2010 Toyota Corolla LE
2010 Honda Civic DX-G
2010 Toyota Corolla LE (top); 2010 Honda Civic DX-G. Click image to enlarge

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By Paul Williams and Grant Yoxon

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Built in Cambridge, Ontario since 1988, the Toyota Corolla has been one of the most popular compact cars in Canada, since, well…it seems like forever. Did you know that Corollas first went on sale here in 1970? They were way smaller, of course, and there was a wagon and a fastback coupe, but the quality of the Corolla gained the car an enduring reputation for reliability. That reputation continues.

You can buy a 2010 Toyota Corolla CE for an advertised $15,160, and add a few essential extras to the option list if you like. But many consumers will shell out the extra for a $20,865 LE version with four-speed automatic transmission (no LE manual is offered). It’s not the “top-of-the-line” Corolla, but it comes equipped with pretty much everything that the discerning compact car buyer would like.

Powered by a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine making 132 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 128 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 r.p.m., the Corolla produces adequate power for a car in this class, but its major forte is fuel economy. Rated at 7.5/5.6 L/100 km, city/highway, the Corolla was Autos’s 50-Litre Challenge winner in 2008, and is known for its ability to stretch a litre of gasoline.

All-new for 2009, and largely unchanged for 2010, the Corolla offers a comprehensive array of desirable features as standard equipment in the LE version, and chief among them, in my view, is electronic stability control (ESC) with traction control. Anti-lock brakes, of course, are included, although they are of the front disc/rear drum variety rather than being discs at all four wheels.

2010 Toyota Corolla LE
2010 Toyota Corolla LE. Click image to enlarge

Power-heatable mirrors, woodgrain trim, automatic climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, chrome interior trim, Optitron electronic gauges, dual gloveboxes, power windows, smart-key with push-button start (a unique LE feature), tilt/telescopic steering column and cruise control are also standard.

Styling of the 2010 Toyota Corolla is modern but understated. It doesn’t try to look like a race-car with spoilers, air dams and other forms of exterior jewellery, but neither does it look stodgy.

The interior continues the conservative theme, with conventional analogue gauges, practical layout of controls, useful storage areas, comfortable seating and good visibility all around.

Our test car (like the companion “Made in Canada” Honda Civic we’re concurrently driving) is silver, with a grey cloth interior. Granted, a more exciting colour combination could be chosen, but “Classic Silver Metallic” with “Ash” interior doesn’t show dust and dirt like black would, for instance.

2010 Toyota Corolla LE
2010 Toyota Corolla LE. Click image to enlarge

The “Made in Canada” Corolla arrived when winter decided to get serious in Ottawa, and is fortunately shod with Pirelli winter tires. These, combined with the traction control system, make the Corolla pretty much unstoppable on unploughed city streets. The traction control system simply doesn’t permit the Corolla to spin its wheels, and has the effect of starting in second or third gear on slippery surfaces.

Similarly, the electronic stability control system will catch the Corolla if it begins to slide sideways or “fishtail” in a corner. An audible warning and flashing light alerts you to the ESC’s intervention, but you can feel it easily enough. This system could prevent loss of control in certain driving conditions, and is an excellent feature that requires no driver input to operate.

The Corolla ride is tuned for comfort. Not only doesn’t it look like a race car; it doesn’t drive like one, either. But that’s okay — desirable, even — if you’re looking for a quiet ride that soaks up the bumps; that’s easy to get in and out of, and doesn’t compete with its driver on the daily commute. Reliable, comfortable, familiar; these are some of the Corolla benchmarks.

2010 Toyota Corolla LE
2010 Toyota Corolla LE. Click image to enlarge

And the smart-key feature, I like. Put the keyfob in your pocket or purse, and leave it there. Touching a button on the Corolla’s door handle will unlock the door, and pressing the button on the dash will start the car. When you get to your destination, put the Corolla in “Park,” press the button to stop the engine, and press the button on the door handle before leaving the car. The fob contains a small key that can be used if required.

There are a couple of complaints about the Corolla, though, although they’re unlikely to be “deal breakers.” The digital clock, for instance, is mounted low in the centre stack, and is hard to see; the lack of heated seats unexpected (especially after seeing the fancy woodgrain trim), and they are missed on a cold winter morning; and the tire pressure monitoring system light is on most of the time, even though the tire pressure has checked fine. Finally, there’s no Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free operation of your cellphone. I suspect this is coming, but in the meantime, you’ll need an external device.

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