Normally a Corolla leaving the Autoblog Garage would cause no reason for disappointment. But the XRS really did liven up an otherwise sedate driving experience. The handling and suspension was really the perfect mix for every day commuting with just enough performance to keep you interested in the road ahead.

The engine?s power is also impressive once you get used to the power band. But I doubt anyone is getting near that 8000 rpm red line that often. The shifting was the only drawback as far as the performance went. It wasn?t hard to shift but it sure wasn?t silky smooth and I?ve already reported on the odd seating position in relation to the clutch pedal. I just don?t think Toyota planned on anyone with a size 11 shoe to drive the thing. Sports styled two-tone bucket seats were also welcome XRS touches.

Obviously all the Corolla standards receive top marks. Rear seats were spacious enough but if the front seat is all the way back you get this much room. The fit and finish is excellent, trunk room is very adequate. Gas mileage is also excellent due to the 1.8L VVTL-I SFI engine (say that two times fast). 25 mpg in the city and 34 hwy is on the sticker and we couldn?t even get the needle to budge for most of our week in it.

However, as one reader pointed out, the more important sticker feature is the $20,001 (where is the $1 coming from?) final price tag. There is a moonroof and nice stereo but at $20,000 we?re in a completely different range of vehicles than in the regular model. One reader said Mini Cooper S but there are plenty of four-door cars as well. I?m still more a fan of the fun & stylish Mazda3 s, but the XRS comes close. The price is the real killer.





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