For 2006, the Toyota Corolla remains unchanged, and with only a minor bump in prices, with most rising only about $100 or so.

The Corolla continues in four lines: the base CE, Sport, LE and the sporty XRS. All use a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder engine; the three lower models use Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i), but the XRS adds valve lift, which boosts its horsepower by another 38 hp. The CE and Sport use a five-speed manual that can be optioned to a four-speed automatic; the LE uses the autobox exclusively; and the XRS’ only transmission is a six-speed manual.

The base CE includes 15-inch steel wheels, CD player with four speakers, cloth seats, 60/40 split rear bench seat, tilt wheel, floor mats, power mirrors, and intermittent wipers.

The Sport adds air conditioning, six speakers, “sport fabric” seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, power locks with keyless entry, and fog lamps.

The LE adds premium cloth seats, power windows, Optitron electronic gauges, woodgrain trim, shifter-actuated automatic door locks, and cruise control.

The XRS includes sixteen-inch alloy wheels with performance summer tires, sport seats with fixed rear bench seat, leather-wrapped shifter knob, metallic dash accents, full skirt package, unique grille, rear spoiler, and power sunroof.

The Corolla is a superb performer, with exceptional build quality, good handling and spunky little engines for this price range. The compact sedan marketplace is a tough one, with many admirable contenders, and the freshly redesigned Honda Civic is going to be the Corolla’s main arch-enemy, especially with a new Civic Si to compete with the XRS. Other worthy rivals include Chevrolet Cobalt, Mazda3 and Ford Focus; prices are also fairly close, and it’ll probably come down to personal preference. Should you want the Toyota but need just a little more cargo space, remember that the Matrix (and its sister Pontiac Vibe) share the underpinnings as the Corolla.

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