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

Related articles on Autos
Day-by-Day Review: 2010 Toyota Corolla XRS
Test Drive: 2009 Toyota Corolla S
Inside Story: 2009 Toyota Corolla CE
Test Drive: 2009 Toyota Corolla XRS
First Drive: 2009 Toyota Corolla
Preview: 2009 Toyota Corolla and Matrix

Manufacturer’s web site
Toyota Canada

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

Photo Gallery:
2010 Toyota Corolla

Ottawa, Ontario – Call it the Corolla corollary: you tell someone you just bought one, and chances are they’ll respond with, “Oh hey, good choice!” If you’re talking to an enthusiast, the probability is also good that they’ll throw in a comment about how “vanilla” the Corolla is.

The vanilla dig wouldn’t be unwarranted, either; the Corolla is a benchmark for practical, efficient and reliable transportation, but is hardly on the radar of buyers looking for compact sedan excitement.

Those shoppers are the ones Toyota targets with its top-trim Corolla XRS. This priciest of Corollas uses a 2.4-litre four-cylinder making 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque, increases of 26 and 34, respectively, over the 1.8-litre motor used in the rest of the Corolla line. My tester came with the standard, five-speed manual transmission; a five-speed automatic is the option here, while 1.8-litre cars can be had with a four-speed auto.

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

Other XRS upgrades include “sport” front bucket seats covered in upgraded cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels and tires, a body kit, power sunroof, four-wheel disc brakes and sport-tuned suspension.

Last year, I tested a Corolla S, which is essentially a “light” version of the XRS; that package shares most of the XRS’ visual upgrades, but makes do with the same motor, suspension and brakes as lesser Corollas.

The Corolla XRS comes with a base MSRP of $22,350, which seems a fair price for a car that feels quite capably grown up despite its economy car heritage. With freight and A/C tax thrown in, my tester was worth $23,770. The only options for the XRS are the $1,735 Leather Package, which bundles hide-bound seats with heaters for the driver and passenger chairs (my tester didn’t have it), and the five-speed automatic for $1,560.

The Corolla is also available in CE and LE trims; the CE starts at $15,260, and with the popular Convenience Package, which includes air conditioning, keyless entry and power door locks, the price comes to $17,120 with a manual transmission, or $18,255 with the Enhanced Convenience Package, which adds power windows, stability and traction control, cruise and a cabin air filter. The LE comes standard with the four-speed automatic transmission, but oddly, can’t be had with leather or seat heaters, though it is offered with a power driver’s seat and navigation.

The XRS’ ride is a pleasant surprise. I was expecting the same, super-stiff suspension that was bolted into a Matrix XR I tested last winter. Not so, though: while the XRS’ sport suspension is much firmer than what you get in other Corollas, it’s tuned far better than in that Matrix, and doesn’t crash and bang over rough roads the way the Matrix did, despite wearing similarly low-profile tires.

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

The XRS handles well, with controlled body roll and an eagerness to change direction that Corolla isn’t usually known for. Credit the firmer suspension, low-profile tires and a strut tower brace (designed to reinforce the car’s structure for a nominal improvement in handling). The electric-assist steering lacks road feel, but the wheel is very nicely weighted. The brake pedal is far too soft to inspire confidence in hard running, and those who practice the art of heel-and-toe downshifting will find the throttle and brake pedals spaced too far apart to make it easy to do.

The 2.4-litre engine is strong, and likes to rev and does so smoothly, but it never feels sporty. Still, it’s a welcome replacement for the peaky motor that powered the last-generation XRS. That engine was borrowed from the late Celica and was a poor fit in a Corolla, even a sporty one. This larger engine’s healthy mid-range torque makes the car very easy to drive in the city and satisfying enough to drive fast when the mood takes you.

Pages: 1 2 All

Connect with Autos.ca