2011 Toyota Corolla Review and Prices

Last Updated: Nov 19, 2010

Like this Review

2011 Toyota Corolla Buying Advice

The 2011 Toyota Corolla is the best car for you if you gravitate to the safe choice in compact cars and don’t mind that it’s well behind top rivals in styling and features.

The 2011 Toyota Corolla gets revised styling but a diminished model lineup as part of a midcycle course correction. The 2011 Corolla retains the basic four-door-sedan body and underlying engineering it’s had since this 10th-generation design bowed as a 2009 model. However, it loses the “premium” LXE model and the “sporty” XRS version, the latter taking with it Corolla’s most powerful engine. Not that this economical sedan’s appeal hinges on upscale features or performance. Corolla consistently ranks among America’s top-selling cars because buyers trust it as a no-risk investment. Long-term reliability is still a strong suit, and sales – aided by generous factory incentives -- have recovered in the wake of recalls of model-year 2009 and 2010 Corollas for suspected sudden acceleration.

Should you buy a 2011 Toyota Corolla or wait for the 2012 Toyota Corolla? Buy the 2011 Corolla if you need a dependable transportation appliance in the near term. You’ll likely benefit from price incentives that might not be so generous by the time the 2012 Corolla rolls out. The trim levels that account for the lion’s share of Corolla sales won’t change for model-year 2012, though if you’re interested in a sporty version of this compact you might want to wait to see if Toyota restores an XRS model for 2012.  

2011 Toyota Corolla Changes back to top

Styling: Subtle revisions to the nose and tail strengthen the 2011 Toyota Corolla’s family resemblance to the larger, midsize Toyota Camry. The front bumper, grille, and headlamps are reshaped, as is the rear bumper area. Formerly occupying the third-rung in Corolla’s five-model lineup, the 2011 Corolla S takes over as the new top-of-line version and inherits some of the sporty styling cues that had identified the XRS.

Tweaking the details and leaving the body intact is typical for a midcycle update. This one’s intended to refresh a three-year-old compact sedan next scheduled for a full redesign in model-year 2014. This five-passenger four-door’s basic shape an6d conservative proportions are unaltered, and the 2011 Corolla remains blandness in the service of broad appeal. That’s no mean achievement actually, as evidenced by Corolla’s strong sales numbers.

The 2011 revisions do, however, suggest Toyota has a more realistic vision of Corolla’s mission. This is particularly evident in pruning the models that offered the least value for the dollar and bolstering the survivors with a bit more standard equipment.

The 2011 Toyota Corolla lineup again begins with the entry-level Base version and returns better-outfitted LE and S models. The smartest buy should continue to be the 2011 Toyota Corolla LE, which justifiably has accounted for more than half of Corolla sales. It’s visually distinguished from the Base Corolla by outside mirrors that are body-color instead of black. Both models continue with 15-inch steel wheels, though their wheel-cover design is new for model-year 2011.

Keeping alive the sporty styling spirit of the departed Corolla XRS, the 2011 Corolla S gains fancy multi-reflector headlamps, front and rear spoilers, lower-body aero trim, and a chrome-tipped exhaust. It doesn’t have the XRS’s bigger engine, sport suspension, or 17-inch tires on alloy wheels. But its 16-inch tires now ride on five-spoke alloys instead of on steel wheels capped with plain-Jane wheel covers.

The theme of subtle revision carries through to the cabin of the 2011 Corolla. All three models get new cloth seat patterns and colors, altered graphics intended to make some instruments easier to read, and new shades of dashboard trim. The 2011 Corolla S model also gets a sportier new steering wheel with metallic accents and audio controls.

Mechanical: All 2011 Toyota Corollas come with updates to software and hardware associated with Toyota’s response to the sudden-acceleration recalls. As on all Toyota passenger cars, a brake-override that insures pressure on the brake pedal supersedes pressure on the accelerator is standard; Toyota calls it Smart Stop Technology.

Similarly, the 2011 Corolla continues to bundle a suite of safety features under Toyota’s Star Safety System label. None is unique to Corolla in the compact class, but Toyota is among the few automakers that make all of them standard on every model. Star Safety brings together antilock brakes and brake-force distribution for more controlled stops, traction and antiskid systems for better grip off the line and in curves, and brake assist to automatically apply full stopping power in an emergency even if the driver fails to fully depress the brake pedal. Unfortunately, the demise of the XRS model with its four-wheel disc brakes means all 2011 Corollas retain the lesser front-disc/rear-drum-brake setup.      

The 2011 Toyota Corolla retains front-wheel drive, which places the weight of the engine over the drive wheels for good wet-surface traction and concentrates powertrain components in the front for efficient packaging.

Shelving the XRS also means every 2011 Corolla stays with a just-adequate 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. Gone is the XRS’s noticeably livelier 2.4-liter four with 158 horses and 162 pound-feet of torque.

