Driven: 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS

It often occurred to me—especially when I was young—that when anyone talked about how things “used to be better”—movies, food, air quality, chewing gum—it was evident that they were (1) aged and (2) full of crap.

It often occurred to me—especially when I was young—that when anyone talked about how things “used to be better”—movies, food, air quality, chewing gum—it was evident that they were (1) aged and (2) full of crap. Which brings me to the 2009 Corolla XRS. And I am afraid that I may have to start pounding the Metamucil.

This is the 10th generation of the car in America. It has been here for 40 years. And while I don’t have a precise comparative metric—meaning, I haven’t driven, say, the 8th generation for a number of years and didn’t drive more of the generations than I have driven—it just seems—and here is the place where you have to pull out a giant grain of salt with which to take this, or just consider that I, too, am rapidly aging—it just seems that the 2009 is missing something.

For the past several years, it has been the case that Corolla was a class leader. Not showy. Just substantive. It was a car that could be used as the example for the phrase “value for money.”

Or to use Toyota’s very own words: “Corolla has long been synonymous with Toyota quality, style and value, earning a distinction as one of the most trusted cars in America.”

While one can—should?—quibble with some of that verbiage, pretty much that nails it. But when I got into the current generation Corolla and slammed the door, it was clear that something was wrong. Very wrong. Because it didn’t sound solid. Substantive. It sounded, well, vacant. Hollow. Inside, everything was in place. But somehow, well, just sort of thrifty. Which would be in keeping with the aforementioned value, but then there is the little matter of the sticker: the base MSRP is $20,050. Now being the XRS model it is pricier than the ordinary car because of a larger engine (2.4-liter vs. 1.8-liter) and it has some visible (e.g., spoiler) and not readily visible (e.g., front sport strut tower brace).

 

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The car as Driven—wait for it--$24,135. The lion’s share of that goes for the leather package ($1,490), but really, this is getting to the kind of money that people would pay for a midsize car. Now while it is not an apples-to-apples comparison, the base price of a 2009 Prius is $22,000, so there is something a bit askew here with the Corolla.

It is still a fine car. But back in the day. . .

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Selected specs

Engine: 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, 16-valve DOHC

Material: Aluminum alloy block and head

Horsepower: 158 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 6,000 rpm

Wheelbase: 102.4 in.

Length: 178.7 in.

Width: 69.3 in.

Height: 57.7 in.

Curb weight: 2,965 lb.

Fuel economy: 22 city/30 highway mpg