2010 Toyota Corolla Review and Prices
- Unintended-acceleration recall triggered a drop in gold-standard resale values
- Subpar handling and slow steering; the sporty XRS model is better, but not by much
- Basic conveniences like power windows and locks and remote keyless entry are not standard on all models
The 2010 Toyota Corolla is the best car for you if you want a small sedan that’s really a transportation appliance.
All 2010 Corollas were subject to a safety recall for throttle-pedal modifications and replacement floormats designed to prevent unintended acceleration, the problem that forced Toyota to recall millions of cars, pickups, and SUVs during early 2010. Included in these recalls were 2009-2010 model-year Corollas, and residual values -- one of Corolla’s historic strengths – suffered as a result. Toyota badly mishandled the response to reports of unintended acceleration in its cars. But we believe the automaker is taking the appropriate steps to protect its reputation for reliability and that the 2010 Corolla belongs on any compact-sedan shopping list.
Should you buy a 2010 Toyota Corolla or wait for the 2011 Toyota Corolla? There won’t be notable changes to styling or features between the 2010 and 2011 Corolla. However, Toyota is planning a “mid-cycle” freshening for the model-year 2012 Corolla, so waiting for the 2011 model would net you a car whose looks have a rather short shelf life. The 2010 Corolla should carry attractive discounts as Toyota tries to make up for sales lost during the recall. The best way to get the full value from either a 2010 or 2011 Corolla would be to keep it for more than six years or so, beyond the point at which resale prices would be tarnished by the unintended acceleration controversy.
2010 Toyota Corolla Changes back to top
Styling: Corolla was all new for the 2009 model year, so its looks don’t change for 2010. In fact, except for being about two inches wider, today’s model isn’t much different in size or appearance from the 2003-2008 generation. With the next full redesign due for model-year 2014, this means the 2010 Corolla won’t look dated as the years pass. It also means Corolla doesn’t look as modern as some rivals, such as the Honda Civic or Mazda 3.
Mechanical: Corolla’s powertrains are unchanged for 2010, with the XRS retaining a 158-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and other Corollas a 132-horsepower 1.8-liter four. Both engines are available with a five-speed manual transmission. The 1.8-liter is saddled with a four-speed automatic in a day when most rivals offer a more-efficient five-speed. Corolla isn’t available as a gas-electric hybrid, like the Civic; Toyota’s compact hybrid is the Prius. All Corollas have front-wheel drive. You can get all-wheel drive in the 2010 Toyota Matrix, essentially a compact wagon version of the Corolla.
Features: Vehicle Stability Control and traction control have been made standard on every 2010 Toyota Corolla. Also known as an antiskid system, stability control is designed to prevent sideways slides. Traction control aids grip away from stops and is useful on wet surfaces. These significant safety features had been standard only on the Corolla XRS and were a $250 option on the other models.
2010 Toyota Corolla Test Drive back to top
From behind the wheel: It’s not fair to say the Corolla is for people who don’t like to drive, but it does suit people who don’t drive to have fun. There’s nothing wrong with that, which is why this is consistently among the best-selling cars in America.
Acceleration with the 1.8-liter engine is adequate, but highway-speed response is leisurely, so plan your passes accordingly. You’ll feel the extra power of the XRS’s larger engine, though only when equipped with manual transmission does the XRS begin to approximate the sporty character Toyota aims for; even then, the shifter’s long throws undermine any performance-car feel.
With good response to steering inputs and reasonable grip and balance in corners, the XRS delivers handling that should be the starting point for all Corollas. Alas, the other models are let down by soft suspension settings and modest tires. They tend to drift through sharp turns and seem to postpone for a moment orders from the steering wheel to change direction. Corolla’s tight turning radius is an ally in close quarters, and great brake-pedal feel is a pleasant surprise.
Dashboard and controls: Simplicity is a virtue. Corolla’s gauges are arrayed without pretension and have distinct numbers and needles. Column stalks for windshield wipers, turn signals, and cruise control can be activated merely without removing a hand from the steering wheel, which is itself a straightforward three-spoke affair.
Audio and climate controls are large and marked so their function holds no mystery. They reside in a central dashboard column that’s not canted toward the driver, sending the message that the front seat of a Corolla is equally the passenger’s domain.
Simplicity is relative when it comes to navigation systems, though Corolla’s requires only a few run-throughs to master. That’s due to intuitive design and also because this navigation system is less complicated than most; there’s no voice-recognition feature, for example.
Room, comfort, and utility: Corolla’s steering wheel tilts and telescopes, and combines with the height-adjustable driver’s seat for set-and-forget positioning. Front-seat occupants won’t feel cramped, though drivers with long legs might wish for more rearward seat travel. Most drivers will desire more lumbar bolstering – there’s no adjustment. While front-seat padding is pleasantly dense, only the seatbacks on the S and XRS models are shaped to provide much lateral support in fast corners.
There’s plenty of room for rear-passengers’ feet and legs as long as the front seats aren’t too far rearward. But if you’re taller than 5-8 or so, your noggin will brush the headliner. And a firmer rear seat cushion would improve comfort on long trips.
Critics seem to have their knives sharpened when it comes to the quality of materials and workmanship in the Corolla’s interior. Yes, there are lots of unpadded plastic panels, and a few ring hollow to the touch. But the surfaces you come in contact with regularly don’t feel exceptionally low-budget, and every knob and button moves with satisfying smoothness.