Every 2011 Corolla also stays saddled with transmissions that sacrifice sophistication in the name of low cost. A five-speed manual transmission remains standard on Corolla Base and S models; top rivals furnish six-speed manuals. An automatic transmission continues as standard on the 2011 Corolla LE and optional on the Base and S models, but it has just four speeds. Six-speed automatics are quickly becoming the new class benchmark.

On the upside, Corolla’s console-mounted automatic-transmission shift lever can slide into an adjacent gate and be toggled fore and aft to mimic manual-type gear control. That’s useful in hilly terrain and in thick traffic, but few drivers make use of it. The bottom line is that with transmissions, the greater the number of gear ratios, the more opportunity to work at peak efficiency to extract engine power and maximize fuel economy. The late Corolla XRS at least offered a five-speed automatic.    

The XRS also had a relatively taut suspension that delivered a level of control that should have been the starting point for all Corolla models. Instead, the 2011 lineup stays with suspension settings that provide perhaps the most comfortable ride in the compact class but also slow, lazy steering response, queasy bobbing over bumps, and tire-howling drift in speedy turns.   

Features: The 2011 Toyota Corolla experiences a minor features revival as part of its midcycle facelift. Basically, some items previously exclusive to the XLE and XLR models filter into the 2011 LE and S Corollas. And though leather upholstery and a navigation system are no longer available, the 2011 Corolla moves into the 21st century by finally offering a USB iPod interface and Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity.

Air conditioning, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, height adjustable driver’s seat, power mirrors, intermittent windshield wipers, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seatback are included even on the Base Corolla. And for model-year 2011, the Base Corolla, as well as the LE and S, have a useful multi-information display in the instrument cluster that includes readouts for outside temperature, instant fuel economy, average fuel economy, average speed, and travel distance.   

Niceties such as power windows remain optional on the Base model. They’re standard on base versions of top rivals and are standard on the 2011 Corolla LE, which is the Corolla you’ll need to buy if you desire one with power locks, remote keyless entry, and cruise control. Those features are standard on the LE, which for model-year 2011 inherits from the XLE’s standard equipment variable intermittent wipers.  The 2011 Corolla S adds to the LE the aforementioned exterior add-ons, 16-inch alloys, and “sport” steering wheel, plus better-bolstered front bucket seats and metallic-style cabin trim.

Among key options is an LE Premium Package that includes 16-inch alloy wheels and a power tilt/slide moonroof, the latter newly available for the LE model. The moonroof remains an S-model option. However, the navigation system and leather upholstery previously optional on the Corolla S and XRS models are no longer available.

The 2011 Corolla’s base audio system includes a CD player, auxiliary jack, and XM satellite-radio compatibility. Base models come with four speakers, LE and S have six. A new audio option exclusive to the 2011 Corolla LE and S models adds the USB iPod interface and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as XM satellite radio with a free 90-day subscription.

In addition to the Smart Stop and Star Safety features, all 2011 Corollas come with torso-protecting front-side airbags and head-protecting side curtain airbags for both seating rows.

2011 Toyota Corolla Prices back to top

Base price range for the 2011 Toyota Corolla is $16,660-$19,360. That’s almost exactly the range covered by comparable versions of such rivals as the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, and Hyundai Elantra – all of which are far newer designs packed with more features and technology than this aging Toyota. On the upside, factory discounts and incentives will likely reduce Corolla’s actual transaction prices by more than $1,000.      

The 2011 Toyota Corolla Base model is priced from $16,660 with manual transmission and from $17,470 with automatic transmission. Note that in March 2011, Toyota actually raised initial model-year 2011 prices on Corolla by some 1.8 percent. The prices in this review reflect that increase. Note also that all base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee. Toyota’s fee for factory-distributed 2011 cars is $760; Toyotas in some Southeastern states are distributed independently and may carry different destination charges.)

The 2011 Toyota Corolla S model starts at $18,530 with manual transmission and at $19,360 with automatic. Base price for the 2011 Corolla LE model is $18,360; it comes only with automatic transmission.

By way of comparison, the 2010 Corolla XLE, which came only with automatic transmission, started at $18,370 and the 2010 XRS had a base price of $19,580 with manual transmission and $20,770 with the five-speed automatic.

Among popular options, the Premium Package for the Corolla LE costs $2,150, and the power sunroof adds $890 to an LE or S model. The upgraded sound system with satellite radio, Bluetooth, and USB interface is a $570 option on the LE and a $520 add-on for the S model.  

2011 Toyota Corolla Fuel Economy back to top

Good gas mileage has always been part of Corolla’s value story, and the picture brightens for model-year 2011 with a slight gain in city-driving ratings with manual transmission. Still, the 2011 Corolla has fallen off the pace for compact-class gas mileage, where most top rivals rate 36 mpg or above in highway driving and all offer versions that rate 40 mpg or more.

The 2011 Toyota Corolla Base and S models are rated 28/35 mpg city/highway with the five-speed manual transmission. That compares to 26/35 mpg for their 2010 manual-transmission counterparts.

