The Bottom Line
In my full review of the 2009 Toyota Corolla, I sang the praises of the new version of Toyota’s compact sedan. After driving the regular Corolla, I spent a week with the subject of this test drive, the hot-rod XRS version, which has a bigger engine (2.4 liters and 158 horsepower instead of 1.8 liters and 132 hp), a “sport-tuned” suspension, and lots of racy styling cues. So how does the 2009 Toyota Corolla work as a sport-compact? Read on.
- More power than the standard Corolla
- Better handling than the standard Corolla
- As nicely trimmed out as a standard Corolla
- Not a whole lot more fun than a standard Corolla
- Performance-oriented version of the new-for-2009 Toyota Corolla
- Features a bigger engine and sport-tuned suspension
- Price range: $19,420 - $25,928
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 22 city/30 highway (manual and automatic)
Guide Review - 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS
The Corolla XRS certainly does things better than the regular 1.8 liter Corolla. It goes faster, it grips the road better, and its suspension doesn't exhibit the same throw-your-hands-up-and-understeer behavior of the regular Corolla.
What it lacks, however, is driver appeal. Hustling the XRS through the curves is like being in a relationship that's gone stale -- there's no passion, no excitement. The XRS is just going through the motions.
The XRS' saving grace is that it gets decent fuel economy -- I averaged around 28 MPG -- and runs on regular fuel. And I really like the fact that it comes with electronic stability control as standard equipment. But none of that would be enough to convince me to spend $19.5k of my own money on one -- not when I could get a Volkswagen Rabbit or Jetta for about a grand less, or a Honda Civic Si for two and a half grand more. All three of these cars are more fun to drive and have a zest for the road that the Toyota Corolla XRS lacks.
If you like the Corolla XRS for its looks and don’t consider yourself much of an enthusiast, check out the XRS' little brother, the Corolla S. It's only about $1,000 cheaper than the XRS once you add in must-haves like power windows/locks and electronic stability control, but its smaller engine delivers adequate power and will save you even more money at the gas pump.
I have to reiterate that I still think the 2009 Corolla is a great compact car. It's practical, nicely furnished, and admirably frugal. But I expected the XRS to give the Corolla some driver appeal. It doesn't. So what’s the point? I suppose if the regular 1.8 liter Corolla doesn’t have enough power to suit you, the XRS will address your concerns. But if you’re looking for genuine thrills, the Corolla XRS simply doesn't deliver.-- Aaron Gold