2008 Toyota Corolla XEi 1.8 16v VVTi flex from Brazil
The 30.000 U.S dollar Corolla...
I got the car in July 2008, and in November 2009 the car started to make a whining noise when cold, then the noise disappeared as the car heated-up, so it couldn't be the timing chain tensioner. Dealer could not replicate the problem so I left it alone.
In January of 2010 I took the car again to the dealer and they asked me to leave the car overnight so they could try to replicate the problem, and sure enough the moment I started the car the next morning, the noise came up and one mechanic who was around immediately identified the source of the noise; it was the air conditioning compressor tensioner. This is a common fault in these cars, and if not corrected as soon as possible, it can lead to the failure of the A/C compressor. Anyway, since the car was still under warranty (only 18 months old and 7.722 kilometres) the dealer opted to replace the compressor. I had to wait 7 days for the part to arrive, and the dealer serviced the car in the morning and it was ready for pick-up in the afternoon.
February 2011, the car was recalled by Toyota due a possible fire hazard in the cold start system of the car. All Corollas sold in Brazil are fuel flexible - they run either on petrol (gasoline) or ethanol or the mix of both; when fuelled with the ethanol, it's required to fill a small tank on the upper part of the engine compartment to help the ethanol to heat more quickly should you choose to run the car on ethanol. Since ethanol caused the car to consume more fuel and it's a false economy, I wouldn't bother, but I was told that if I did not participate in the recall, it would show "open recall" in the car's history record. So I did participate, and sure enough my cold start system was OK.
Interior was a rattle city since day one, and the dealer couldn't fix and I couldn't be bothered with fixing it either.
Saving grace? It never left me stranded on the road or failed to start, EXCEPT for one time that I left it parked for 15 days and then the battery went flat.
It was no powerhouse, but it would torque steer quite badly and as a result the Bridgestone Turanza tires didn't last long. Performance surprising for a 138 horsepower sedan with a 4-speed automatic gearbox; overtaking was a breeze.
Fuel economy? 16 MPG (19 MPG UK) around town and 26 MPG on the highway (30 MPG UK on the motorway). Fuel flexible engines are a false economy and note that it wasn't like I had a heavy right foot; not matter how hard I tried, I could never get better than 19 MPG combined (23 MPG UK).
Very smooth ride despite being equipped with a cheap torsion bar rear suspension set-up. The seats were comfortable, and it was electric car quiet I dare to say. The electric power steering was a blessing when parking or manoeuvring through tight spaces. The reverse parking sensors helped, but there was no camera.
Handling was... OK I guess. Nothing to write home about, but nothing atrocious either. Very predictable car to drive and the four wheel disc ABS brakes worked well, specially when you had to brake-check idiots in Hiluxes, Rangers and Frontiers tailgating you (for respecting the speed limit) with their high beams. It was only the defence mechanism against them because there was no auto-dimming rear view mirror.
The Brazilian 2009-2014 MY Corolla got a good safety score from the Latin NCAP, but it was severely lacking in safety features that cheaper cars of its class offered as standard such as Isofix, stability control and traction control. And what's the point of giving side torso airbags and no side curtain airbags? What kind of nasty cost cutting measure is that? Mind you, the new Corolla still doesn't have the curtain airbags in the entry level versions, and stability control still isn't available, not even as an option, which is totally unacceptable in this time and age. At least it now has the Isofix, and again it scored well in the Latin NCAP crash test. But I still maintain that Toyota should equip all Corollas with stability control and curtain airbags; after all it's marketed as a midsize family sedan in Brazil.
Looks? Mine was "eclipse black metallic" five-spoke 16-inch wheels (the 2009-2011 XEi featured the same wheels of the 2003-2004 Toyota Matrix XR) and silver grey leather interior with faux aluminium trim. I thought it looked classy.
Price? I paid 77.500 Brazilian reais, which in July 08 would be something like 48.700 U.S dollars. As of January 2016, 77.500 BRL is now equivalent to 122.996 Brazilian reais or 30.300 U.S dollars. That's right... The 30.000 dollar Corolla is a wonder of the 21st century communism dreamed up by the Castro brothers, Lula, Chavez and Maduro, Morales and the Kirchners. If you're American and you reading this, let this be a warning for those of you who are thinking about voting for Hillary or Bernie, because that's what's going to happen to you; a $30.000 Toyota Corolla. You've been warned!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 18th January, 2016