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The Toyota Corolla often tops lists of best family cars, a sleek sedan that offers comfort and ample space. The Corolla is still one of the most-sold cars on earth, with many drivers gravitating to the trustworthy brand and easy availability of the model.

While the Toyota Corolla is undoubtedly a popular car, certain models are ranked safer than others. In fact, the 2011 Corolla earned a concerning rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), marking a significant shift from models before and since. 

A close up view of a Toyota Corolla nameplate on a red 2011 model.
2011 Toyota Corolla | Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The 2011 Toyota Corolla received a less-than-perfect score from the NHTSA

The NHTSA website features full breakdowns of ever Toyota Corolla model. While some model years, including the 2023 Toyota GR Corolla 5 HB 4WD, 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid SUV AWD, and 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross SUV AWD are not fully rated or not yet rated, the available ratings listed provide a clear picture of the safety ratings of most available models.

Notably, the 2011 Corolla was one of the few model years to not get a perfect 5/5 overall score from the NHTSA. The overall front-star rating was 4/5, while the overall side-star rating was a concerning 2/5.

In the Side Pole Barrier test, which simulates a crash into a fixed object like a tree or utility pole, the 2011 Corolla received a 1/5. All in all, the model received an overall safety rating of 3/5—the lowest of any Corolla rated on the NHTSA website.

The 2011 Toyota Corolla had nine total recalls

The safety issues with this model don’t stop with the safety rating. As detailed on the NHTSA website, the 2011 Corolla had nine total recalls, with five of those complaints directly related to issues with airbags. One recall, issued in October 2019, was for frontal air bag inflators exploding, which could result in sharp metal fragments that could cause death or serious injury to drivers or passengers.

Two recalls for the model were related to seating. One recall, issued in November 2014, was for seat heater electrical wiring. This recall noted that if the seat heater wiring incurred damage, it could cause the wiring to short, which would then possibly cause the seat to catch fire and cause injury to the person sitting there. Three of the nine recalls were for other issues such as structure, visibility, and even equipment.

Most consumer complaints involved airbags

In addition to the recalls and the safety ratings, the 2011 Toyota Corolla has received its fair share of consumer complaints. A total of 576 consumer complaints exist on the NHTSA website, along with two investigations.

Of the more than 500 complaints, 419 involved the vehicle’s airbags in some way, while the electrical system accounted for 18 complaints, and the steering accounted for 42. Other complaints centered around the vehicle speed control, the engine, seat belts, and structure. 

Some complaints tended to be benign—such as lights that switched randomly on and then off again—but the extreme number of concerns related to airbag deployment and other issues makes it clear that there’s a good reason why the NHTSA gave the 2011 Toyota Corolla a 3/5 safety rating.

On the positive side, it seems as though the manufacturer was able to work quickly to correct the safety concerns with the Toyota Corolla, with other models receiving the coveted 5/5 from the NHTSA and maintaining its reputation as a solid family vehicle.


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