Marking its 50th-anniversary last year, Toyota's Corolla is one of the longest-running compact-car nameplates. Available only as a four-door sedan with front-wheel drive. Corolla competes with the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Mazda 3, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen Jetta. Changes to Corolla for 2017 are minor and include a revised front fascia with LED headlights, freshened upholstery and additional safety features.
Corolla is offered in L, LE, LE Eco, SE, XLE and XSE trim. All of them save the LE Eco get a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 132 horsepower. Eco models get the same engine, albeit with different tuning to produce 140 horsepower. Most models come standard with a CVT automatic transmission, but the SE is offered with a six-speed automatic.
All Corollas come standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes and dual-front, front-side, curtain-side, driver-knee and passenger-seat airbags. Newly standard for 2017 is a rear-view camera and the Sense P safety system, which includes forward collision warning and braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist and automatic hi-beam headlights.
Corolla pricing starts at $18,500 for the L and climbs to $22,680 for the XSE. All models have an $885 destination charge and are assembled in the United States.
Corolla's 1.8-liter four provides adequate performance and nothing more. When pressed, it will push Corolla from 0 to 60 mph in a touch more than 9 seconds. That's about 1 second off the class-average. Frustratingly, the engine doesn't pair well with the CVT automatic, as it's constantly slushing between ratios, trying to find the best balance of performance and economy.
The 1.8 isn't the most efficient engine in the class either. Corolla is EPA rated at 29 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. Both numbers fall slightly short of class leaders. Thankfully, real-world driving shows Corolla to be nearly as efficient as class leaders, netting about 35 mpg overall in an even mix of city and highway driving.
Corolla is tuned to be a comfortable and quiet sedan. The suspension is absorbent without being flaccid and the tires have adequate dry-road grip. The steering tracks straight and true on the highway and the brakes have good stopping power and are bolstered by an easy-to-modulate pedal.
If you want your Corolla to 'handle' consider the SE. With its larger wheels and tires and sport-tuned suspension, it does a fair imitation of a sport sedan - within limits. Whisper quiet on the highway, engine noise around town grows a bit tiresome and keeps Corolla from being the quietest car in class.
Corolla's interior is utilitarian but there are enough pseudo-chrome and brushed aluminum surfaces to liven the atmosphere. Fit-and-finish is excellent and most materials are appropriate for the class. Control layout is very conventional with a large display screen dominating the center console. Most controls are easy to locate and clearly marked. About the only downside is the lack of support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play.
Front seats are comfortable and well padded. Head room is good, but leg room just adequate. The same can be said for the rear seat, though passenger space in back is better than most other compact sedans. Ingress/egress is a snap and outward visibility is great in all directions.
Trunk capacity is a class average 13 cubic feet. The opening is wide and the rear seatbacks fold to extend cargo space. Interior storage is merely average with a few open and covered bins throughout. There is a deep bin at the front of the console that's perfect for cell-phone storage.
Toyota has consistently improved Corolla, keeping it class competitive. More importantly, Toyota has held the line on pricing, making Corolla affordable to the masses. While it doesn't stand out in any one category, Corolla checks off most of the boxes demanded by compact car shoppers. Throw in Toyota's reputation for reliability and strong resale value and Corolla becomes a must-see for shoppers.