What's New for 2006
There are no significant changes to the 2006 Toyota Corolla, although new SAE testing procedures have resulted in lower horsepower ratings.
Toyota's venerable Corolla has gone through many changes since it was first introduced in 1968. Over the course of its long life, the Toyota Corolla has appeared as a hatchback, coupe, wagon and sedan. The world has seen enough people fall in love with this Toyota car to make it the best-selling nameplate in the history of automobiles. You don't earn a distinction like that without some measure of undeterred loyalty.
But unlike more notable cult cars, such as the Beetle or the Mustang, the Corolla didn't inspire its massive following because of unique styling or lusty performance. Instead, it has used a more conservative, but no less desirable, combination of an affordable price, excellent fuel economy and superb engineering to convince millions upon millions of car buyers that the Toyota Corolla was the car for them.
Based on our testing, the ninth-generation Toyota Corolla sedan is certainly a likable car. Although it's available only in sedan form, the similarly priced Toyota Matrix and Scion tC can accommodate those seeking a small five-door hatchback or two-door coupe. Inside, the Corolla is thoughtfully designed with a user-friendly control layout and materials that seem nice enough to be used in a more expensive Camry. Although room in the front seat is merely average, the backseat is spacious enough to accommodate adults comfortably. Trunk capacity is rated at a generous 13.6 cubic feet. Save for the 164-horsepower Corolla XRS model, performance is about average among economy sedans.
If you're looking for nothing more than basic transportation, the Corolla -- particularly a loaded-up version -- seems a bit like overkill. There are a number of sedans that offer equivalent accommodations, features and performance for considerably less money. Do they have the same reputations for quality and reliability? Probably not, but with warranties extending as far as 100,000 miles, it hardly seems much of a risk. For those who are willing to spend a little extra for peace of mind, however, the 2006 Toyota Corolla makes perfect sense.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The five-passenger, front-wheel-drive Toyota Corolla comes as a sedan only. Trim levels include the base CE, the better-equipped LE, the somewhat sporty S and the truly sporty XRS. Standard features in the CE include air conditioning, a four-speaker CD stereo, power mirrors, a height-adjustable driver seat, an outside temperature gauge, 60/40-split folding rear seats and 15-inch wheels. Go with the LE to gain fake wood trim, white-faced gauges, a six-speaker stereo, power windows and locks, and remote keyless entry. The S model does without the LE's power windows, but includes "sporty" exterior trim such as a lower body kit and a rear deck spoiler, along with smoked headlights, foglights and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The XRS has all of the cosmetic upgrades from the S, along with a 164-horsepower engine, 16-inch alloy wheels, a firmer suspension, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a tire-pressure monitoring system, sport seats and cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
Power for CE, LE and S models comes in the form of a 126-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Thanks to a variable valve timing system (Toyota's VVT-i), this engine provides decent acceleration. Transmission choices are either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The Toyota Corolla XRS features a 164-horsepower 1.8-liter with variable valve timing and lift (VVTL-i) mated to a six-speed manual transmission; an automatic is not available on this model.
The Corolla comes with multistage front airbags that deploy at various levels, depending on impact. Full-length side curtain airbags and front side-impact airbags are optional, as are antilock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (standard on the XRS). Stability control is optional on models equipped with an automatic transmission and ABS. In the NHTSA's crash tests, the Toyota Corolla earned five stars (the best score possible) for frontal-impact protection and four stars for side-impact protection. In 40-mph frontal offset crash testing by the IIHS, it received a "Good" rating (the highest possible) and was named a "Best Pick" among small cars. When equipped with side airbags, the Corolla rated "Acceptable" in the IIHS side-impact test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Toyota Corolla interior is furnished with high-quality materials and user-friendly controls that wouldn't seem out of place in a more expensive car. Even with the car's tall cabin design, room in the front seats is only average with a somewhat awkward seating position for the driver. Meanwhile, two adults can sit comfortably in the backseat without ducked heads or pulled-up legs. Trunk capacity measures a generous 13.6 cubic feet. All Corollas come with a 60/40-split folding rear seat, except for the XRS, which deletes this feature to make room for a rear suspension cross brace that tightens up its handling.
We've found the Corolla's performance acceptable, with a good off-the-line punch and decent passing power at speed. During highway driving, the 2006 Toyota Corolla is a quiet cruiser, with very little ambient engine noise and even less wind noise. Though not as sporty as some competitors, this Toyota car offers an appealing compromise between handling and comfort. It rides smoothly enough to be used as a commuter car, while maintaining its composure when occasionally pushed around the corners. For those seeking a little extra entertainment without giving up Corolla reliability, the XRS model is a good bet, provided you can deal with its engine's peaky power delivery.