2009 Toyota Corolla
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The experience of owning a car is more like a relationship than anything else. If you nurture your car and treat it right (get it serviced, don't abuse the clutch at every stop light), you can get years of wonderful, loving and trusting loyalty from your automobile--much like what you ideally find in a marriage. (Although nowadays it seems cars last longer than your average marriage.)
But would there be marriages, or any love at all, if there wasn't that initial spark of attraction? That thing that draws you to a person or a thing, that makes you sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that you cannot live one more instant without that person or thing?
Now imagine looking at a 2010 Toyota Corolla. Try to recreate that feeling. Yeah, pretty rough.
Especially in Southern California, we are judged by the car we drive. Are we environmentally irresponsible Chevrolet Suburban owners? Are we Mazda Miata drivers having a midlife crisis? Are we out on the roads in a Ford Mustang convertible, trying to wring out the last few years of fun-to-drive cars may have left?
Here are five alternatives that can ensure you never suffer the ignominy of Corolla ownership.
2010 Honda Civic
This industry stalwart has faced off against the Toyota Corolla for generations. After each generation, the Civic just keeps getting better and better.
While Honda makes some bizarre styling choices, they're at least clever or unique and always wind up working very well. (Who thought that dashboard on the latest Civic that looks like E.T.'s Mothership landing would be so nice and easy to read? I guess Honda did.)
And bravo to Honda for continuing to sell manual transmission versions of their fine Honda Civic models in the North American market. Fun to drive and cool to look at (although they're everywhere), the Honda Civic is the perfect Toyota Corolla antidote.
2010 VW Golf TDI
With a slight restyle for the 2010 model, VW chisels the exterior in a more masculine direction and ups the bling factor in the interior. I have never seen so much chrome on a dash from a car in this price class.
But the pretty dash is nothing compared to the upgraded materials and the fact you can finally get the TDI engine in the Golf.
Mechanicals for the 2.0-liter turbodiesel are carried over from the Jetta, so expect 140 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque with 30 mpg city / 41 mpg highway. Although that's a great fuel economy reading, many owners report up to 60 miles per gallon on the highway.
How would you do, ya think?
The all new Mazda3 is all swoopy curves and a giant, toothless goofy grin. It's a five-door hatchback unlike any you'll find from any other manufacturer. Some of the styling cues are so over the top only a brand like Mazda (with their zoom-zoom) could pull this off.
The best part of the Mazda3 is that it looks fast just sitting still. Do be aware that drivers over 6'3" can have trouble getting comfortable in the drivers seat. But with a driving experience like this, that's really their loss.
(One note to Mazda: The nav screen needs to be bigger. The baby screen gimmick doesn't work)