2011 Toyota Corolla S
2011 Toyota Corolla S. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Toyota Corolla

Two years after a major redesign, the compact Toyota Corolla sedan has received another styling update that moves it further towards the sporty end of the styling spectrum. All 2011 Corollas receive new headlights, grille, front bumper, rear taillights, trunklid, and rear bumper that enhance its sporty appearance. In addition, Corolla S and XRS models add a front spoiler, black headlight surround, side rocker mouldings, trunk spoiler, lower rear valance, chrome trim on the trunklid, and chrome tailpipe. Corolla S models upgrade to sportier 16-inch tires and new alloys while XRS models get 17-inchers.

No doubt, Toyota stylists have been influenced by the recent success of the curvy Hyundai Elantra, the new Ford Focus, and Mazda’s more aggressive Mazda3. It’s a trend that’s sweeping across the economy car segment, even spreading to subcompact cars like the Hyundai Accent and Ford Fiesta.

2011 Toyota Corolla S
2011 Toyota Corolla S. Click image to enlarge

For the consumer, it means the availability of sporty styling without the additional cost of a performance drive-train. The 2011 Toyota CE ($15,450), LE ($20,665) and S ($20,815) come with an economical 132-horsepower 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine. This engine is rated at just 7.8/5.7 L/100 km city/hwy (36/50 mpg city/hwy) with the optional four-speed automatic transmission. The performance-tuned Corolla XRS ($23,235) has a 158-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that’s rated at 9.4/6.5 city/hwy (30/43 mpg city/hwy) with its optional five-speed automatic transmission.

The subject of today’s test drive is the Corolla S which has the looks of the XRS and the performance and fuel economy of the LE. It could be called a poseur or it could be labelled a sporty economy car, depending on how you look at it.

In addition to its exterior styling, the S also mimics the XRS’ interior: it gets a new flat-bottomed steering wheel, a six-speaker audio system with a brighter display and standard XM satellite radio, new speedo and tachometer faces with chrome rings around the gauges, and USB port and Bluetooth hands-free phone capability. Corolla S models are offered with only one interior colour: Dark Charcoal in fabric or optional leather upholstery.

The 2011 Corolla S is also available in a new exterior colour, Nautical Blue Metallic, like our test car; but for reasons I will explain shortly, I wouldn’t recommend it.

2011 Toyota Corolla S
2011 Toyota Corolla S. Click image to enlarge

The 2011 Corolla S has an MSRP of $20,815. Our Corolla S test car was equipped with the optional four-speed automatic transmission ($1,045) and leather upholstery and power moonroof ($2,690). With Freight ($1,390) and a/c tax ($100), the as-tested price came to $26,040 before taxes.

Driving impressions

Though it has the least horsepower in its class, the Corolla S is within a half second of its major competitors in the 0 to 60 mph sprint, according to Consumer Reports. Its 132-hp 1.8-litre motor with variable valve timing works well with the optional four-speed automatic transmission, even though that transmission is now eclipsed by competitors’ five and six-speed automatic transmissions. Consumer Reports gives the Corolla a 0 to 60 mph time of 9.9 seconds with the automatic transmission and 9.0 seconds with the manual transmission.

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