2008 Toyota Corolla

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2006 Toyota Corolla

This 2006 review is representative of model years 2003 to 2008.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Toyota continues to score well with the world's top-selling car.
Pros:
  • Fuel-thrifty
  • Durable
  • Decent performance
Cons:
  • Noisy acceleration
  • Rather odd styling
  • Long reach to sound radio controls

Some folks still think that the Ford Model T or original Volkswagen Beetle holds the title of the world's top-selling car, but the Toyota Corolla surpassed both those autos long ago with production of more than 25 million units.

Sold throughout the world, the compact Corolla was introduced in 1966 and arrived in America two years later. It was cheap, durable, functional, used little gasoline and had a far more modern design than the old Beetle. Americans soon took to it.

Stronger competition from South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia caused the Corolla's U.S. sales to slip to 231,848 cars last year from 240,203 in 2004, although the Corolla is still holding its own.

The current $14,005-$17,780 Corolla is the ninth generation model, introduced for 2003. It is longer, taller and wider than the eighth-generation car, with more equipment and an upgraded interior.

Shrunken Lexus Look
The eighth-generation Corolla had nicely proportioned square-edge styling and looked especially elegant and more costly than it was, especially with black paint and alloy wheels. The more rounded Lexus-type styling of the current Corolla doesn't look as good. In fact, the car's small size makes it resemble an overly shrunken sedan from Toyota's upscale Lexus division.

The small 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine from the last-generation Corolla is retained, but it's sophisticated, with dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing for better responsiveness. It comes in standard 126-horsepower form, with a 164-horsepower version in a fairly new XRS hot rod trim level.

Hybrid Alternative
The standard engine's high estimated fuel economy—32 mpg in the city and 41 on highways with a 5-speed manual gearbox—can make some wonder why they should pay a lot more for a gasoline-electric hybrid auto from Toyota or anyone else.

The engine is moderately noisy during full acceleration. And the car only has an available 4-speed automatic transmission, instead of a more modern 5-speed unit, that lowers economy to 30 mpg city and 38 highway. Still, the automatic is responsive and those still are respectable figures. The car isn't much faster with the 5-speed manual.

Tiring in City
Economy with the $17,780 XRS is an estimated 26 city and 34 highway and its engine calls for premium fuel. The standard Corolla engine requires only regular-grade gasoline. Also, the XRS comes only with a 6-speed manual transmission, which calls for lots of shifting and works with a long-throw clutch that soon becomes tiring in city traffic.

The XRS needs race-car-style high engine speeds (7400 rpm) to develop the extra power and consequently performs best on long, clear roads, which often are difficult to find in crowded urban areas.

Special XRS Features
However, the XRS has sharper handling than other Corollas and such items as sport seats, an "aerodynamic body package" with front/ rear underbody spoilers, sport suspension, anti-lock brakes, rear spoiler and slightly wider (55-series) tires on larger (16-inch vs. 15-inch) wheels.

The Corolla never was meant to be a hot rod, so the XRS seems out of place in the Corolla line, which contains a CE entry version, sportier midrange S and top-line luxury LE.

All have a split-folding back seat to enlarge the cargo area—except the XRS, which has a rear cross brace to stiffen its body structure.

All Corollas are solidly built, although some Corolla buyers have complained to this writer about a squeaky suspension after a few years of ownership. The annoying noise can be eliminated by periodic lubrication of supposedly "lubricated-for-life" suspension components.

Fairly Well-Equipped
The entry Corolla CE is fairly well-equipped, with air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD player with four speakers, power mirrors, a tilt wheel, a tachometer, a manual driver seat height adjuster, intermittent wipers, an outside temperature gauge and a rear defogger.

The S adds power door locks, a leather-wrapped wheel, two extra speakers, a sport tachometer and color-keyed body side moldings, mirrors, rocker panels, a front spoiler and a rear underbody spoiler. The LE adds power windows, remote keyless enty and wood-like interior trim.

Key Safety Extras
Key safety options include front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes (standard on the XRS) and an anti-skid system for the S and LE.

As always, the Corolla has a long options list. Offered for the S, LE and XRS is a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, and the LE can be equipped with leather upholstery. Numerous option packages have wide price ranges.

Roomy Interior
Wide door openings allow easy entry, and there's sufficient room for four 6-footers in the generally quiet interior, whereas previous Corollas had a tight back seat. Front bucket seats of regular Corollas provide only moderate side support, but the rear seat is nicely shaped.

Even those with long arms will find that sound system controls call for a long reach because they're set high on the dashboard. But all other controls are easily reached, including the large, but rather notchy, climate controls.

Excellent Ride
The steering in a test Corolla was quick, but felt rather heavy. The ride—which has long been a Corolla strong point—is very supple, but regular trim levels have moderate body lean when driven briskly through curves. The brake pedal needs a more linear feel.

The trunk has a low, wide opening, although its lid has space-eating manual hinges. The split rear seatbacks don't sit flat enough when flipped forward to enlarge the cargo area.

It's often hard to find a low-mileage used Corolla because many owners keep the car a long time because it runs reliably for years with little maintenance. It's even better than the old, iconic Volkswagen Beetle in that regard.

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BB01 - 4/21/2014 2:49:49 AM