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With the discontinuation of the sporty XRS model, the 2011 Toyota Corolla is all vanilla. While the current Corolla is much more attractive than previous generations, one of the car's biggest drawbacks remains its inability to excite the visual senses; Toyota has given the Corolla a refresh this year, but it's rather minor and mainly just brings this sedan in line with the Camry's look. Overall, the Corolla still lacks the sporty and modern panache of many of its rivals, but this may be ideal for those who don't want to stand out from the crowd.
Across the lineup, there are three trim levels: base, LE, and S. The LE model is offered only with a four-speed automatic transmission, while base and S models can be had with either an automatic or a five-speed manual. All Corollas come with a 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Compared to most other models in this class (like the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, or Honda Civic), the Corolla feels slightly down on power—especially at highway speeds. The four-speed automatic isn't too bad, although its gears feel widely spaced, but the five-speed manual is pleasant to use. Although our editors hadn't yet driven the 2011 Corolla at the time we published this update, we have found former—and virtually identical, mechanically—models to be too softly sprung and lacking a handling and ride sophistication that many rivals now have. The power steering—a newer electric system—is dull and overly light, and the Corolla resists quick changes in motions; it's not at all tuned for enthusiastic or responsive handling.
The interior of the 2011 Corolla is well designed, but rather stark and basic. In its LE and S trim levels, the Corolla gets a little more dressed-up, but even then its materials and execution feel subpar compared to rivals in the same price range. Seating in the Corolla is quite good overall, with plenty of headroom and legroom in front, and even decent space for average-sized adults in the back seat. But front seats are a bit short and spongy; they're not so comfortable for longer trips. Storage-wise, there's a double glovebox, along with a few cubbies, a console box, and large door pockets, but the trunk is on the small side, even among cars in this class, and has intrusive hinges.
Since the Corolla is quite softly sprung, ride comfort is good on most types of roads, though it can become bouncy on broken freeway surfaces. The one area where the Corolla is a standout, however, is in interior quietness and refinement. There isn't a lot of engine noise, and the powertrain is smooth. The Corolla's cabin is also well-isolated from wind and road noise, and feels up to the standards of a mid-size car in this respect.
Safety is a bright spot for the 2011 Toyota Corolla; it performs very well in most crash tests and has a good set of features. For 2011, it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Anti-lock brakes; stability and traction control; front-seat side airbags; full-length side curtain airbags; and active front head restraints remain standard on the Corolla.
The 2011 Toyota Corolla comes well equipped, even in base form. Air conditioning, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and a CD player are standard, in addition to a new trip computer. Optional features include a navigation system and XM Satellite Radio—rare features in this segment. However, if you choose a base model, you're going basic in a way you might not suspect; there are no power windows, locks, or even mirrors available; you have to step up to the higher trims for that. Major options on the Corolla are limited to a moonroof, an upgraded sound system with Bluetooth, and a Premium package that brings the S wheels, the moonroof, and Bluetooth/sound upgrades to the LE.