Toyota used the SEMA tuner and aftermarket mega-extravaganza in Las Vegas to show the 10th generation of its Corolla sedan, which at 30 million units sold in 40 years, is the bestselling passenger car in history. It also is important because one in three of the 390,000 people who buy Corollas annually trades in for a new one. Others trade up to a Camry.

From the window line to the cut-lines on the hood to the head- and taillamp graphics, the 2009 Corolla and Camry appear to be two sizes of the same dress, right down to their use of body cladding.

Previous Corollas have taken a one-size-and-style-fits-all approach, but with five trim levels—two of which profess to be on the sporty side—the 2009 Corolla will attempt to reach more buyers in the crucial younger demographic. At the bottom is the Standard Array for the budget-minded, complete with crank windows and manual locks. From there, the LE and XLE trims should continue to appease the more conservative, older set with power accessories and other comfort items, including a navigation system, JBL sound, and stability control.

For the younger crowd, the S and the new XRS trims stem from the Standard Array, with an emphasis on performance and cosmetic enhancements, such as a spoiler.

The base Corolla, as well as the LE, XLE, and S models, will come with an all-new 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 132 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. The new XRS trim level, however, borrows the 158-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder, with 162 pound-feet of torque, from the Scion xB and tC. Manual and automatic transmissions contain five gears, with the automatic including a manual tap-up, tap-down feature, which is a first for a Corolla.

Overall, the 2009 Corolla will offer more standard and optional features, with newfound luxury items thrown in. Unfortunately, from what we’ve seen, the interior takes no quantum leap to upscale materials or design.

With six airbags and ABS standard, plus optional stability control, the Corolla has finally entered this century in regard to safety features.

Prices will be announced closer to the on-sale date, which is estimated to be February or March of next year. How it will stack up dynamically next to segment favorites such as the Mazda 3 remains to be seen.

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