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Old 05-06-2008, 09:57 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Review: 2009 Toyota Corolla LE (37.9 MPG)

“Real World Test: 2009 Toyota Corolla LE”
Note: No hypermiling on new models: average driving to see what the average driver can expect

+ Super Efficient
+ Expected Reliability
+ Handling

- Keeps Getting Bigger Every Re-design (how many times do I have to write this)?
- Low-quality interior feel
- Painful Seating Position in lower-end models

Introduction: The 10th Generation, 2009 Corolla is already out, and it was ripe for the picking. It’s rare anymore to find a variety of FE-friendly vehicles on the lot, so it was selected. I wonder how it’s changed since its redesign?

For Toyota, the Corolla has been the solid poster child of efficiency and simplicity for decades, and all over the world. It sells and sells. As expected this year, it gained some weight – 200 lbs. The base 1.8L now has dual variable valve timing and likely some tweaks to make it more of a fuel sipper. At a glance, the Cd seems to have improved.

If you want more power, a 2.4L engine sourced from the Camry is available. Furthermore, leather, Sat-Nav, and a nifty stereo system can be added. The model tested was the “Rental’s Choice” LE, thankfully without the gaudy fake wood trim.

One note before we get started – you can tell Toyota is slipping on quality. The Interior is one place to easily note this. Secondly, a faulty fuel gauge indicated ľ tank instead of full on pickup. I immediately went to the pump only to squeeze 0.8 gallons into the tank. Later I noticed the gauge at full, after driving a while. Not good.

This could all be stricken from the record after you see the FE…

On the Outside: I think this is where they spent the most money on the redesign. The exterior has a sporty new looks and a younger feel. The 15” wheels shown are standard. Otherwise, the slab-sided sedan looks run-of-the-mill.



The rear shot seems to be the most attractive, with inset reflectors and a stylish lamp wraparound. The test vehicle was “Blue-Streak Metallic”, which was a striking color and spiced up the overall look and impression. Heated mirrors were equipped with this trim level.



On the Inside: Well, a bit of a disappointment. In this area, it appears as if the Korean makes could be overtaking interior quality. Fit and finish is clunky, and would it kill them to put some padding on the armrest! There’s nothing like driving down the highway resting your elbow on a cinder block. Don’t get me started on the “Park Bench” driver’s seat. You get the picture…


Optional Equipment Shown

Controls were placed within an easy reach, and the instrumentation average. The A/C was frigid and finally, the vents were redesigned to not blow cold air into your eyeball. But the center stack looks like it was taken out of the Kia/Hyundai Spectra/Elantra. Storage bins, nooks, crannies, and a double-door glove box make it practical.

One complaint: the clock was part of a “select-one” instrument cluster menu (and who knows how to set it)? I just used my cell phone or the GPS. Speaking of which, the SG had to be discluded from MPG and speed tests since the VSS was about 5% off. For the first time, though, the speedometer was spot-on with the GPS.

More on the instrument cluster – the display at the left cycled through: Instant FE, average FE, Time of Day, Timer, and Outside Temp. The tripometer had 2 memory positions.



The trunk is good for the car’s size, with a wide opening. Rear seat passengers have little room and a dual cupholder. If the driver is short, you might squeeze 4 people in there. It’s rated for 5 – I call dibs on the window.



Safety: Side-curtain airbags are standard on all models, which will likely earn it a top safety pick. The driver’s bag is deployed based on the weight of the driver. 4-wheel ABS is also standard. Optional are traction/stability controls.

Efficiency: The FE is definitely an improvement over the last model, which says a lot. The outbound leg was calculated at 43.1 MPG. This could be artifact based on the overfill, so the average from the car’s readout and the pump will be taken for both legs. The total averaged FE was 37.9 MPG! This could very well be the most efficient, non-hybrid tested.



The Drive:: Standard compact car fare here. Handling is superb, but the ride is a bit unsettling. Chassis rigidity is up, but there’s a shudder over bumps – similar to a convertible, but less pronounced. The feel is rather “large-car”, with soft responses to dips and undulations. The car is still tossable in the corners. I would recommend some additional tweaking for a more solid feel.

For the Energy Conscious: A manual transmission is available in the “S” and Base models with the 1.8 engine. The S adds sporty touches like ground effects and smoked headlamps and foglamps, and 16-inch wheels. This also opens the door for leather and satellite navigation. The base model is likely the best option with smaller wheels and less overall weight of options.

Consider the size of vehicle you need. This car may fit the bill for young families looking for an efficient, compact sedan. Others out there: Mazda 3, Civic, Kia/Hyundai Spectra/Elantra, Lancer, Sentra.


