Corolla debuted in its home market of Japan in 1966, prior to the U.S. arrival two years later. From unassuming beginnings, Corolla blossomed into a best-selling car worldwide, topping 43 million units thus far thanks to above-average gas mileage and a well-earned dependability reputation. In the 2014 model year, Toyota introduced the eleventh generation redesign while delivering sales numbers that continue popping.
Part of Corolla’s success may relate to its never-wavering naming approach. Recalling compact/subcompact cars cycling through the marketing mill universe since the late 1960s takes a pause. While Cobalt, Chevette, Pacer, Neon, Dart (twice), Cavalier, Pinto, (feel free to add a name here_____) have come and gone, Toyota’s done just dandy with Corolla.
Toyota’s newest U.S. assembly complex in Blue Springs Mississippi, outside Tupelo, supplies a majority of Corolla’s sold in the States. Corollas began flowing out of Blue Springs in the fall of 2011.
Two years ago, a five-door hatchback (Corolla Matrix) retired from the marketplace. But last year, Toyota announced a discontinuation of its youth-obsessed Scion division, herding many existing Scions into the Toyota stable. Thus, a five-door Corolla-branded hatchback returns in 2017: the Corolla iM (the one-time Scion iM.)
Calendar year 2015 sales for the front-wheel-drive Corolla totaled a very robust 363,332, up 6.7 percent from 2014; qualifying as the second best-selling car behind Camry’s 429,355.
Corolla’s 2015 Silver-metal finish represents steady forward progress from a number 6 ranking in 2013 and third-place finish in 2014 (behind Camry and Honda’s mid-sized Accord).
A wide ranging trim list includes: L, LE, SE, XLE, XSE and high-mileage SE ECO. Historically speaking, LE leads in volume sales. Also on board for a short tour is a 50th Anniversary SE edition boasting special paint and upgraded audio. Seems Corolla could do with a trim or two less to ease transaction interaction, but with breakneck sales, maybe Toyota knows best.
Updates for 2017 include a new front-end design along with additional safety updates. Also, a rearview backup camera now comes standard across all trim levels.
Returning once again to power Corolla; a 1.8-liter, double overhead cam, inline, 16-valve four cylinder cranking out 132 horsepower. The SE ECO trim tweaks things slightly with ‘Valvematic’ technology to meet California SEV3 emission standards while boosting horsepower by 8.
Two transmissions include a six-speed manual (SE editions) and a CVT (continuously variable transmission) favoring fuel economy over high-potency zero-to-60 times.
The 13.2-gallon tank utilizes regular, 87 octane for both engines. Fuel economy rates slightly above average with the 1.8-liter four cylinder coupled with CVT delivering 28 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. Specially tweaked ECO trims with diminutive 15-inch tires reach 40 mpg highway.
Our top-echelon XSE tester started at $22,680 with a bottom line of $24,416 after factoring $209 side body molding, $309 illuminated door sills, $129 mud guards and $224 carpeted trunk and destination fee. The lowest-priced 2017 Corolla ‘L’ trim starts at $18,500.
Outside, the relatively conservative exterior receives upfront upgrades. Joining the large bottom-heavy air dam and thin grille are headlight tweaks; bi-LED headlights take up residence inside narrow headlight housing in L and LE trims while full LED jewel-like designs adorn remaining trims.
Push-button electronic start comes in most trims, but direct access remains a bit encumbered by the steering wheel. A more conducive local may be the current site of the less-used hazard button, currently northeast of the start/stop bun and easily accessible.
Rear seats allow for two 90th percentile adults to travel in comfort, with backs folding down in a 60/40 split. Expect commendable second-row leg room for a compact-sized transport.
The intuitive dashboard layout includes a glance-able digital clock crowning the center top flanked by horizontal air vents. Circular air vents dot dashboard ends. As with much nighttime dashboard and instrument panel cues, the clock adopts cool blue hued illuminations.
The conventional-in-nature instrument panel includes two chrome-rimmed circular analog gauges flanking a vertical digital message screen with the right-side speedometer orb housing a lower-birth gas gauge.
XLE and XSE editions feature a 7.0-inch user-friendly multi-function touch screen under the digital clock flanked by low-tech, yet highly convenient volume and station rotary buttons. Other trims get by with a 6.1-inch screen. An eye-appealing ventilation system operates via three narrow, long tap tabs (temperature, fan speed, direction) with visual cues illustrated inside a digital window.
An auxiliary audio jack and USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity reside in an open expanse below both screens . Up level XLE and XSE also arrive with ‘Entune Audio Plus’ allowing for downloads of ’Scout GPS Link’ Apps turning the 7.0-inch dashboard display into a cell phone driven navigation screen. Standard Bluetooth wireless connectivity assists the download.
As with most Toyota products, cruise control operates from a square steering wheel appendage at 5 o’clock which taps up and down to ‘resume’ and set speeds. Corolla took a leap forward with ‘radar’ enhanced cruise control, allowing automatic adjustments of highway speeds based on the location of the vehicle ahead.
n fact for 2017, radar cruise control is standard in all trims, bundled within ‘Toyota Safety Sense’ (TSS). In addition to radar cruise control, TSS adds a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert and automatic high beam headlights.
The steering wheel’s three-o’clock location is home to secondary audio and station pre-set controls. At nine o’clock, drivers can maneuver through and select options within the instrument panel’s digital window. Also, lane departure audible warnings deactivate with a simple touch of a steering wheel button.
Considering compact dimensions, Corolla creates a ‘cone of silence’ usually in-tune with luxury-brands. Borrowing some insulation techniques acquired from Toyota’s upmarket Lexus division, Corolla’s quiet cabin differentiates itself from competitors.
Never intended for closed circuit track time as some luxury compacts or an aptly-equipped Mazda3, Corolla keeps returning customers content with dependable pedigree. Within the crowded compact class, Corolla delivers perfectly acceptable handling characteristics for around town and highway challenges.
Power side mirrors operate via a square dashboard push plate left of the steering column. Both fuel door and trunk release levers remain floor-bound, on the outboard side of driver’s bucket. Drivers enjoy good road perceptions in several directions thanks to good-sized windows.
A hand-operated, mechanical, pull-type emergency brake lever along with dual in-line beverage holders occupy the region between front bucket seats, along with a small arm rest/rear-hinged covered storage bin.
At an even 13.0 cubic feet, trunk volume remains respectable for the compact segment. Corolla includes a temporary spare in all trims, a perk becoming a rarer sight and not always a given. 2017 Toyota Corolla
Price as tested: $24,416
Engine: 1.8-liter four cylinder
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Overall width: 69.9 inches
Overall height: 57.3inches
Overall length: 182.6 inches
Curb weight: 2,865 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
Fuel economy: 28 mpg city, 35 mpg highway
Assembly: Blue Springs, Mississippi