2011 Toyota Corolla CE

Beats any mode of transportation that requires bipedal movements to attain.

In Toronto, Ontario, Canada moments that occur to seniors were experienced everyday in our journey there. As we were enjoying the beautiful and historical Ontario that still has the colonial British enrichment, somehow some overly redundant objects, like you were seeing shadows that kept on repeating itself anywhere anytime, stole Ontario’s thunder.

Repeatedly, we were seeing double everywhere we went, playing psychic with us. We felt our self-propelled transportation appliance was going too fast, had a mind of its own and ready to send us into a trench for its awaiting Graboid to consume us whole. We also had hard times finding this appliance in the parking lot but yet it seemed to follow us everywhere we went. It’s always right there. What’s wrong with us? We ain’t nearly old enough to have decay in vision. Jetlag? Not really, Toronto is only 4 hours ahead of California time. Also nothing can be too fast for us. Come on now, we live for speed. Paranormal activity?

Through prayers to Godzilla GT-R, she gave us strength to realise the problem was in our haunted appliance. In the name of Godzilla GT-R, we finally exorcised the demons of “Dude, where is my car?” and “Dude, this car is fast.” It just happened that anywhere we went that were twenty dozens of Corollas around. You look at the speedometer. It reads 90. That’s in KPH, equivalent to 56MPH but it felt like going 90MPH. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for double vision. We could only pray to the Lord Nissan to end the suffering of those in these appliances.

So yes, we actually drove a Corolla.

Background

The Toyota Corolla is the most commonly recognised car name in the global, like Lucozade and Ribena to the British and her people in the Commonwealth of Nations, what bicycles are to People of Republic China, and what Kitchen Aid are to stay home mums.

The Corolla is a successful commodity that defined a new-mode of occupant driven public transportation. It’s pure function is to transport human beings from point A to B. The process, call driving, is omitted similar to heating up a TV dinner in the oven, what they care is the hot food at the end. They care less about how it gets from frozen to liquid state.

Since its first introduction in 1966, the Toyota has sold over 42 million of this appliance. Due to its simplicity, frugality and reluctance to change, reliability is derived and broadcasted word of mouth amongst the bus riding clique.

The significant change in its 45 years of making was the switch from rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive layout at the fifth generation in 1983. The somewhat exciting model was the Corolla FX hatchback. Akin to an ill-trained German Shepherd that betrays and attacks its owner, during the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Corollas were rebadged as Chevrolet Nova, and then Prizm as if Toyota hadn’t flooded the market enough.

Skip the boring past, fast forward to the bland present. Our tester is the tenth generation North American Corolla [chassis code: E140], competing in compact saloon segment, debuted in Las Vegas SEMA show in October, 2007 on went on sale in January 2008, as a 2009 model. The 2011 received mid-product cycle facelift including redesigned headlamps, front grille, and bumpers, tail lamps and trunk lips. Smart Stop Technology in response to unintentional acceleration is generously included for free.

In Canada, four trims are offered, CE, LE, S, and XRS. The differences between CE and LE are minimal variation in equipment packaging while the S (stands for sport) received aesthetic sportiness like underskirts, spoilers and 205/55R16 tires. Mechanically, all CE, LE, and S trims are the same. The XRS, however, is basically a S model with a 2.4L 118kW (158hp) and 220Nm (162lb-ft) engine with upgraded sport-tuned suspension, front and rear strut tower braces, rear disc brakes, 215/45R17 tires and optional 5-speed AT. There is no mentioning of sat nav.

Our demon in Classic Silver Metallic paint is the base CE model with Enhanced Convenience package and 4-speed AT, MSRP $19,490 CAD, equivalent to about $18,928 USD at time of writing. The tester was assembled in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada along side with, Canadian domestic market, Matrix.

Similar to the soft drink bottling companies, Corollas are locally assembled. Other than assembly plants in North America, formerly NUMMI in Fremont, CA, Mississippi, and Ontario, the Corollas are also assembled some remote places like Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela. To reduce assembly work, the car is created as simple as possible with minimal components to assemble.

Engine – It’s weak but it thinks it’s intelligent.

Under the bonnet is an inline-4 1.8 Litre motor, a piece of machinery that converts chemical energy to mechanic energy, [engine code: 2ZR-FE] consists of 16-valve DOHC (dual overhead cam) aluminium head and block with Toyota’s dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i), producing 98kW (132 hp) @ 6,000 rpm and 174Nm (128 lb-ft) of torque @ 4,400 rpm. It has 80.5 x 88.4 mm bore and stroke undersquare layout with 10.0:1 compression ratio. VVT-i is Toyota’s way of saying continuously variable valve timing control. Dual refers to both intake and exhaust valves are adjustable.

