I've been in the new-car criticizing business for nearly 13 years. In that relatively short period of time, I've witnessed a great many things take place. Of those, three stand out in my mind: The collapse of the Big 3, the rise of the Koreans and the stagnation and partial fall of Toyota. Yes, Toyota was and is a big deal.
When I started out, Toyota was the shiznit. For 5 1/2 of those years, I was a consumer counsellor, helping the average Joe and Jane with their car questions, be them legal or about purchasing. In the late '90s and early 2000s, the answer to two out three "What car?" questions was Toyota. Camry, Corolla, Sienna, Tercel, 4Runner, they were all good - or just about. Today, um, not so much.
Forget about the recalls, the tsunami and whatever mistakes the company may have made in the recent past, the steady decline of the Japanese giant started some time ago, and Toyota President Akio Toyoda admitted to it. It's called complacency, cutting corners, saving a penny just to save a penny and sacrificing quality. The collapse of the Big 3? That's how it happened. Toyota should have paid closer attention. Honda is in the same boat, but that's a story for another day.
Enter the newly redesigned, 2011 Corolla. What? No one noticed? There it was and there I was at the 2010 L.A. Auto Show... walking right by without a second glance. This tells me something, but I'll let you figure it out.
Let's carry on with the car itself. The face-lifted '11s got a little more visual appeal over the 2009-2010 car. The front end's got more bite, but I would have left the taillights well enough alone; the new ones look like LEGO blocks. As a whole, the car's styling is questionable, but that's obviously a matter of personal taste.
I hate to point out the obvious, but should you be in the market for a compact car, there are many other choices to consider. The question you need to answer is this: "What is most important to me?" As far as modern styling is concerned, the competition's got the Corolla licked. As you surf the web for inspiration, ideas and information, swing by our galleries on the new Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze, and you'll see what I mean.
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