2009 Toyota Corolla
Practical, Reliable, Fun....Ish.
The 2009 was a first model year for this generation of Corolla, and one of only a few years they ran the XRS model which used a more powerful 2.4L I4 engine. As for my specific car there was a squeak front and back related to windshield clips which I fixed, and a rear wheel hub that went bad and was fixed by Toyota. That's it for issues over 82,000km of driving. I'm impressed. I was on a first name basis with my local GM tech when I bought a first model year 2006 HHR, as I was there quite often...
Practical: It's a corolla, so lets not kid ourselves. It does practical very well. The trunk is a great size (more than our 09 mazda3), the rear seats have decent space, the front space is good as well. Dual glove boxes come in handy, as does the deep arm rest between the front seats. I roof-racked two christmas trees over 50Km away, with two kids in giant car seats in the back wearing huge winter boots. People ask why I don't have a mini-van and I tell them that 98% of the time the Corolla does everything I need. I even managed to cram a stack of 77" high interior doors inside the car (Trunk closed!) with the back and passenger seats down. 30 bags of soil in the trunk later and I'm still impressed with what it can do.
Reliable: I haven't been kind to my corolla. I drive spirited, don't care about potholes, start the engine & drive right away in -30 weather, drive through heavy snow covered rutted roads, and it just keeps running like a tank. The Vehicle stability control has even saved my butt a couple times when the car wanted to head sideways. Start - Go - Stop - Repeat. This seems to be the creed it lives by...
Fun..Ish: The fun - The engine has punch, sometimes too much off the line. With decent all season tires on it can still spin the tires in second, which gets annoying. The power is great when passing cars, but from a stop it chirps easily. Stickier tires would help.The ish - Our other car is a 09 Mazda3, which says "more!" when you go into a corner. The Corolla on the other hand, seems to say "do I have to?". Don't get me wrong, there's no crazy body roll or hideous understeer, it just doesn't feel like it -wants- to carve through the twisties.
Given the age of the car, and when painted in the great Blue Toyota offered at the time, it still looks pretty damn good even now. The generation after got much more rounded, as did the next, while this one still looks like it has a hood and trunk of substance. I drive a car, not a rounded semi-circle.
Visibility out the front, side, and rear windows is very good. The windows were still made with a decent size. Later generations raised the 'belt-line', shrinking the view out somewhat. Entry and exit via the front doors is good, even for someone 6'2"+. Trunk opening is good as well, not as 'pinched' as some newer models.
Entry and exit via the rear doors is a bit tight. My kids (under 6) find the gap small to maneuver through.
The design of the headlights leads to more road wash pitting the headlights & needing restoration or replacement (not a big deal - but our mazda3 of equal age and km is still pristine).
Why 8 of 10? Here's why:
Drove a 2013 ES350 - it was only slightly quieter. Drove a 2016 Impala -it was noisier. It's not as quiet as the high end options, but it's damn good. A road trip in a 2015 Rav4 was about 30% worse, making me appreciate the corolla that much more.
My kids destroy the back seats, food + feet everywhere. I shop vac and it's like new again. In short, through hell and back it cleans up well.
Comfortable? After a 900km road trip it was still comfortable to sit in, which also surprised me. No aches or pains, or complaints about the seats.
I can't stand interior squeaks and rattles and hunt them out with a vengeance. Even after 82,000km it's still quiet and held together.
Complaints: No car is perfect, so here's what I wished they changed:
1 - No clock. There is one in the driver instrument cluster, but only the driver sees this. Later models added this to the central dash.
2 - No locking glove box. Come on, like a lock would really cost that much to add...
3 - Mirror adjust - The side view mirror controls are located by your left knee and not on the arm rest of the driver side door. It's a real pain to adjust this frequently, especially if you are married to someone much shorter who changes it often...
2009 was the stone age compared to today. That said, the stereo is quite good (even the bass is decent), a $50 iPod adapter gets it into the 2010's, but otherwise it's pretty simply. Dials or buttons for everything. That's not a bad thing though. Guess what? Even Ski-doo gloves can control everything.
And it has steering-wheel controls, something a base-model 2017 VW sportwagen can't claim (sad isn't it?)
This is a very practical and reliable car for very good value. Driving wise, lets tackle that one with a bit of Q&A..
Is the fuel economy good? In a word, maybe. 99% City driving nets a yearly average of 10.5L/100km Highway driving is around 7L/100km. Our 09 Mazda3 gets slightly better, but the Corolla has more power.
Is the handling good? Yes and no. Yes because when pushed to its limits it does not lose control. No because it doesn't really feel like it 'wants' to corner.
Is it easy to drive? Yes. The steering is good, the clutch is forgiving, the feedback is decent, nothing feels 'bad'.
The XRS comes with a decent number of standard features for the time. Heated side mirrors, map lights, AM/FM/CD/XM/AUX 6 Speaker Stereo, Dual glove boxes, Dual 12v Accessory, 60/40 split folding seats, power windows/locks/mirrors, Fog lights, Folding seat release in Trunk, etc. Compared to today cars it's low, but compared to the other 09 options it's good. Given that 09 XRS's with 70K go for 9K it's a great value. I'd pick one of these over a '16 Nissan Micra or Mitsu Mirage any day, as I know it will last to 200K+ easy.
If your looking for an inexpensive, practical, reliable car, this is the one you should look at.
If your top priority is driving experience though, check out the 09 Mazda3's.