Toyota's Corolla is the world's compact car sales leader. Reasons are obvious. The four-door, five-passenger sedan is economical, aesthetically pleasing and has a spacious rear seat to accommodate longer legs.
A big essential is fuel economy. During a test week in a 2015 S model (top-of-the-line Corolla at $19,845), usage of regular unleaded gasoline averaged 30.8 miles per gallon. Six months ago in a test of a 2014 S model, the average was 31.5 miles per gallon. On both occasions, two occupants were in the front bucket seats with a modicum of luggage in the 13-cubic-foot trunk. Heat mechanisms were at work on this more recent test since it was winter and the weather was cold and colder. On the other hand, in the 2014 S model, air conditioning was in daily use since it was summer. Driving habits were modest and more than 50 percent of the travel was on interstates on both occasions. The fuel tank holds 13.2 gallons of regular gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the S model at 29 mpg city and 37 highway.
All models are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. It spins out 132 horsepower in all but the LE Eco models, where the addition of Valvematic variable lift for the intake valves ups horsepower to 140 and improves fuel economy to as high as 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway. Part of the reason for the fuel economy gain is the continuously variably automatic transmission (CVT) that comes standard with LE and LE Eco models. Instead of preset gear ratios, a CVT has an infinite number of ratios that make it more efficient. Other models get a four-speed automatic transmission.
The 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower, inline four-cylinder engine is no torque demon on wheels, but it accelerates well from stop signs or while passing slower traffic on highways.
The manufacturer trusts the reliability of the engine which is mated to a continuously variable transmission. The powertrain warranty is five years or 60,000 miles. Although the CVT does not provide the sportiness of a stick transmission, there are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel for that "feel" of a manual. The CVT serves all (LE, LE Eco, S) models of the Corolla with the exception of the base L car, which has a six-speed manual transmission as standard with a four-speed automatic as an option.
From 2014 to 2015 the Corolla has undergone no essential changes. The remake in 2014 has carried over into 2015. New this year is a pulldown armrest for use in the second row. It is standard across the line with, again, the exception of the L model.
The S model has a piano-black front grille with an upper honeycomb and a lower comprised of horizontal bars. It is a strong look and is unique to the S and not the L, LE, LE Plus, LE Premium, LE Eco, LE Eco Plus, LE Eco Premium models.. The S also has an integrated rear spoiler and front fog lights, a chrome exhaust tip, color-keyed exterior mirrors and door handles, leather-trimmed steering wheel and a 6.1-inch touchscreen for the audio system.
All trim levels except the L also have an available Entune app, which means smartphone access to Pandora, Bing, Facebook and more. The app provides up-to-date traffic, weather and stock market reports.
The S shares niceties with the less expensive $16,950 L, $18,565 LE and $18,965 LE Eco, such as Bluetooth, cruise control, backup camera, automatic climate control with pollen filter, power windows, door locks and exterior mirrors, intermittent wipers and rear defroster, keyless remote entry, and a six-speaker sound system including USB port, iPod connectivity, AM and FM high definition radio, MP3 and compact disc players.
The test S rode on 215 tires mounted on 17-inch alloy wheels. On the S model, the firmer suspension is tune for better handling, and the vehicle comes equipped disc brakes in front and rear. The other models have drums in the rear. In tests by automotive media, the Corolla has braked from 60 mph to a stop in a distance of 130 feet, which is not great for a fairly light car at 2,865 pounds.
The seats are firm and the ride is fine. Interior trim is soft to the touch and not a hard plastic. The sound system has two knobs for tuning and volume.
The rear seats are not split and fold for access to the trunk but at least this year it has the pulldown armrest (no pass-through to the trunk), complete with beverage holders. Rear doors have molded beverage holders. The passenger-side seatback comes with a storage pocket; the driver's side seatback does not.
As noted above, leg room is exceptional in this compact sedan. With 41.4 inches of leg room in the rear it is almost the same as that of the 42.3 inches in front. Midsize sedans rarely have rear leg room in the 39 to 40 inch range and few large sedans do. Corolla's front seat leg room is just an inch or two short of that officially provided by a large sedan.
Priced less than $20,000, besides the backup camera as standard equipment, the Corolla has eight airbags, an antilock braking system, traction and stability controls, seatbelts and headrests with whiplash protection, anchors and tethers for child seats and daytime running lights.
Toyota's Entune audio system is standard on LE models and above. A 6.1-inch touchscreen comes with Entune, but the version in the LE Premium and SE Premium comes with a navigation system and provides access to apps through owners' smartphones. Seven apps are available, including Bing local search, Facebook Places, Pandora, Yelp, satellite and HD radio also provides stock quotes, sports scores, fuel prices, and traffic and weather information.
Warranty coverage is three years or 36,000 miles, five years or 60,000 miles powertrain.
For information, visit www.toyota.com
Corolla sales figures are dramatic. More than 40 million Corollas have been sold worldwide, which makes it the world's most popular compact sedan. Sales began in 1966. FAST FACTS
S Plus model of 2015 Toyota Corolla
front-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger compact sedanPrice:
1.8-liter, 132-horsepower, dual overhead cam four-cylinder
continuously variableFuel tank:
5.6 inchesLeg room:
42.3 inches front, 41.4 inches rearTires, wheels:
ventilated 10.8-inch discs front, solid 10.2-inch discs rear
struts front, torsion beam rear, stabilizer bars
Turning circle diameter:
13 cubic feetWarranty:
three years or 36,000 miles, five years or 60,000 miles drivetrain, two years or 25,000 miles roadside assistance and free scheduled maintenanceAssembly:
Blue Springs, Miss.