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2009 Toyota Corolla Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Toyota Corolla was new.


Performance: 7.7

The 2009 Toyota Corolla has made noted improvements to its powertrain and chassis, but critics report it still does not compare well to the sporty performance of the high-scoring Honda Civic.

  • "We question whether the company has done enough to meet increased expectations for performance and handling in this class. Even in sporty XRS trim, the '09 Corolla does little to engage its driver. Shopped against genuinely entertaining alternatives like the Mazda 3, Civic and Lancer, Toyota's economy sedan remains a tough sell." -- Edmunds
  • "If the Honda Civic and Mazda 3 are the running shoes of the compact class, think of the Corolla as a nice pair of brown wingtips. Nothing new there: a take-no-chances approach has served legions of Corolla buyers who want a quiet, soft ride, and value good fuel economy over lively acceleration." -- Consumer Guide
  • "But performance, clearly, is not what Corolla buyers care about. They'll appreciate the smooth, quiet engine, the subdued wind and road noise, and the soft ride." -- Car and Driver

Acceleration and Power

Auto experts say the 2009 Corolla's base engine is good for those more concerned with fuel economy than power, but they prefer the higher trim's energetic 2.4-liter engine. The EPA rates the 2009 Corolla at 27/35 mpg city/highway with the four-speed automatic transmission, and 26/35 mpg with the five-speed manual transmission.

  • "The 132-hp XRS engine has less power than Honda's 140-hp Civic but more than the Nissan Versa's; however, Versa makes its torque earlier in the rev band than the Corolla, so where the Versa feels relatively stout even with an automatic, the Corolla feels it needs to be revved to get much out of it." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "The engine can get buzzy when pressed on uphill climbs on mountainous highways, but the overall trade off of good fuel mileage and mainstream performance is acceptable." -- The Associated Press
  • "XRS is lively with the manual transmission -- Toyota quotes 8.1 sec 0-60 mph -- and sufficiently strong for stress-free driving with the automatic." -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

According to reviewers, the 2009 Toyota Corolla's handling is suitable for the road situations most drivers will face. But the car's dynamics are not superior to other small sedans, and the Corolla's steering and stability control do not inspire confidence.

  • "All models aim for smooth isolation and mostly achieve it. Bump absorption is among the best in class, and there's little bothersome float or wallow over highway dips and swells. XRS is noticeably firmer than other models, but it's not jarring." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Body roll is decently controlled, but the electric steering on non-XRS models provides so little feedback, you may find yourself making corrections simply to keep the car traveling in a straight line. … Driven on a back road, the Corolla XRS is undeniably a capable compact sedan, but compared to rivals like the Mazda 3, Civic and Lancer, it's not a very entertaining one." -- Edmunds
  • "It's not sporty, even in sporting iterations. Moderate understeer comes in early and predictably." -- Motor Trend
  • "The only truly shameful test result was its 194-foot stop from 70 mph. That's among the worst in its class and barely better than the braking of the last Corolla we tested without ABS. Part of its lengthy stopping distance is likely due to the slightly flaccid brake pedal, which doesn't really start to bite until about halfway through its travel." -- Car and Driver

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