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Second Opinion: Toyota Corolla XRS

Follow Marty



Trust me, I've heard all the complaints. "It feels like an appliance," the enthusiast magazines chime. "It's only a Toyota," a friend says. So what? After a week in the new Toyota Corolla XRS, I'm pretty convinced that folks who commute for a daily living don't need anything more than this four-door to entertain themselves.

When we reviewed the 2009 Corolla XRS last fall, we wrote that "its steering is more tightly tuned, it gets around corners more smartly without much sacrifice in ride, and its 0-to-60 performance improves to a tick under nine seconds, which Toyota optimistically calls 'excellent.'" Gary Witzenburg went on to write that put up against the Honda Civic and the Chevrolet Cobalt, the Corolla didn't measure up.

I'll differ strongly on that point. After having driven the various Civics often in the past two years, and the Cobalt as a rental car, I'd put the Corolla ahead of both, even though the XRS version may not be the quickest of the pack.

The Corolla I tested was easily the best one I've ever tested. The feeling of quality sank in immediately -- even though the plastic on the dash was hard, it felt and looked better than the soft-touch plastic I've seen on some recent Chryslers. The fit of the interior panels was superb, and the sporting touches were slight but smart enough to make this look a little sharper than an average Corolla.

Performance? The Corolla's 158-hp, 2.4-liter four spun happily and smoothly to redline a lot this past week, and the five-speed shifter is slick and sweet enough that I'd teach my 17-year-old niece on it. It can't get down in the 7-second, 60-mph runs that the Cobalt SS can, but put it this way: would you rather hear someone do their job happily, or hear them grousing all the time?

The Corolla easily wins the taste battle here, too. The interior doesn't go for the space-age set like the Civic, and its comfort level is still tiers above and away from the Cobalt. The driver seat was comfortable for me, and the back seat offered up plenty of room even with my legs extended in driving position. And for equipment, all you need is the available Bluetooth, iPod jack and XM satellite radio -- you're driving too distracted as it is.

Now, if we're talking a week in Napa, I'd want a Jaguar XKR. And if it were Vermont, I'd prefer a Range Rover Sport, thanks very much. But for the everyday slog up Georgia 400, or the 101, or the A1A, I'd rather just spend $22,000 for a car with some surprising driving satisfaction, a stellar reputation for reliability, a very handsomely finished interior and faultless performance. And above a Civic or a Cobalt, I'd choose this Corolla, shelling out the extra bucks for the XRS' extra power, stability control, and tighter ride.
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Comments (10)
  1. should compare the Honda Civic SI, Mazda 3 Sport, Miss Lanzer Sport with Corolla XKR with the same price point.
     
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  2. Yes, I know this Corolla is a good car and will sell like mad, but, just look at it...from bland to clumsy. Its as if Toyota's designers were betting that the Honda Civic's ultramodern styling would tank against their generic blob-mobile that was on the drawing boards. The Civic struck a successfully stylish note and the Toyota designers panicked. Result? HUGE (look at the cutlines), lumpy, plastic nosepiece and rear bumper that have nothing in common stylewise with with the rest of the car. The tacked on running boards, bumper spats, and trunklid nicknack shelf say "I love old Pontiac Grand Ams" instead of "sporty".
     
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  3. For $22K, I'd rather get an off-lease GTI and spend the extra $$ for maintenance.
     
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  4. WHAT??...this journalist gets a chance to debate his fellow colleagues First article about a Toyota car. Goes to show that everyone has opinions....just these guys get paid to publish theirs. I say go test drive them all yourself instead of being influenced by opinionated journalists. These guys just had differences in terms of what is important to them about a car & what they would use it for. You know your likes best! Just take a little time & go drive them all yourself! You'll see this car doesn't deserve a SECOND OPINION against the Cobalt or Civic.
     
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  5. I have driven this and the Civic EX and Si, this is more fun than the EX but does not touch the Si. While it was fun to drive around corners the wind blew it all over the highway while the Civics felt more composed. By the way, the picture looks like the S with the 1.8 L base engine not the XRS.
     
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  6. The Corolla XRS is easily best in class. The lemmings will of course say "It's Bland", "I rather have car X", etc.

    There's a reason the Corolla is the best selling car in it's class. Heck the redesigned Civic bombed against the previous generation Corolla even when the Corolla was at the end of it's product cycle.
     
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  7. This is a sad car compared to the amazing XRS from 05-06. 8200 RPM redline with more power than this 4 cyl Camry wanna-be. It's a shame that toyota forgot how to build "fun" cars. The point is, that Toyota has a lot of good cars, but no drivers cars. The XRS used to be that. Now it's just a scion TC in Toyota badging... with a tad less performance.
     
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  8. I test drove both the tC and the XRS (also the Matrix XRS, though I preferred the sedan over the "boy-tuner" look of the Matrix) and the choice was obvious, even with the price difference between the two.
    I bought the '09 Corolla XRS after going through and testing many vehicles, from the Caliber SRT-4 to the Civic Si and EX-L, and even the Mitsubishi Eclipse. When it came down to a total package car the XRS was by far the best quality and performance/economic value for the money.
    I have had a 2.4 liter 2003 Camry LE which I bought new, and loved it. It drove like a six cylinder and I have embarrassed plenty of little civics with custom body kits racing stickers and loud coffee-can exhausts that revved their engines at each other at the red lights, only to get smoked by my Camry (lol!). I went back to Toyota for a 08/09 Camry this year, but I didn't like the new body styling compared to my model. For less money and the exact same power train the XRS was the obvious choice. I also loved the shift feel of the five-speed gear box, very smooth.
    I bought the Corolla XRS and as a birthday present my father had it supercharged it for me at the factory
    ($3,190, the same TRD supercharger available for the tC).
    I now put out 206 hp and 171 lb.-ft of torque. I am beating up stock Civic Si's off the line. (The Si runs on premium fuel, as opposed to my car which can easily run on regular even with the upgrade, though I do put premium in mine.)
    In gloss black my Toyota XRS with tinted windows, interior LED light enhancements(also from the tC), and awesomely crisp JBL sound system the car has proven fun, stylish, and more than enough to get the ladies to want to "take a ride" in my new car. The car is extremely well assembled and in quality of build alone it kills it American built competitors with the sharpness of a Katana. With the supercharger I now get about 22 to 24 mpg city and close to 34 mpg highway. The Civic Si cant do that stock, even with six gears.
    Side note; I do admit that I peeled off the chrome/plastic Corolla badge from the trunk, leaving only the XRS badge on the right side. When people ask me what I drive I just say it's an '09 Toyota XRS. It does help (haha).
    Likes; fuel economy, peppy acceleration, very smooth quiet ride, assembly quality.
    Dislikes; the two red rear reflectors on the lower portion of the back. They look okay at night in your headlights from behind, but in the daylight they admittedly look a bit tacked on.
    Suggested improvements; if anything i suppose a six speed close ratio transmission would be nice for even better shifting and highway fuel consumption.
     
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  9. "dw112068"

    Does anybody have a problem,of their transmission downshifting hard near 40 mph,going down hill or is this the traction control?
     
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  10. By Daniel Weissert
    #9, Posted: 2/23/2009
    I bought mine year 2010 last night , I have similar problem happened 2 times today.I will monitor next couple days, Please update,
    Thanks. my email longdragonpham@yahoo.com
     
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