such a buying rationale.
Yet once you look beyond that single attribute, you'll discover that the 2011 Toyota Corolla is no longer the class leader it once was. The Corolla's fuel economy used to be a benchmark, but now it gets thumped by the new Hyundai Elantra's EPA-rated 40 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined. Interior quality is another area in which the Corolla finds itself outclassed. And while the Corolla has never been described as being fun to drive, the current car feels so disconnected from the road that you may find yourself thinking you're playing a very dull video game.
The sport-tuned XRS trim, with its more powerful four-cylinder engine, used to be the model of choice for Corolla buyers seeking extra responsiveness, but Toyota has killed it for 2011. Also removed from the Corolla menu this year is the XLE, which was the most luxury-focused trim in the lineup. On the plus side, the Corolla gains revised styling for 2011, particularly with the sport-look S trim, which also gets the thick, flat-bottomed steering wheel found in the new Scion tC.
If you think we believe that you can do better than the 2011 Toyota Corolla, you're right. It's not just us, either. Two years ago we invited six regular Americans to drive the Corolla alongside the 2011 Honda Civic and previous-generation Mazda 3. None of our testers put the Corolla in 1st place and all but the most senior members of the bunch placed it dead last. They echoed our opinion that the Corolla feels disconnected to drive and expressed disappointment with the look and feel of its cabin.
Today the Corolla faces even stiffer competition. Of course, the Corolla is still known for its reliability, but then so is the Honda Civic, and Hyundai has improved dramatically in this regard. As such, we highly recommend shopping around before taking a 2011 Toyota Corolla home.
The 2011 Toyota Corolla is a five-passenger compact sedan available in base, LE and S trim levels.
Standard equipment includes 15-inch steel wheels, power mirrors, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60\/40-split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The LE adds keyless entry, power locks, power windows (optional on base), variable intermittent wipers, cruise control and six speakers. The S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a sport-look body kit, a rear spoiler, upgraded cloth upholstery, steering-wheel audio controls and an upgraded trip computer.
Optional on the LE and S is a sunroof that includes an overhead console with map lamps and a sunglasses holder. Also available is an upgraded six-speaker sound system with satellite radio, an iPod\/USB audio interface and Bluetooth phone and audio player connectivity. The Premium package available on the LE includes 16-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, the sunroof and the upgraded audio system.
The 2011 Toyota Corolla's softly sprung ride is perfect for commuting, and wind and road noise are nicely quelled, even at highway speeds. However, handling is unimpressive -- even if you don't profess to be a driving enthusiast, a back-to-back drive between a Corolla and any number of its competitors will reveal that the Toyota feels less responsive to inputs and therefore makes you feel less involved with the driving experience.
The Corolla's lone engine choice delivers the sort of languid acceleration typical at this price point, but Toyota makes a smooth engine, so at least your ears won't be paying for it. However, given that the car's fuel economy isn't as impressive as it once was, you may be less willing to put up with such pokey performance.
Every 2011 Toyota Corolla is powered by a 1.8-liter inline-4 that produces 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, an automatic-equipped Corolla went from zero to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds -- a slower time for this class. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 26 mpg city\/34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined with the automatic and 28\/35\/31 with the manual. These numbers used to be quite impressive but pale in comparison to the new Hyundai Elantra's promise of 40 mpg highway.
Every Toyota Corolla comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes with brake assist (front disc, rear drum), front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the Corolla came to a stop from 60 mph in 127 feet -- an average distance for this type of car.
The Corolla has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) saw it earning four out of five stars for front passengers in a frontal crash, and the same for rear passengers in a side crash. It got five stars for the protection of front passengers in a side crash. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Corolla earned a perfect "Good" rating in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
The 2011 Corolla's cabin is a bit dull to the eye and the materials used to construct it are mediocre at best. The cabins of the Chevrolet Cruze and Ford Focus feel like they belong to a more sophisticated market segment by comparison. On the upside, the Corolla's controls are quite simple to use, though opting for the upgraded stereo with iPod and Bluetooth controls makes things a bit more complicated.
Like most Toyotas, the Corolla's seats are soft and comfy, and will likely bring words like "recliner" and "La-Z-Boy" to mind. The seats lack support, however, so some may find long-distance comfort troublesome. The front seats offer a decent amount of space even for taller drivers (a revelation for a small Toyota), while the backseat also boasts decent room and a cushy bottom.
With 12.3 cubic feet of space, trunk space is average, but the trunk boasts a usefully wide opening.
Comfortable ride; simple controls; good fuel economy; quiet cabin.
Disconnected driving experience; unimpressive cabin quality; common luxury features are unavailable.