Like any current trend, the throttle, a switch that connect to far right pedal operate by driver’s right foot to control how fast the car can go, is controlled via drive-by-wire. Toyota has claimed it as Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence (ECTS-i). Everything has to be intelligent. That’s the 3rd time the word intelligence/smart is used.

The motor is lack of torque, smash on the go pedal, it makes more noise than go. Travel at a slight uphill, the lack of forward gear makes the engine labor more, rougher and harsher in sound. Most annoying yet as other cars around you, even a lorry, are going up with a faster speed with refinement. Engine redline, a limit of when the engine will start destroying itself, is at 6,500 rpm and fuel cut, an electrical mean to prevent self-destruction, is set at 6,800 rpm.

Smart Stop Technology is to prevent the unintentional simultaneous brake and accelerator pedal applications. This is to address the epic of unintentional acceleration era where Toyota claimed no fault on their electronic and its own research showed its buyers simply can’t drive. Toyota did however ordered its dealers to use a hacksaw to trim down the length of the gas pedal to avoid conflict with the ill designed factory floor mat. During power braking, engine rev holds at 2,500 rpm. For those who have only driven a Toyota, don’t try this at home. Really wanted to learn? Learn how to open the bonnet first!

Transmission – Its lame but it thinks it’s intelligent.

The transversely mounted motor is mated to an Aisin Warner supplied 4-speed automatic gear box (transmission code: U341E). The automatic gear box is where you place the sliding stick mounted to the floor located in between the front seats where D is forward, R is backward, P is park, you can forget the rest. Again for the fourth time, the tranny is labeled as Electronically Controlled automatic Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i).

In manual mode, the tranny auto up and down shifts at its own will, as if it is in D. It thinks it is so intelligent that it overrides the drivers’ command. So are they hinting its drivers are incompetent enough to not know how shift?

The widely spaced gear ratio made the already weak motor to propel the 1,255 kg (2,767 lbs) kerb weight from nought to 60 mph in a yawning 9.8 sec, reaches the quarter mile mark in a napping 17.4 sec @ 80 mph. Cruising at 100km/h, the engine revs approximately at 2,500 rpm in top gear.

“Where is the 5th gear? Wake up! This is the 21st century. Your competitors are all using 6-speeds or CVTs.”

During our ~500 km (310 miles) test route from Toronto to Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada, our observed average fuel consumption ranged from 7 to 9.3 L of petrol per 100km travelled (25.3 to 33.6 mpg) compared with Government of Canada published rating at 7.8 L/100km (30.2 mpg) City, 5.7 (41.3) Highway, 6.8 (34.6 ) Combined. Fairly decent fuel economy that a Chartered Accountant would love.

Suspension – Row, row, row your boat…

“Row, row, row your boat, gently down the street. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, why it suck so much…”

Conventionally, the MC platform is supported by independent MacPherson struts in front with L-shape lower arms, and torsion beam with coil-over-shock arrangement in the rear with 24mm front and 20mm rear stabiliser bars. The MC platform that underpins, take a deep breath, RAV4, Camry/ES, Highlander/RX, Matrix, Venza, HS, Prius, Sienna, tC, CT…etc. The black plastic rubbers on each corner of the car touching the pavement, called tyres, are a set of 195/65R15 Firestone Affinity Touring tires on our specific tester.

Quoted directly from Toyota brochure, “Refined suspension. Corolla’s impressive handling begins with its rigid chassis. Built to resist body flex, it provides a reliable platform so that the suspension can best do its job. The front suspension, mounted to an additional sub-frame to reduce noise and vibration, is tuned for precision handling. In back, the rear suspension employs a torsion type design that further smoothes the ride quality.”

Bloody hell, these are selling points? Torsion beam for smooth ride quality, really? All modern (post 1960) passengers has front sub-frame. We aren’t too sure about that skidpad figure at 0.79g can be called precision handling.

Ride is soft, and often floating at highway speed. It is so lack of support that the truncated cat’s-eyes on the lane line can’t be felt through the cabin. Going into a corner at speed limit, the body leans to one side excessively. Under heavy braking, the front end dives like the swimmer positioning on the starting block before dive into the pool.

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