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2011 Corolla LE and the Base and S models equipped with the four-speed automatic transmission remain at 26/34 mpg. (With its larger engine, the XRS, by the way, was rated at 22/30 mpg with both the five-speed manual and its five-speed automatic.)  

2011 Toyota Corolla Release Date back to top

The 2011 Toyota Corolla went on sale in December 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Toyota Corolla back to top

Beyond the strategic updates Toyota deemed necessary for its midcycle freshening, this 10th-generation Corolla won’t change much until a replacement arrives during 2013 as a model-year 2014 car. The automaker, of course, could decide this staid little sedan needs a shot of adrenaline and reinstate a sporty XRS model. If it does, expect it to get the 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s Camry’s base engine. It would pack around 170 horsepower, but a “performance” Corolla still wouldn’t tempt many MazdaSpeed 3 or Honda Civic Si sedan buyers.  

Toyota could decide the added mileage benefits of a five-speed automatic might be worth considering for near-future Corollas. It won’t, however, offer a hybrid Corolla during this design generation. Toyota relies on Prius and the Camry Hybrid to fly its green-car flag. If you want a station-wagon version of the Corolla, though, walk across the showroom to the 2011 Toyota Matrix. It’s a Corolla underneath its high-roof, four-door wagon body, and it’s available with all-wheel drive.

If history is a guide, even the 11th-generation Corolla, due as a 2014 model, won’t represent a wholesale revision of this car’s conservative philosophy. That could change if Toyota feels pressured by redesigned versions of key rivals, namely the 2012 Ford Focus, 2012 Honda Civic, and 2011 Hyundai Elantra. Still, Toyota relies on the small cars from its youth-oriented Scion brand to stretch the design envelope. And it seems poised to expand the Prius line to broaden its hybrid coverage. That leaves the Corolla to hold the center with proven powertrains and sober styling – a task at which it is quite adept.

2011 Toyota Corolla Competition back to top

2012 Honda Civic: Corolla’s arch rival for compact-class sales leadership is redesigned for model-year 2012 and went on sale in April 2011. The 2012 Civic is actually slightly smaller on the outside than the 2006-2011 generation it replaces. But the sedan version is roomier inside and, along with the returning two-door coupe, gets better fuel economy. Civic’s new styling is familiar and evolutionary; it’s still contemporary though not nearly as wild as that of the 2012 Ford Focus or the redesigned 2011 Hyundai Elantra. The balance of comfort, spaciousness, and refined road manners are among the very best in class, however. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 140 horsepower and 138 pound-feet of torque is again the base engine. It rates 28/36 mpg with the five-speed manual transmission and 28/39 with the five-speed automatic. A high-fuel-economy edition rates 29/41 with the automatic. The sporty Si model returns in sedan and coupe form and has a four-cylinder of 201 horsepower and 170 pound-feet. A gas-electric Hybrid sedan also is back and rates an impressive 44/44 mpg. Base price range for mainstream sedans is $16,555-$24,205. Si models start at $22,995. The Hybrid is priced from $24,800.    

2011 Hyundai Elantra: All new and ready to take on the world, the 2011 Elantra sedan burst onto the compact scene with gorgeous new sheet metal and fuel-economy ratings of 29/40 mpg. Those ratings hold for every model in the lineup, and with both the six-speed manual transmission and six-speed automatic. Longer but lower and lighter than the yawn-inducing 2006-2010 sedan, the redesigned Elantra has a new 148-horsepower four-cylinder and a long list of standard features, including a match for Toyota’s Start Safety System. A navigation system, leather upholstery, USB iPod interface, and Bluetooth also are on tap. This sedan is built at the South Korean automaker’s plant in Alabama and is nicely outfitted with high-grade cabin materials. Hyundai’s generous warranty coverage adds to the value proposition. Base price is $15,550 with manual transmission and range from $17,800-$22,700 with the automatic transmission.       

2011 Chevrolet Cruze: The 2012 Ford Focus should be high on any compact-car shopping list, but frankly, its aggressive Euro-flavored styling and Gen-Y interior design are likely to alienate the typical Corolla shopper. Enter the handsome but conservatively designed Chevy Cruze, introduced for model-year 2011 to replace the unlamented Cobalt. Cruze is a four-door sedan that’s a sliver larger inside than the Corolla and every bit as solid and just as quiet. It also rides and handles with a degree of tautness the Toyota lacks. Powertrain refinement isn’t a high point, and neither is output, with a choice of a base four-cylinder of 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque or a turbo four with 138 and 148, respectively. Transmissions are up to date, however, with manual and automatics of six speeds. Base-engine fuel economy is 26/36 mpg with manual, 22/35 with automatic. The turbo rates 24/36 mpg with automatic and, in special high-mileage Eco trim, 28/42 with manual and 26/37 with automatic. Base prices start at $16,995 with the base engine and range from $18,895-$22,695 with the turbo.