Raw Data -- Specs:
Model: 2009 Toyota Corolla
Trim: LE
Class Size: Compact Sedan
Transmission: 4-speed automatic with lock-up torque converter
Engine: 1.8L DOHC, 16-Valve, I-4 with dual, intelligent variable valve timing
Rating: 132 hp at 6000 RPM and 128 lb-ft torque at 2400
Performance: 0-60 in 9.1 seconds; Skidpad – 0.83g; Slalom – 63.3 MPH
Drivetrain: FWD
Seating Capacity: 5 (very snug) at 2+3 or 4 more comfortably at 2+2
RPM @ 60 MPH: 2400
Price as Tested: $16,750 USD (May, 2008)
ECU Target Coolant Temp: 190F
Curb Weight: 3523 lbs.
EPA: 27/35
EPA Average Fuel Cost per Year: TBD
Emissions: ULEV-II

Raw Data -- Stats:
EcoModder Tested Mileage: 37.9 MPG
Speed Avg: 63 MPH
Time of Operation: 2.6 hours
Distance Driven: 446 Miles
Ambient Outside Temp: 60-80F
Cruise Speed: 70-75 MPH
Test Loop: Kansas City – Des Moines – Kansas City
A/C Usage: ~10% of time
Wind/Weather: Outbound – humid, sunny, slight tailwind; Inbound: Party Cloudy, 15 MPH Headwinds gusting to 20
Driving Style: Average

RH77

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Old 05-06-2008, 10:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice review, I remember back when I had stock tire size on my car and I drove around your same speed I averaged about the same MPG.

Not sure how much better Dual VVT-i is compared to having it on just the intake stroke but I'm sure it helps somewhere along the line.
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Old 05-06-2008, 10:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Awesome review, Rick. And yes - amazing MPG. How many miles were on this one?
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Old 05-06-2008, 10:09 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroMPG View Post
Awesome review, Rick. And yes - amazing MPG. How many miles were on this one?
Thanks -- About 2000 miles. It just racked up the FE without a problem, and a sizable headwind on the return leg.

The biggest complaint is the comfort. I guess a lumbar pillow could help, but my elbows are sore

RH77
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Old 05-06-2008, 10:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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My last 3 cars I've taken the driver's seat out, taken it apart and added extra lumbar support by putting extra material between the cushion & the springs at the leading edge of the seat bottom. Helps a lot.

EDIT: whoops, that's not lumbar! But I did lumbar too, with added stuffing between the seatback cushion & springs.

I know what you mean about sore elbows. Haven't padded the Flea's door handle (which doubles as an armrest). Oh well.
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Old 05-06-2008, 11:45 PM   #6 (permalink)
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What do you think you could get trying? Another 20-30% maybe? Nice review.
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Old 05-07-2008, 12:39 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazarus View Post
What do you think you could get trying? Another 20-30% maybe? Nice review.
If I slowed to 60 and really tried (no A/C, etc.) it would have been very easy to hit 45. This is one slick machine.

It's still fun to drive too. It doesn't accelerate like mad, but with the 6500 RPM redline, it feels like it's really trying. The power band seems to be in the 3000 range and it gets a bit wheezy in the upper RPMs.

With max torque near 60 -- that may be the sweet spot. I may rent it again (if I can) and really work it over. The long-distance comfort really wears on ya though. I'll take one for the team

RH77
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Old 05-07-2008, 12:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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RH77 -

Thanks for the review. The Corolla name is safe for another generation. Since you have to rent a lot, you might be in for an inflatable lumbar pillow :

Medic Air Lumbar Roll
http://www.mysimon.com/9015-10953_8-32265404.html


This way, you could "take one for the team" on the first leg, and (hopefully) relax on the way back.

CarloSW2
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Old 05-07-2008, 01:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Perfect! Inflatable means the limited space I have while packing for a flight can be minimized. That's why I don't carry my regular lumbar support: too bulky.

It was odd, I immediately got back into the Integra and felt exactly what the seat should feel like. There needs to be support in the mid-to-upper back, then adjustable lumbar in the lower spine.

As Darin quoted, it's possible to modify the seat to support customize your needs. I just need that beaded seat cushion Seriously, I was really contemplating one today!

RH77

Quote:
Originally Posted by cfg83 View Post
RH77 -

Thanks for the review. The Corolla name is safe for another generation. Since you have to rent a lot, you might be in for an inflatable lumbar pillow :

Medic Air Lumbar Roll
http://www.mysimon.com/9015-10953_8-32265404.html


This way, you could "take one for the team" on the first leg, and (hopefully) relax on the way back.

CarloSW2
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Old 05-07-2008, 11:01 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frankenstipe View Post
Not sure how much better Dual VVT-i is compared to having it on just the intake stroke but I'm sure it helps somewhere along the line.
The VVT-I technology is pretty cool, my Vibe benefits from the technology and I have seen the car learn from my driving in the past month. How? Well funny enough before I began this FE kick, the shift point on my auto was roughly 2500-2700 rpm unless I was dogging it. Now that I try and control my shifts at lower rpms the computer itself has adjusted and now automatically shifts gears for me @ 2000 rpm, the final gear @ 1800. I noticed just the other day when I kept my acceleration steady instead of trying to force the shift at lower speeds ... I also notice now, that at idle, if left to idle more than 15 sec I drop an extra 200 rpm from 800 to 600 approx.

That impresses me ...

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