The 2011 Toyota Corolla remains the top-selling compact car in the country, despite its advanced age and general blandness. It was lightly restyled this year, making it closer in appearance to the mid-size Camry sedan, but the tweaks are far from freshening it enough to compete with the stylish Hyundai Elantra or the sporty 2012 Ford Focus.
The Corolla four-door sedan is a transportation device with little discernible style, flair, or excitement. It offers a wide array of features among multiple models, but its gas mileage is no better than average. Still, apparently, that’s just fine with hundreds of thousands of buyers a year.
The 2011 Corolla is down to a single engine, now that Toyota has dispensed with the higher-performance XRS model and its more powerful 2.4-liter engine. The 132-horsepower, 1.8-liter four can be paired either with a five-speed manual or an archaic four-speed automatic transmission. While power is adequate, response is sluggish at highway speeds compared to more modern rivals like the Elantra, Focus, or Chevrolet Cruze.
The five-speed model is rated by the EPA at 28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 31 mpg combined. If you opt for the automatic, ratings drop to 26 city, 34 highway, and an overall 29 mpg.
Ride and handling is somewhere between inoffensive and soggy, with soft springs that provide a smooth ride. The Corolla remains calm and quiet inside, though its suspension can prove inadequate for quick maneuvers on variable road surfaces. Like many Toyota products, the electric power steering is numb and offers little feedback. Overall, the Corolla resists rapid changes of direction—hardly reassuring if you contemplate the need to react quickly to sudden emergencies. Its crash-test ratings are otherwise good, though, and it’s fitted with the full range of Toyota safety features.
Front seating is spacious, with good headroom, and two average adults can fit themselves into the rear seat. But seat cushions are short, and the Corolla’s interior materials, design, and features are utilitarian and definitely not up to the best of the class. The 2011 Corolla gets good marks for providing lots of interior storage, though, including cubbies, a console compartment, large door pockets, and a double glovebox.
Trim levels include base, LE, and S, although the five-speed stick shift is offered only on the upper two. The base car has an odd mix of equipment, including air conditioning, a CD player, and a steering wheel that not only tilts but also telescopes, but neglecting power windows, locks, and mirrors. Options include satellite radio, a navigation system, various audio upgrades that provide Bluetooth, and a Premium package for the LE that wraps together a moonroof, larger alloy wheels, and the upgraded sound system.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Toyota Corolla on our sister site, TheCarConnection.