Interestingly, it’s South Korea’s Hyundai and Kia that have raised the bar on quality of cabin materials, especially for lower-priced cars. Toyota is among the competitors who look to be cutting corners by comparison. But Corolla’s fit and finish is in line with its prices, and certainly not poor enough to be a deal breaker.
Most competitors have larger trunks, and intrusive lid hinges cut into Corolla’s cargo volume. But a standard 60/40 split rear seatback folds to expand capacity. Inside, a small center console is augmented by a generously sized double-tiered glove box. Each door has a map pocket, but the shape favors 20-ounce bottles.
2010 Toyota Corolla Prices back to top
Base price range for the 2010 Toyota Corolla is $16,070-$20,770. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Toyota’s fee for the 2010 Corolla is $720, though Corollas sold in some Southeaster states are distributed by an independent supplier and may be subject to a different fee).
Prices for the 2010 Toyota Corolla start at $16,070 for the base model with manual transmission, $16,870 with automatic
Base price for the 2010 Corolla LE model is $17,470; it comes only with automatic transmission and includes power windows and locks. The Corolla LE model -- the second rung on the 2010 Corolla’s five-model ladder -- presents the smartest blend of features and price. Indeed, it’s the best-selling version of this popular compact sedan.
Prices for the 2010 Toyota Corolla S versions start at $17,140 with manual transmission, $17,970 with automatic. Included among S-model standard features are fog lights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, but not power windows.
The 2010 Corolla XLE starts at $18,370 and comes with automatic transmission and power windows, the leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote keyless entry, and variable-intermittent wipers.
The top-line XRS model builds on the XLE with the 2.4-liter engine, plus antilock four-wheel disc brakes, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Its base price is $19,580 with manual transmission and $20,770 with a five-speed automatic.
The XRS is positioned as the fun-to-drive Corolla, but it can’t hold a candle to the Honda Civic Si or Volkswagen Jetta GLI. And neither the “sporty” Corolla S model nor the “upscale” Corolla XLE lives up to its billing in terms of content or value.
Leather upholstery is optional on the S model ($1,550) and on the LRS ($1,490), and a power sunroof is an $890 option available on all but the base Corolla. The XLE and XRS are the only versions available with a navigation system ($1,300). Bluetooth phone connectivity is available on S, XLE, and XRS models as part of a $1,060 JBL-brand audio upgrade. An MP3-compatable audio jack is offered but not a USB link for iPods and the like.
2010 Toyota Corolla Fuel Economy back to top
The 2010 Toyota Corolla base, LE, and S, and XLE models use the 1.8-liter engine and are rated at 26/34 mpg (city/highway) with both their five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission.
EPA fuel economy ratings for the Corolla XRS are 22/29 mpg with the five-speed manual transmission and 22/30 with this model’s five-speed automatic transmission.
2010 Toyota Corolla Safety and Reliability back to top
The 2009-2010 model-year Corollas were subject to a safety recall to fix gas pedals that were hard to depress, slow to return, or remained partially depressed. These Corollas also were eligible for Toyota-furnished replacement driver-side floor mats to prevent interference with the accelerator pedal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had also received complaints about steering response in 2009 and 2010 Corollas but had not initiated a formal investigation nor requested a recall of those models.
The unintended acceleration issue was in stark contrast to Toyota’s image as a builder of dependable automobiles. The recalls targeted several models from Toyota as well as from the company’s premium Lexus brand. Sales of affected models fell, and prices of used examples dipped. Evidence that consumer confidence in Toyota and Lexus is permanently damaged, however, will take years to determine.
In the near-term, the safety recalls did not have an effect on some base-line measurements of safety and reliability, including government crash-test ratings and the most widely respected customer satisfaction ratings.
Government crash-test ratings award a maximum of five stars for passenger protection. The 2010 Corolla, like most compact cars, earns four stars for protection in a frontal impact. It earns the maximum five stars for front-passenger protection in a side impact and four of five for rear side impact.
In its most recent surveys, which involve model-year 2009 vehicles, J.D. Power and Associates ranked Toyota about average among all car brands for overall quality during the first 90 days of ownership. J.D Power (jdpower.com) is the leading automotive consumer survey firm. The 2009 Corolla also was rated about average in initial quality by owners surveyed.
For overall dependability -- measured as problems encountered by owners of three year old vehicles -- the Toyota brand received the highest possible marks in J.D. Power’s survey. The 2010 Corolla is too new to be included in the J.D. Power dependability survey, but the 2006 model from Corolla’s previous design generation was rated above average for reliability during the first three years of ownership.
2010 Toyota Corolla Release Date back to top
The 2010 Corolla went on sale in February 2009.
2010 Toyota Corolla Competition back to top
2010 Honda Civic: This is Corolla’s arch rival for sales volume and it’s superior for lively design and performance. Civic comes as a four-door sedan and two-door coupe, and also offers a hybrid sedan. The current Civic generation dates from the 2006 model year and Civic’s next full redesign is slated for model-year 2011.
2010 Mazda 3: The Gen Y choice for image and driving fun is all-new for 2010 with substantive changes to styling, engine power, and cabin décor. The Mazda 3 available in as a four-door sedan and a cool four-door hatchback.
2010 Hyundai Elantra: From the South Korean automaker comes a conservative little car that’s a surprising threat to the Corolla. Packaging, performance, and build quality are virtually a match, and the Elantra delivers even more features for less money and a longer warranty. It’s available as a sedan or wagon. Elantra was all-new for model-year 2007 but won’t be fully redesigned again until model-year 2013 or so.