I owned a 2002 Chevy Prizm for 4 years (the same as corolla) with a 4 speed auto and similar power to your 06. I have 2.5i MT so I can't comment on the 2.5i CVT.
The corolla 1.8 Liter is anemic with mid range torque and especially evident with a/c on or on the highway passing other cars. The Legacy 2.5 is a big improvement. I was disappointed in the gas mileage of my Prizm, I am only getting 1-2mpg worse with my Legacy. My Prizm wasn't as reliable as I expected either, it wasn't unreliable but it was not like some of my family's Toyota Trucks or older corolla that went 200-300k miles with little maintence.