2006 Corolla New Car Test Drive
Toyota Corolla is among the best of the compact sedans: reliable and economical yet refined and comfortable.
The best of the lineup, in our opinion, is the top-of-the-line Corolla LE, a luxurious compact when equipped with the optional leather interior and JBL audio system. However, the base Corolla CE offers an excellent value and comes standard with air conditioning, while the mid-level Corolla S is well-equipped with popular features.
The sporty Corolla XRS features a specially tuned suspension and a more powerful, 164-horsepower 1.8-liter engine that propels the car from 0 to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. These upgrades add sports appeal, though we wouldn't classify the XRS as the kind of sport compact that fuels enthusiast magazines.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, whether ordered with cloth or leather. Big heating and air conditioning controls are simple, radio controls are straightforward, the cup holders work well, and cubbies are available for stashing stuff out of the way, making for a tidy, convenient cabin. Getting in and out is easy and the back seat in this four-door sedan is surprisingly roomy and comfortable.
The standard four-cylinder engine revs smoothly and delivers good acceleration performance. Corolla earns an EPA-estimated 32/40 mpg City/Highway when equipped with a manual transmission. Both the manual and the automatic transmissions offer smooth shifting, and the manual is very easy to operate. All models have a smooth, comfortable ride and responsive handling.
Safety is enhanced by ordering optional curtain-style airbags and side-impact airbags designed to provide additional head and torso protection in a side-impact. Optional anti-lock brakes help the driver maintain steering control after slamming on the brakes. Crash testing indicates the Corolla is one of the safest cars in its class.
Toyota Corolla comes in one body style, a four-door sedan (not counting the Matrix). The Corolla CE, S, and LE come with a 126-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The Corolla XRS gets a 164-horsepower engine. (Note that although horsepower numbers appear lower for the 2006 models, it is due to a change in how the SAE calculates net horsepower. Actual performance of the engines remains unchanged from 2005 models.) The 2006 Corolla line carries over with no significant changes.
The Corolla CE is available with a five-speed manual transmission ($14,005) or a four-speed automatic ($14,805). The CE comes standard with air conditioning (with an air filter), AM/FM/CD stereo system, power steering, tilt steering column, tachometer, intermittent wipers, digital clock, outside temperature gauge, trunk lamp, and a dome light with delay.
Corolla S, available with the manual ($15,050) or automatic ($15,850), gets wider 195/65R15 tires and sporty styling cues: smoked headlight lens extenders, integrated fog lamps, and an aerodynamic body package with color-keyed front and rear underbody spoilers, rocker panel extensions, and rear mud guards. Inside, the S gets a unique cloth interior, a sporty tachometer, chrome accents, and a nice leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The S is also upgraded with power door locks, power mirrors, a vertical seat-height adjustment, and mirror-mounted map lights. Power windows with keyless entry and cruise control are included in the optional Enhanced Power Package ($500).
Corolla LE manual ($15,215) and automatic ($16,015) are upgraded with popular convenience features, including power windows, remote keyless entry, halogen headlamps, and variable intermittent wipers. The LE is distinguished with body-colored door handles; it lacks the sporty body cladding of the S and looks the better for it. Inside, the LE gets wood-like trim and upgraded cloth seating surfaces. An optional leather package ($650) is available for the LE that gives the car a luxurious look and feel and includes cruise control. Aluminum wheels ($390) are available, which improve the appearance of the LE and should improve its handling slightly.
Side-impact airbags and curtain airbags ($655) are optional on most models and we strongly recommend them for the additional protection they can provide to the heads and torsos of you and your passengers if someone rams the side of your car. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution ($300) is an optional and we recommend it; ABS helps the driver maintain steering control in an emergency braking situation, while EBD helps maintain full braking pressure even if the driver makes the common mistake of relaxing pedal pressure. Optional Vehicle Stability Control ($650) helps the driver maintain control in corners by compensating for skids.
Cruise control ($250) and the sunroof ($750) are available as stand-alone options.
The Corolla XRS ($17,780) is powered by a 164-horsepower 1.8-liter mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The XRS features a sport-tuned suspension with revised steering and 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels and Michelin performance tires (an upgrade from the standard 15-inch wheels on all other Corolla grades). Special interior and exterior trim distinguishes the XRS. Additional standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes with tire-pressure monitors, front and rear disc brakes, and cruise control.