Used Toyota Corolla 2009-2013 review

Overall rating: 5 Star Rating: Recommended
Updated: November 8, 2015
2012 Toyota Corolla
2012 Toyota Corolla

Toyota Motor Company started in 1937 as an offspring of the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, the textile loom maker. Thanks to its famous production system, Toyota grew from a tiny company into the largest car manufacturer in the world. In the early 60's Japan economy was booming and Toyota recognized the need for a family car for people living in suburbs to get around. That's when the Corolla was born. The first model went on sale in November of 1966 and since then, the Corolla became the world's most popular car. The 2009-2013 Corolla is in its tenth generation. True to its roots, it features a practical comfortable interior, fuel-efficient engine and smooth and quiet ride. In North America, the 2009-2013 Corolla comes only as a 4-door sedan with front wheel drive. We researched this car from the point of view of a used car buyer with these questions in mind: is the Corolla reliable? How good is it on gas? How expensive is it to maintain? How it stacks up against competitors? Here is what we found.

2012 Toyota Corolla
2012 Toyota Corolla interior. Click for larger photo
Toyota Corolla trunk
The trunk offers 12.3 cu. ft. of cargo space.

Interior: The interior is roomy. The seats are higher off the floor than in many other small cars, making entry and exit easier. The Corolla offers more rear seat space than Mitsubishi Lancer, Hyundai Elantra or Nissan Sentra. Rear seats fold down. The trunk is spacious with large opening. The audio auxiliary input is standard, the USB port is available on late models.

Model lineup: In the US, the 2009 Corolla was offered in base, S, LE, upscale XLE and sporty XRS trims. The XLE and XRS were discontinued for 2011 and the L trim became the base level for 2012. In Canada, four models were offered: CE, LE, S and XRS. The S and well-equipped LE are the most widely available trim levels on the used car market.

Powertrain: The main engine is the 132-hp 1.8L 4-cylinder DOHC. It's simple and reliable. With good maintenance it can last for over 200K miles. The Corolla XRS comes with the 158-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder, the same engine as in the Camry and RAV4. Transmission choices include a 4-speed automatic (5-speed automatic in XRS) or 5-speed manual.

Timing belt or chain: Both, the 1.8L and 2.4L engines have a timing chain; there is no timing belt. A timing chain doesn't need to be replaced unless there is a problem with it.

Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2011 1.8L automatic Corolla at 26/34 mpg (9.0/6.9 L/100 km), which means that with mostly highway driving you can get up to 380 miles (612 km) to a 13.2-gallon (50.0L) tank.
The manual transmission offers even better fuel economy: 28/35 mpg or 8.4/6.7 liters per hundred kilometers. With a manual transmission, you will be saving around 100 dollars a year on fuel costs compared to the automatic.

Mechanical: The Corolla XRS has disc brakes on all 4 wheels; other models come with rear drum brakes. The steering is electrically powered. Antilock brakes are standard. Vehicle Stability control is optional in early models; standard on all US models from 2010. The Canadian Corolla received standard Vehicle Stability Control for 2011.

Handling and ride: The Corolla is very easy to drive. The ride is soft and quiet; road imperfections are well absorbed by the suspension. The 1.8L engine has enough power for daily commuting. The electrical steering is light and feels fine in the city, but is a bit vague around the center position when driving on the highway.

Similar cars:

Among competitors, Mazda 3 offers sportier handling and rich interior, but only 2012-plus models come with the fuel-efficient Skyactiv engine. Mitsubishi Lancer is also more sporty, but is not as good on gas. Both, Mazda 3 and Mitsubishi Lancer have a stiffer ride compared to the Corolla. Honda Civic is reliable, but some buyers may find its seating position too low compared to the Corolla.
Read about safety, pros and cons, what to look for in a used Toyota Corolla on the next page.


Toyota Corolla double glovebox Toyota Corolla dashboard Rear view Toyota Corolla rear seat Rear seats folded down Toyota Corolla 1.8L engine